Sandlot Peanuts
by Charles M. Schulz
Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1977

For over 40 years now, Charles Schulz has illustrated the joys of baseball in his Peanuts comic strip, it has been his most frequent and loved subject. And it's a perfect combination--the All-American group of kids and the All-American game

As part of the 25th anniversary of the introduction of the Peanuts gang, many of Schulz' best baseball-related comic strips were collected together in 1977 and published as Sandlot Peanuts. The result is a baseball book that should be high on the want-list of any lover of baseball humor.

Charlie Brown is, of course, the main character in most of the cartoons featured in Sandlot Peanuts. Charlie Brown loves playing baseball with a passion. Only problem is: He can't play worth a lick. But he's the fan's fan, someone that every man or woman in the country who failed at baseball as a youngster can relate to. One of the most poignant images in the book is Charlie Brown standing on a pitchers mound in early January, snow piled high. He's wearing a thick coat and winter hat and has a snowball in hand. Thinking to himself, Charlie Brown goes over the imaginary lineups of the killer teams that he is about to mow down. Just as he lets go of the imaginary fastball, his arch-nemesis Lucy interrupts him. "POW! IT'S A DRIVE TO DEEP CENTER! AND YOU CAN TELL THAT ONE GOOD-BYE!" she yells, ruining his fantasy.

The stoic Charlie Brown stares after her as she leaves the snow-covered mound. Then he finally says, "Even my winters are summers."

There are a number of plot threads that hold the book together, if a four-panel daily comic strip can be said to have a plot. Charlie Brown's team has never won a game in a quarter-century of play. And his team doesn't just lose, they LOSE. By football-like scores of 58 or 46 to 0.

Of course, when Charlie Brown's team does finally win a game, it ends up being forfeited to the other team because of a gambling scandal. Snoopy, Charlie Brown's beagle and star of the team, bet a nickel against his own team, a scandal of massive proportions. As Charlie Brown is meeting with the Little League president, he confides that "One of (his) great regrets is that I never got to meet Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis." It's these little tie-ins to actual historical baseball events that will sometimes bring the biggest smile to the adult baseball fan as he reads this book.

Another constant throughout the cartoons is Charlie Brown's adulation of professional baseball player Joe Shlabotnik. Much like Charlie Brown himself, Joe isn't much of a player. But he does at one point in the book get a job as playing manager of the Waffletown Syrups. Charlie Brown is on his way to see his hero play in person for the very first time, but he gets to the game in the second inning and Shlabotnik has already been fired for calling a squeeze play with no one on base.

I think the best thing that comes out of reading Sandlot Peanuts is that it can renew that child-like innocent love of baseball that is so easily lost when you follow today's big-money world of professional sports on a day-to-day basis. Charlie Brown plays for the love of the game, pure and simple. Though he'd like to win, it's not top priority. To him, the simple act of holding your fingers across the seams of a genuine baseball while standing on a genuine baseball mound on a genuine baseball field is the greatest feeling in the world. It's a game. I think all baseball fans need a little reminder of this sometimes, and Sandlot Peanuts is the perfect book to bring this feeling back to even the most jaded of baseball fans.

Sandlot Peanuts may be available for purchase on the web at one of these sites.

--JingleBob, March 9, 1999

1999 JC White