Richard J. "Rick" Kaminski (1944–2011) was a printer, real estate agent, and stadium food hawker. Kaminski is best remembered as "The Peanut Man", a comedic trick-toss expert who used a variety of styles to hurl packages of peanuts to customers in the stands of the Kingdome and Safeco Field at the games of the Seattle Mariners for more than three decades. Kaminski practiced his unique art from the time of the team's entry into the ranks of Major League Baseball in 1977 until the time of his death, during which time he became one of the informal public faces of the franchise.
Richard J. Kaminski, best known by the nickname "Rick", was born in Seattle, Washington in 1944. Kaminski attended King's Garden, a private Christian school in North Seattle before graduating from Seattle's Lincoln High School, Class of 1962. In high school Kaminski was a right-handed pitcher on the baseball team — an athletic assignment that would train him well for future endeavors.
Kaminski was a veteran of the United States Army during the Vietnam War. Following his return from his stint in the Army, Kaminski returned to his native Seattle and enrolled at Shoreline Community College, located just north of the city. There he was elected class president in 1973.
In 1977, Seattle was granted a new franchise and team by Major League Baseball to replace the departed Seattle Pilots, eight years before, who played the 1969 baseball season here before departing to become the Milwaukee Brewers. Kaminski, who was working as a printer with designs on becoming an attorney in the future, took a part-time job as a food vendor in the stands of the King County Stadium for the new franchise, the Seattle Mariners.
Kaminski began his storied career as a stadium hawker selling beer — one of the more lucrative sales tasks for the commissioned vendors. However, due to competing periodically in tennis tournaments, Kaminski missed a number of shifts and was demoted by the stadium concessionaire to selling lower-priced items.
Selling each bag of peanuts proved time-consuming, as money was slowly passed from hand to hand, after which the product slowly made the trip in the other direction. In an effort to speed up this process, Kaminski began launching peanut bags through the air to his customers, a technique which proved to be not only faster but which entertained the crowd, boosting sales. Speeding up the process further, in later years Kaminski frequently made use of a tennis ball into which was cut a slit for the insertion of cash for the aerial completion of financial transactions.
Over time Kaminski developed a repertoire of fancier and even-more-entertaining throws, made with such flair and prowess that his tosses were occasionally documented on ESPN SportsCenter's nightly highlight reels. He was known not only for his uncanny accuracy but also for a steady stream of humorous banter which he exchanged with fans.
Kaminski's trademark peanut toss was a behind-the-back line drive thrown for distance with velocity — with a Mariners scout clocking one such Kaminski throw at 72 miles per hour with a radar gun. Other Kaminski creations included the "Sky Bag", the "Curve Bag", the "Long Bomb", and the "No-Look Behind The Back."
Despite his more prominent career tossing peanuts to tens of thousands of hungry fans, Kaminski worked also as a Seattle real estate broker.
Death and legacy
Kaminski's career was remembered at the time of his death in a statement by Mariners president Chuck Armstrong, who recalled:
Rick was a fixture at Seattle sporting events for as long as I can remember. His speed and accuracy with a bag of peanuts was matched by his quick wit and smile. He always seemed happy to see you, even if he was meeting you for the first time.
The root of Kaminski's iconic status was analyzed by one Safeco denizen:
He talked quickly, in a high-pitched, slightly-nasally voice, and he didn't shy away from a little flirty talk with the ladies. He'd sometimes make comments that are likely not in the Mariner Vendors Handbook — never lewd, mind you, but if you were following the thread, not G-rated either. Rick was an individual. And that's why he was beloved. Not the speed of his peanut throws, not his banter, not his 34 years of service. It's that he was unique. It's that he took something boring and made it into something joyful. That's called art, folks. He turned his job into art.
Kaminski's death was marked by the team with a moment of silence prior to the playing of the national anthem at the July 29, 2011, Mariners game against the visiting Tampa Bay Rays. Following this brief memorial, Mariners vendors further paid tribute to Kaminski by hurling ceremonial bags of peanuts into the crowd. Kaminski memorabilia was displayed by the team in its baseball museum and hall of fame at Safeco Field for the duration of the 2011 campaign.
- Susan Gilmore, "Rick Kaminski, Mariners' Amazing 'Peanut Man,' Dies," Seattle Times, July 27, 2011.
- Joe Veyera, "Mariners' 'Peanut Man' Had Shoreline Connection Rick Kaminski was a King's and Shoreline Community College Student," Shoreline-Lake Forest Park Patch, July 28, 2011.
- Tyler Soper, "Mariners to Pay Tribute to 'The Peanut Man,'" MLB.com, July 28, 2011.
- Jon Wells, "RIP Rick Kaminski, 1944-2011: Peanut Man was 'Nuts' About His Work", The Grand Salami, vol. 16, no. 6 (September 2011), pp. 4-5.
- Casey McNerthney and Gerry Spratt, "Rick Kaminski, 'The Peanut Man,' Dies at 67: Mariners Vendor was a Longtime Fan Favorite," Seattle Post-Intelligencer, July 27, 2011.
- Dave Walker, "Coming Out of His Shell: The Peanut Man Tries to Go Global," Phoenix New Times, April 3, 1991.
- KOMO Staff, "Legendary Seattle Mariners Vendor 'Rick the Peanut Guy' Dies," KOMO-TV (Seattle), July 27, 2011.
- Seth Kolloen, "Rick 'The Peanut Guy' Kaminski, Proof There Are No Small Roles, Only Small Actors," The SunBreak, July 28, 2011.