Commentary: He made a name tossing peanuts at Dodgers games. That’s a no-no now

You can look up at the booth at Dodger Stadium, but you won’t see Vin Scully there anymore. You won’t see Jaime Jarrín there next year.

You can buy a Dodger Dog, but Farmer John no longer makes them.

And from the list of vanishing Dodger Stadium traditions, this just comes in: You can buy a bag of peanuts from Roger Owens, but he can’t toss the bag at you anymore.

This is an Only in LA story: the famous peanut seller who can toss a bag of peanuts behind his back or between his legs.

Owens has cracked peanuts at the Presidential Inauguration ceremonies, on The Tonight Show, and in two films and three television series in which his role has always been the same: the peanut seller. His wedding guests included Tom Bradley, then Mayor of Los Angeles, and Dodgers’ Hall of Fame pitcher Don Sutton.

“I’d have trouble hitting a wall 15 feet away if I was trying to toss a bag of peanuts behind my back,” Sutton told The Times in 1976. “It’s definitely easier to throw strikes with a baseball.”

Roger Owens throws bags of peanuts to fans with pinpoint accuracy in 2009.

Roger Owens throws a bag of peanuts to a fan during a game at Dodger Stadium in 2009.

(Christine Cotter/Los Angeles Times)

Owens still throws peanuts at the lodge level to fans who have become friends over the decades. Several of those fans have contacted The Times to say that Owens has been ordered to stop throwing sacks of peanuts.

Please simply pass this on to the customer. The show has gone dark.

I called Owens to see if that could possibly be true. Yes, he said, that’s it.

“I’m so heartbroken about this,” he said.

At Dodger Stadium, it’s an attraction in itself. He has thrown peanuts at the Coliseum since the stadium opened in 1962 and before that.

Old fans urge him to show his tricks to new fans. Adults buy a bag for Owens to throw to a child. A smile all around.

Levy Restaurants operates the Concessions at Dodger Stadium. When fans questioned why he couldn’t put up his peanuts anymore, Owens said he was told by Levy representatives that the decision was made for fan safety. In fact, that’s what fans who reached out to The Times said Owens told them.

Owens is not defiant. He is sad.

He doesn’t want to pick a fight with Levy or the Dodgers. He loves his work. He struggles to understand why a bag of peanuts is a problem.

“You have time to see it coming,” Owens said. “It’s not a bullet that goes straight through. I always want to make sure whoever I throw to catches the bag of peanuts.

“I want them to catch it because they feel like they’ve accomplished something.”

I asked Levy to explain the reason for the change, specifically the timing since Owens has been throwing peanuts for decades. I asked if Levy had considered a possible compromise, maybe maximum distance for Owens’ shots. I asked if Levy knew of any injuries from flying peanut bags.

Levy spokesman Kevin Memolo did not respond, and neither of the two Levy reps Owens met with did not respond.

I asked the Dodgers what they had heard from fans about the change, whether the team had to agree to it, and whether the team had tried to facilitate a possible compromise.

Dodgers spokesmen Steve Brener and Joe Jareck did not respond.

As far as legal liability is concerned, Levy and the Dodgers have argued in court that fans assume all risks of attending a game.

In a case last year in which a fan sued for being injured by hot coffee at a food stand, Levy and the Dodgers cited ticketing language that exempted companies from liability for incidents “before, during, or after the actual playing of the game, including but not limited to the risk of injury from players, other fans, a thrown racquet or part thereof, a thrown or batted ball, or any other object or projectile.”

This language also appears in the Dodgers’ ticket agreement for 2022. A tossed peanut bag, one could argue, is a projectile.

On at least two occasions – in 1976 and 1985 – bans on throwing peanuts were introduced and lifted.

It’s not about Owens’ identity as a peanut pitcher, even though his bio is called The Perfect Pitch and his email address includes the words “Peanut Man.” It’s about a small human connection in this big city, forged between one man and decades of peanut-loving fans at the lodge level.

“Tossing peanuts to fans brings a lot of joy and happiness,” said Owens. “That joy and that happiness wasn’t there.”

Our hope is that he and Levy and the Dodgers can reach an agreement that will stop other vendors from imitating him and let him finish his career in his familiar style. Owens is 79 years old. He has earned a grandfathering clause. Commentary: He made a name tossing peanuts at Dodgers games. That’s a no-no now

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