Houston Astros Fans Mourn 'Peanut Dude'

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Stadium vendor Arnie Murphy died Tuesday. For the past 15 years, he thrilled fans at Houston Astros baseball games by firing bags of peanuts across whole sections of seats. Terri Perrin, Murphy's girlfriend, remembers the man known as the "Peanut dude."

MELISSA BLOCK, Host:

This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Melissa Block. Arnie Murphy's job uniform was a Houston Astros jersey and a baseball cap embroidered with the words, peanut dude.

ARNIE MURPHY: Roasted peanuts.

BLOCK: For the past 15 or so years, Arnie Murphy, the peanut dude, thrilled fans at Astros games with his long tosses of bags of peanuts across whole sections of seats. His throws were once clocked at 42 miles per hour, and he hardly ever missed his target.

Arnie Murphy died on Tuesday at age 61. He had heart disease. Terri Perrin was Murphy's girlfriend for the past five years, and she joins us from her home in Houston.

Ms. Perrin, I'm very sorry for your loss. Thank you for taking the time to talk with us.

TERRI PERRIN: Oh, thank you very much.

BLOCK: And from having watched a little bit of video of Arnie Murphy in action, he had quite a style out there in the stands.

PERRIN: Yes, he really did.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

BLOCK: Why don't you describe it for folks who weren't privileged enough to see him in action?

PERRIN: Well, Arnie would stand at the bottom of like a section in a baseball park. And let's say you're in the middle of the section, and you raise your hand for peanuts, he would throw them behind his back or over the top or like a Frisbee to the side, and he could put the peanuts in your hand. And his saying was, if you can show me the money, I can make the throw.

BLOCK: Wow. And far, I mean, really far away.

PERRIN: Yes. Sometimes he could go two sections over.

BLOCK: Was that sort of a challenge for folks to see, well, let's see if he can make it this far.

PERRIN: Yes. And a lot of people would do that. They would wait to see him go, you know, a section over before they would raise their hand just to be able to have him throw them that far to them.

BLOCK: He must have missed sometimes, right?

PERRIN: Well, every now and then.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

BLOCK: He clocked a few people? What would he do when he missed?

PERRIN: Oh, whenever he missed, he would go over and apologize and make light of it and make a joke. And for the most part, he always made people laugh. And you know, when you get hit with a bag of peanuts, it's not going to hurt too bad. So everybody was really very lighthearted about it. So it worked out just really well.

BLOCK: Yeah. Although 42 miles an hour, I guess it could do a little damage.

PERRIN: Yeah.

(Soundbite of laughter) Yeah, I guess it could if it hit just in the wrong place.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

BLOCK: Would they be free if he missed?

PERRIN: Oh, yes. If he hit somebody, yeah definitely. You got free peanuts.

BLOCK: Well, how did all this start?

PERRIN: Well, Arnie grew up in Cleveland, Ohio. He started out by having a lemonade stand as a child. And he found that when he was real humorous and entertaining with the people that would come up to buy lemonade from him, he found that they wanted, you know, maybe a second helping.

So then when he began selling peanuts at the stadium there in Cleveland as a teenager, you know, he just did it on the side and for fun, not ever realizing what it would become for his life later on.

BLOCK: And somewhere along the line, he realized he had a really good arm.

PERRIN: Yes, he did. He really did. He was an avid sportsman.

BLOCK: Ms. Perrin, would Arnie at home ever - would you find him tossing stuff to you from way across the room?

PERRIN: Yes.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

PERRIN: Always. He was always - let's say we had a bag of popcorn and it was empty, he'd throw it behind his back or across the room trying to, you know, put it right into the trash can, and he usually did.

BLOCK: Well, it sounds like Astros games are not going to be quite as fun with him gone.

PERRIN: Oh, he will truly be missed.

BLOCK: Well, Terri Perrin, thanks so much for talking to us about your companion, Arnie Murphy.

PERRIN: Oh, you are very welcome. And thank you.

BLOCK: Arnie Murphy, the Houston Astros peanut dude died Tuesday at age 61. The sound we played of the peanut dude came from KTRK TV in Houston.

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