My “Peanuts” pilgrimage

A pilgrimage of sorts has been taking place in Phoenix for the past several days as baseball devotees, including my husband James, have made their way to MLB All-Star Game activities.

But I took my son Christopher on a different baseball-related pilgrimage not too long ago — to enjoy the artwork of Charles M. Schultz on exhibit at the Arizona Museum for Youth in Mesa.

Arizona Museum for Youth is currently showing several types of art with baseball-related themes, making the museum a “must see” for anyone here in the Valley to enjoy all things “baseball.”

My favorite is the “Peanuts at Bat” exhibit, which features 43 digital prints from five decades of original Schultz drawings plus vintage “Peanuts” baseball memorabilia. Think bobble head dolls, banners, board game and more. 

The exhibit also features a Louisville Slugger Joe Shlabotnik bat and over-sized Snoopy doll decked out in his favorite team uniform. Shlabotnik, by the way, is Charlie Brown’s favorite player. He’s a serious “underperformer” never actually seen in the strip. 

The lackluster baseball games of “Peanuts” lore were inspired by Schultz’s own childhood experiences playing sandlot baseball. Schultz has said that Charlie Brown’s string of losses was inspired by a game his own team once lost with a score of 40 to 0.

As an adult, Schultz often played pickup games on baseball diamonds he had built at his home and near his studio. I’m told that Schultz followed major league baseball and was a keen admirer of Willie Mays and other talented athletes.

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While exploring “Peanuts at Bat” at the Arizona Museum for Youth, we saw one young boy having fun at Schroeder’s “live playing piano” and another perfecting his pitch at the “baseball toss range.”

A father joined the fun as his three daughters enjoyed the “do-it-yourself interactive comic strip design center” and several toddlers crawled through Snoopy’s “life-sized dog house and fireplace nook.”

Our personal favorite was Lucy’s giant “psychiatry booth” — complete with nickels. It’s nice to know that Lucy’s rates haven’t changed through the years, since it sometimes feels like hers are the only mental health services not being cut these days.

We had a great time exploring the gift shop, which has plenty of affordable fare related to current and past exhibits. Outer space-related items were on sale the day we stopped by, and there were all sorts of items featuring “Peanuts” characters like Snoopy and Woodstock.

Superheros come and go, but the “Peanuts” gang and America’s love affair with baseball are here to stay. As the freckle-faced character Peppermint Patty might say —  “Thanks, Chuck!”

— Lynn

Note: An exhibit titled “Play Ball: The Cactus League Experience” runs through Aug 7, 2011 at the Arizona Museum for Youth

Coming up: Art meets water, Babies ala Broadway

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