I was years old today when I learned that the Cracker Jack award was no more

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I was at a baseball game the other day when a thought came to me: “Buy me peanuts and Cracker Jack!…”

There happened to be a bag of Cracker Jack handy. Of course there were. It’s a ball game. I hadn’t had them for years – probably decades.

At least it was so long ago that they always came with a toy hidden among the caramel-coated popcorn.

Wikipedia tells us that the name Cracker Jack and the slogan “The more you eat, the more you want” were both registered in 1896. In 1997, Cracker Jack became a member of the Frito-Lay family, and remains so today. .

The snack (sometimes called “the original junk food) is best known for having a small price in every box. It’s been that way since 1912.

In 1914, the company began putting its baseball card problems in the box. It was the result of what happened in 1907, when Cracker Jack and baseball were forever linked in a song still sung today in the seventh inning.

But most of the time the prizes were small plastic figurines of dogs and horses; rings; stickers; temporary tattoos; whistles and booklets. Before World War II brought a shortage of metal, some toy prizes were made of metal, cast by the same company that made the game pieces used in Monopoly.

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Some toys were designed by people who would later become famous. A 2016 issue of Country Roads magazine reported that among these were “C. Carey Cloud and John Craig, who created album covers for Rod Stewart and the Smashing Pumpkins”.

Back to our modern day Cracker Jack bag. Alas, there are no more toy prizes inside. Instead, it’s been replaced by a small piece of cardboard that’s about half the size of a credit card. Peel it off and there is a cartoon image inside. Associate this image with the one from the Cracker Jack website (www.crackerjack.com), and to be admitted to the “Prize Inside Arcade”. Welcome to the Internet of Everything, including surprise prize replacement.

Yeah. That’s right. Farewell to this part of your childhood memories.

The change started around 2013, when codes appeared in some boxes instead of prizes. The codes could be used to play games on smartphones. In 2016, online games would replace prizes entirely.

To access the “Prize Inside Arcade” website, users will need to enter a date of birth that puts them over 13 years old. If you happen to be a member of the Baby Boomer generation who wants to see what happened to your beloved Cracker Jack prize, you’ll be happy to know that the wheel system used to enter dates backs far enough. to include you.

Once inside the website, kids use the spacebar, arrow keys, or mouse to play imitations of Minesweeper, Space Invaders, and other classics.

I can’t say much beyond these two games. It’s not because I got fed up, but because I was sadly homesick for the whole direction of things, so I gave up on the website.

It took about a hundred years, but they finally got rid of the surprise toys, one generation introducing another generation – then another generation, then another – to a tradition almost as old as baseball itself. Say what you will, but an Internet game just doesn’t compare to applying a temporary tattoo to a 10-year-old child.

As Meat Loaf sang 45 years ago: “I know you’re looking for a ruby ​​in a mountain of rocks/ But there ain’t no Coup de Ville/ Hiding at the bottom of a Cracker Jack box.”

No plastic top either.

Lonnie Brown can be reached at [email protected].

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