William Lee had no idea why Charleston RiverDogs President Dave Echols asked him to come to the ballpark Monday afternoon.
But when he entered the Riley Park Club, it all began to make sense. Lee watched as a sheet was pulled away from a large poster, revealing a green and yellow jersey with a new name the RiverDogs will assume for their game on July 28.
The Charleston Boiled Peanuts.
“It’s a great tribute to my brother,” said Lee, referring to Anthony Wright, better known as Tony the Peanut Man.
Echols said it will be a one-night only rebrand for the RiverDogs, the New York Yankees' Class A affiliate. The team will sport its new uniform against the Greenville Drive, the Boston Red Sox affiliate.
The night will include a peanut festival at the concourse before the game. Also, the first 1,000 fans will receive a peanut bucket to throw away shells.
Wright died on Nov. 22, 2016, of natural causes. He was a local fixture for more than 20 years, selling peanuts at RiverDogs' games and other community events. He was known for singing and dancing while wearing his trademark bow tie and woven sweetgrass hat.
Bearing that famed hat, Lee hugged Charleston Mayor John Tecklenburg at the Monday announcement. Then he placed the hat on Tecklenburg’s head while he donned a baseball cap that matched the Boiled Peanuts jersey.
“It makes me feel good to keep Tony alive like this,” Lee said.
Echols said the idea was first mentioned about a year ago. The final product honors Wright and embraces a trend that has sports teams paying tribute to foods in their local areas.
“When it comes to that, nothing does that in the Lowcountry like boiled peanuts,” Echols said.
Tecklenburg agreed, while recalling a conversation he had with Wright about a week before he died.
The Charleston legend went to Tecklenburg’s office seeking support for those who suffer from muscular dystrophy, a genetic condition that causes loss of muscle mass.
Wright suffered from the condition and knew how important it was to raise awareness. That’s why a portion of the boiled peanut sales on July 28 will go to the Muscular Dystrophy Association.
“He was obviously in pain at that point dealing with this disease,” Tecklenburg said about his friend. “And all his heart told was ‘go on and help others.’”
Echols said the rebrand could turn into an annual event.
For more information, visit boiledpeanutsbaseball.com.