Baseball And Hot Dogs
The opening day line-ups for 2015 have been announced – no, not the players. The food items at concession stands in ballparks across the country.
Once again the measuring stick – or yardstick – against which all major league tube steaks are measured is The Boomstick at Globe Life Park in Texas that weighs in at two feet long and a full pound of meat. The Boomstick comes dressed in chili, nacho cheese, jalapenos and onions and will set you back about $30, with tax. In Arizona the D-Bat comes up a few calories short at 18 inches but it is a corn dog and is served on a stick which can be used to hit fungoes after the game.
If you are looking to truly stuff a hot dog bun, meet The Beast in Milwaukee’s Miller Park. This hot dog/brat is wrapped in bacon and buried under an avalanche of onions and peppers, all supported by a sturdy pretzel roll. Expect to take several bites even to reach the sausage in Detroit’s Comerica Park when the Poutine Dog is ordered; it is served with french fries, cheese curds and gravy. Ditto in San Diego where the Carne Asada Dog, a half-pound sausage, lives under Diego queso (spicy cheese Sauce) and pico de gall. The entire confection is all served on a jalapeno cheddar roll.
Down in the minor leagues waiting for a call-up to the majors is the Krispy Kreme Dog, starring for the Wilmington Blue Rocks in Delaware. Yes, it is a hot dog squeezed into a glazed Krispy Kreme doughnut. Of course it has bacon bits – you had to ask?
How did this mythical marriage of the hot dog and baseball come to be? Historians tell us the noble sausage was on dinner plates in ancient Rome. But no one had the idea to put the meat in a bun and make the meal portable until the 1860s when German immigrants started selling the new treat from street pushcarts. But how were hot dogs introduced to the ballpark?
Apparently it happened during a wintry early season game at New York’s Polo Grounds in the early 1900s. The usual ice creams and flavored ices were not finding many takers so concessionaire Harry M. Stevens put out the call to find as many hot sausages as he could find. “They’re red hot!” shouted the vendors as they worked their way through the crowd and the shivering fans snapped them up.
That’s one origin story. Cantankerous newspaperman H.L. Mencken, often called “the Sage of Baltimore,” recalled his days growing up when his father was vice-president of the Washington ball club. “I devoured hot dogs in Baltimore way back in 1886,” Mencken remembered, “and they were then very far from newfangled. They contained precisely the same rubbery, indigestible pseudo-sausages that millions of Americans now eat, and they leaked the same flabby, puerile mustard.”
That account would seem to jibe with the research of those who give the credit for introducing hot dogs to baseball to Christopher Von der Ahe, a blubbery beer baron who owned ball clubs in St. Louis. The George Steinbrenner of his day, Von der Ahe was said to sit in the front row of the stands and blow a whistle when he wanted to talk to one of his players or eat another hot dog.
That’s as close as we can come to the answer. Baseball researchers have laid bare just about everything connected to the national pastime but no one knows how hot dogs and baseball hooked up. That’s something to ponder as you gnaw on your Boomstick this season.