Baseball and Hot Dogs have almost from the beginning of the baseball park been tied together. At the first enclosed ballpark in Brooklyn, a saloon sat in one of the outfield corners. Beer was the first concession item to appear in a ballpark. Baseball was popular with the Germans who would drink beer freely during games and enjoy other concoctions. After all, the hot dog is filling, warm and salty and goes well with beer. One sure thing at a Major League baseball game is that Hot dogs are for sale at the concession stand whether the home team is in first or last place, whatever the inning, whatever the score, whatever the weather. Like the rest of Hot Dog history there are conflicting stories as to how baseball and hot dogs became so intertwined. One thing is for sure the most famous edible creation to ever appear at the baseball park is the hot dog!
"A hot dog at the ballpark is better than steak at the Ritz." -- Humphrey Bogart
As baseball became an American tradition, the hot dog grew into commonality as well. Some claim hot dogs first appeared at baseball games as early as the 1870s and '80s but it appears that one of two prominent legends are more than likely the real beginning of the baseball and hot dog partnership. The first one credits "Chris von de Ahe" who owned the first St. Louis Browns (now the Cardinals) and a local bar. The second gives credit to Concessionaire Harry Stevens. Both stories seem to make sense but have little to no proof to back either one of them up.
It is claimed that hot dogs became the standard fare at baseball parks in 1893 when some historians say that Chris Von der Ahe (1851-1913), owner of a St. Louis Bar and the St. Louis Browns major league baseball team, introduced hot dogs to go with his already popular beer. He was a colorful character himself. A large man who wore loud, checkered clothing, Chris sat in a special box behind third base with a whistle and binoculars. He used the whistle to get the attention of players, for someone to get him a beer and a hot dog, or for special cops he employed for personal use and to keep tabs on his players. He bought the Browns in order to put himself in the limelight and to advertise his saloon business. In the process though he may have just gave the world the partnership between Baseball and Hot Dogs. Historians, to this day however, have not found any evidence to back up the claim that hot dogs were ever sold at Sportsman's Park.
Harry M. Stevens was an immigrant who came to the United States in the 1870s. He worked as a minister in Columbus, Ohio and was also a part time bookseller. A few businessmen hired him to sell scorecards at Ohio baseball games and he was soon known as the "scorecard man." Stevens moved to New York and his business expanded from scorecards to concessions. One day around between 1901 and 1905 during a New York Giants baseball game on a cold April day at the Polo Grounds, Concessionaire Harry Stevens was supposedly losing money while trying to sell cold items, and sent his salesmen out to buy up all the "dachshund sausages" they could find, along with an equal number of rolls. Vendors hawked these from portable hot-water tanks while yelling, "They're red hot! Get your dachshund sausages while they're red hot!" He sold the combination as "red hots" and they sold well enough that Stevens continued selling them and later expanded his menu. This is also the incident where Tad Dorgan, a cartoonist for the New York Evening Journal, is said to have heard those yells. On deadline and unsure of how to spell "dachshund," he simply wrote "hot dog" in the image he created that day for readers, though this cartoon has never been found.
As baseball became an American tradition, the hot dog grew with it. Year after year hot dogs are a coast to coast favorite among baseball fans. Whether it is a Wisconsin Brat at Miller Park, a spicy Atomic Dog in Oakland or a foot-long slathered in Bertman's Ballpark Mustard at Cleveland's Jacobs Field, the hot dog is a big part of being a baseball fan. Each ballpark has its own personality when it comes to the delivery of the dog. At Turner Field in Atlanta, there are some 20 continent-spanning varieties, including Southwest Dogs and Chicago-style franks, from which to choose. The Chicago-style dog, smothered in onions, tomatoes, banana peppers, dill pickle spears, celery salt and mustard on a poppy seed bun, remains the most popular version at Wrigley. while the "10" inch Classic Dodger dogs remain the number one selling stadium frank.
Here is the list of the projected top 10 hot dog-munching teams this season, with number of dogs projected to be eaten:
Team Hot dogs
1. Dodgers 2 million
2. Rockies 1.8 million
3. Cubs 1.6million
4. Yankees 1.5 million
5. Astros 1.3 million
6. Angels 1.2 million
7. Rangers 1 million
8. Mariners 900,500
9. Indians 700,000
10. Orioles 600,000
I've got to work on getting my Pirates on this list!
The hot dog taste is one to be savored and it sums up the passion of the game. The hot dog brings us encouragement when our team has fallen from grace. When our hometown hero's are fighting for a pennant, the dog brings a feeling of power! The hot dog is the symbol for the sounds and smells of summer and the great American pastime. It tastes as good and as savory as when the team you root for heats up like the dog upon the grill.
Interested in a great book about Hot Dog History? Then you will want to read "Man Bites Dog" By Bruce Kraig and Patty Carroll
Check out these other great pages about hot dog history!