We all know how the 1908 song “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” goes, and if you care about food, the line “buy me some peanuts and cracker jack” will likely stand out.
I didn’t grow up a baseball fan (or football or basketball for that matter), as my Australian father instead schooled us on tennis, cycling, and Formula 1 racing. My husband, on the other hand, has loved the game of baseball all his life. And so this summer, on a road trip that covered a bit more than 5,000 miles, we stopped to see five ball games in five cities, meaning I consumed more baseball — and more ballpark concessions — than in my entire life up to this point.
Alongside the aforementioned peanuts and cracker jack stand other ballpark favorites, such as cotton candy, soft pretzels, and ice cream. None dethrones the epic hot dog, however.
Served at every park we visited, the franks sometimes donned more than the token ketchup and mustard, such as the Chicago-style hot dogs at Cubs games at historic Wrigley Field. While I’m not sure how it made its way so far north, the menu at the Billings Mustangs game in Montana boasted Frito pie, much to my Okie husband’s delight. At Progressive Field, however, home of the Cleveland Indians, hot dogs were not only listed on menu boards and clutched in the hands of cheering fans, but took on several other roles in the ballpark.
Visting on a dollar dog promotion night, fans could purchase up to six $1.00 hot dogs at a time, a promotion that ran up more than 33,000 hot dog purchases by game’s end. [It’s no wonder that Americans eat millions of hot dogs in the month of July alone.]
Beyond one of the game’s promotions, hot dogs are also sponsors at Progressive Field, as the Sugardale logo, situated between Sherwin Williams and Hyundai, beams down from the top of the scoreboard onto the field.
As the sun set on our game, hot dogs also provided entertainment between innings as runners costumed as ketchup, mustard, and onion dogs sprinted around the field in race 46 of the Hot Dog Derby.
A food that despite its European roots is widely considered as quintessentially American as baseball itself, hot dogs communicate a nation’s telling immigrant history, its linkages to sport and professional athletics, and as visible in Cleveland, a robust and multifaceted tradition at the ballpark.
Hot dog reading list:
- Jackson, Donald Dale. (1999, June). “Hot Dogs Are Us.” Smithsonian Magazine.
- Kraig, Bruce and Carroll, Patty. (2012). Man Bites Dog: Hot Dog Culture in America. Plymouth: AltaMira Press.
- Kraig, Bruce. (2009). Hot Dog: A Global History. London: Reaktion Books.
- Lobello, Carmel. (2013, July 4). “From the Odyssey to Kobayashi: A brief history of the hot dog.” TheWeek.
- NPR Staff (2011, July 4). “Searching History for the Hot Dog’s Origin.” NPR.
- Rogers, Felisa. (2011, June 11). “How the Hot Dog Became the Most American Food.” Salon.