By: Kurt Snyder
Baseball. Hot Dogs. Apple Pie. And some make of car.
Yeah, I know, it’s Chevrolet. But it’s tough for a 25 year Chrysler employee to admit. It was a brilliant ad by General Motors that originated way back in 1975. The ad says “they go together.”
And when I look back at my father’s career with the Tigers, especially as manager of Tiger Stadium for 22 years beginning in the early 70’s, baseball and hot dogs (at least) did indeed go together.
Even before you went through the turnstiles, you could smell them. The tremendous smell of Ballpark Franks wafted all through the park. As soon as I smelled those dogs, I knew I was “home.”
So, what’s the big deal; they sell Ballpark Franks at Comerica Park too, right? What did Tiger Stadium do differently?
Well folks, I think it was the love. Hot dogs were treated with respect at The Corner. And you have to respect the hot dog, because remember, most are consumed in front of a baseball game.
Heck, even when my kids were young and they ate hot dogs cut into little pieces at home, I would run and throw in an old tape of a Tiger game just to complete the experience (not really, but it makes for a good story).
Baseball and hot dogs. They go together. And they always will. They have been together since the days at The Corner and the trend has continued for almost 16 years of baseball at Comerica Park.
But to be frank (ouch), the hot dog has seen better days. Today at Comerica Park, fans grab a dog and a beer and head over to the condiments, where they unwrap the dog from the foil. What?! Foil?! Does that sound like love? Does that sound like respect for baseball and hot dogs? Not even close!
How long ago did they cook those things? How long have they been sitting in that bun, in that foil. Those are hot dogs held captive!
Is the dog experience any different at your seat from a vendor? Nope. Same drill. More foil. And you get to squeeze condiments out of those nice little packets. No love.
Frankly (again with the pun, geez), I think hot dogs were a lot happier at Tiger Stadium. When you went to the concession stand, they would grab them right off the griddle, piping hot and just a little crispy on the outside.
They would place them in a steamed bun and hand it to you wrapped in a piece of wax paper emblazoned with the words “Ball Park Franks” right on the wrapper. (It might have been a napkin, but we will go with the wax paper).
You couldn’t wait to slather it with mustard and catchup and onions or whatever you preferred on this most treasured meal of the American Pastime.
And the experience at your seat was just as special. Tiger Stadium Ball Park Franks brought to the customers were generally not disrespected.
But I always felt sorry for the hot dog vendors. They lugged around those heavy tanks filled with boiled dogs still in the water. They would always be the vendors working the hardest, because they had the heaviest load.
When he had a customer, he would set that heavy metal tank down hard on the concrete at the end of the row, as if he was never going to be able to pick it up again. He would then grab a boiled dog , open another compartment where the buns were nice and warm and created the masterpiece right in front of you.
But sometimes there was more to the experience than you would appreciate. Every vendor had their method; the process of preparing the dog. One vendor in particular would almost quite literally, put his blood, sweat and tears into the process.
These hot dog guys would sweat and sweat a lot. And sometimes, a little sweat might end up on your dog. Sound yummy? Well I’m not done. With heavy sweating in progress, the man would grab a hot bun, open it up with his bare hands, wipe his brow, stab a hot dog out of the water, place it on the bun and hold it in place with his thumb before swiping it with a tongue depressor full of mustard.
I’m not really sure how long they let that guy stick around. But my dad had more than one talk with him for sure.
So let’s get our hands around this hot dog issue. Maybe the Tigers need to harken back to their history. I know it’s all about mass production and getting people their food as quickly as possible so you can move on to the next hungry fan. But the love is missing. If you needed another reason to miss Tiger Stadium, take a look at your dog next season when you remove it from the foil. And then remember what you read right here.
Love the game and your dog. They go together. Thank you for your time.