It should not matter who is credited with the invention of the hot dog. It only matters how good it tastes, and whether having more than one at that moment is something you will later regret.
In baseball, however, details are extremely important.
Numbers. Distances. Velocities. Placement. For example, if there can be great controversy over whether a manager should have left the pitcher in, or replaced him as he did with a relief pitcher (who then gave up a home run) invariably the advent of the hot dog is part of the chatterbox nature of this often serene even arguably quite slow game of baseball.
Bottom line, I do not at all relish (groan) the discovery that historians trace the sausage as a processed food to 850 B.C. (B.C., that’s means “Before Curveballs” of course.)
To be sure, this is a line from Homer’s Odyssey written many, many seasons ago:
“As when a man bedsides a great fire has filled a sausage with fat and blood and turns it this way and that and is very eager to get it quickly roasted…”
You think it’s a coincidence his name was Homer?
There are all sorts of arguments as to who brought the hot dog, this inimitable staple of munching, to the public’s tables, picnics, back yards, fields, shopping centers, markets, downtown stands, the beach and beyond.
The good folks of Vienna, specifically Wien, Austria, point out their use of the term “wiener” to insist they are the birthplace of the hot dog.
And, not to let it rest on the use of the word wiener alone, Austrian lore has it that their master sausage maker created this timeless feat, the first wiener, during his early training in Frankfurt, Germany.
Did you know that in 1987, Frankfurt celebrated the five hundredth birthday of the hot dog? (For you number crunchers, that means the invention of “the dog” was five years prior to Christopher Columbus discovering America, itself of some significance since after all it is here on these shores that the great game of baseball has flourished).
There even are some who opine that when Mr. Columbus disembarked his frigate to step foot on American soil for the first time, he had a large stick in his right hand, which he then grabbed with his left, and swung from side to side as if to open the very ocean itself.
But, back to the hot dog….
I think (ok, drum roll please) the real credit belongs to Harry M. Stevens. This food concessionaire from Derby, England not only is credited with inventing the hot dog as part of baseball right here in the good old U S of A, but he has long been viewed as our foremost ballpark concessionaire.
So please gather ‘round the barbecue as the story is told (except those of you who are dicing the onions, grating the cheese, bringing out the chips, heating the chili, please continue with your chores).
It was a cold day in April 1901, at the opening game of the baseball New York Giants. It was so cold there was not substantial interest in ice cream. Mr. Stevens decided to hock German sausages instead. These items were then called “dachshund sausages”. When the wax paper ran out, the sausages were placed into buns. The artist, I should say the cartoonist, who recorded this fateful event, apparently was not able to spell dachshund so wrote hot dogs instead.
Are you with me? That indeed is how the hot dog came to be such an integral part of baseball.
Wait a second… You’re already eating?
Well, fine. Then me too.
But I wanted to tell the story of how the hot dog came to be such an historic part of our beloved game.
Now, if they could only make the dispensers of the mustard, catsup, relish, and onions, not quite so archaic.
Come on: We can put a man on the moon, pitch a baseball over 100 miles per hour, and 3-D printers can make just about anything… but we really can’t do better than those crank things in the ball parks to get the fixins?
The good news: Necessity is the mother of invention. Let’s hope for vast improvement in how we dress the dogs at the ball parks any inning now.
(These are not what we mean in baseball by hot dogs.)
(This is what we mean!)