Food For Thought

hot dogs and baseball: a match made in sports heaven

Hot dogs are practically synonymous with baseball. You really can’t have one without the other, and both are as American as bald eagles and apple pie. In fact, in 2014 it was estimated that over 21 million hot dogs were eaten in baseball stadiums across the United States, with over 3 million of those hot dogs being consumed in Dodgers Stadium alone. This begs the question: how did hot dogs come to be associated with American baseball?

Origins of Hot Dogs

Pinpointing the exact origin of the hot dog can be complicated. There are records of foods similar to a sausage dating back to the 9th century B.C. From there, the story gets a little complicated. However, the roots of the hot dog modern Americans know and love can be traced back to Germany.

Like most foods that have become staples of the American diet, the hot dog came to this country via immigrants. Specifically, German immigrants brought a precursor to modern hot dogs, which were referred to as frankfurters centuries ago. That name comes from the city of Frankfurt, Germany.

Coming to America

The sausages began growing in prevalence in America because German immigrants would sell the frankfurters from carts. One major player in this introduction was Charles Feltman, an immigrant who sold frankfurters on Coney Island beginning in 1870.

During this period of time, the sausages didn’t come with buns. The sausages were simply given to people as is. In order to prevent people’s hands from getting burned, the vendors would provide customers with white gloves to hold the sausages.

Introduction to Baseball

In the 1890s, frankfurters became common cuisine at baseball parks. It’s believed the first person to introduce sausages to parks was Chris Von de Ahe, who was the owner of the St. Louis Browns, a Major League Baseball team at the time. He came from German roots, so naturally, he incorporated delicious frankfurters into baseball games.

It was also during this time that the hot dog bun began to circulate. Although there are many discrepancies concerning who exactly came up with the idea to put frankfurters in a bun, the generally-held belief is that vendors became upset because the white gloves they provided customers were never returned, so it resulted in a loss of revenue. One person had the idea to put the sausages in bread, and the trend caught on like wildfire.

Coining the Term “Hot Dog”

Even today, the term “hot dog” can also be substituted with “frank,” “sausage” or “wiener.” Again, it’s difficult to pinpoint the exact origin of the term “hot dog.” One popular story that has gained prevalence is that on the New York Polo Grounds during 1901, vendors were abundant selling their frankfurters. The vendors constantly shouted about how the sausages were “red hot” and “genuine Dachshund sausages.”

A New York cartoonist apparently took the “Dachshund” to mean the literal dog and quickly created a cartoon depicting little wiener dogs in the now iconic buns. Within this cartoon, he used the phrase “hot dog,” and it stuck. Similar to other word origins, this story has been disputed. Some college campuses claim that they were using the term “hot dog” in the 1890s to describe the products vendors sold at the dorms. Regardless of where it came from, the name stuck and has been used ever since.

Hot dogs have been fixtures at baseball games for over a century now. Hot dogs have become a real art form, with all kinds of toppings being spread on them. However, the classic hot dog in a bun with ketchup and mustard remains a favorite.