~ Humphrey Bogart
There used to be a car commercial with a jingle that went, “Baseball, hotdogs, apple pie and Chevrolet.” It was about the “American Experience”. Today we will examine half of that jingle.
Baseball is a traditional game, it was (and in my heart, still is) “America’s Game”, “The National Past Time.” And what is more traditional than having a ‘dog and a beer while enjoying a game at the park?
When did the hotdog, become entwined with the game? One story says that German immigrant Chris Von de Ahe started to sell pork sausage wieners at the St. Louis Browns ball field, which at various times was called “New Sportsman’s Park” or “Robinson Field”. Another story says, Harry M. Stevens a Britain began selling the sausages on a cold day when his ice cream wouldn’t have had many takers. Either way, they went over with the fans.
Enter Chicago; at some point the popular fare made it north to Chicago, and the pork sausage by now also had beef added to the mixture. By 1929, a “kosher-style” all beef frankfurter hit the market by a company named Fluky’s. Eventually becoming what is lovingly called the Chicago Dog, or Chicago-style hot dog, some also call it the Chicago Red Hot.
So, what exactly is The Chicago Dog? It is a steamed hot dog (usually Vienna Beef), served on a poppy seed bun (The Mary Jane) and topped with yellow mustard, green sweet pickle relish, a dill pickle spear, tomato slices (or wedges), chopped white onions, sport peppers and a dash of celery salt. This configuration is known as “dragged through the garden”. This is the perfect dog! Other condiments that are acceptable, but not necessary are cucumber slices, lettuce and jalapeños peppers. Cheese and chili may also be added, but those are sold as a Cheese Dog, a Chili Dog and when combined, A Chili-Cheese Dog.
What is NOT acceptable on a Chicago Dog is Ketchup. Where I grew up on the South Side of Chicago, in the McKinley Park area, it was a sin and the vendors didn’t offer it, period. Ketchup is believed to cover up the taste of spoiled meat and is not needed on a fresh dog. Ketchup has more sugar than all the other condiments that go on a Chicago dog and makes the taste redundant, it hides the flavors of the other condiments as well as the dog itself. In a few short words, it’s just not done. Some disagree on this point.
The debate has and will continue forever. Which is why it’s fitting that the hotdog is so closely related to baseball. In just one example, Jackie Robinson of the Brooklyn Dodgers stole home in the 1955 World Series against the New York Yankees, he was called safe by home-plate umpire Bill Summers. Until his dying day, Yankee catcher, Lawrence “Yogi” Berra swore he got the tag down prior to Robinson touching the plate. Many fans agree with Yogi; even fans that weren’t alive when it happened thanks to see films of the games on highlight reels. The debate on both goes on, it’s part of the beauty of the game.
What’s your preference?
Enjoy your ‘dog and beer, either at the ballpark whenever we can attend again or at home while watching a game!
~ Coach Mike