This is Part 3 of a 3 part series about America’s fascination and love of baseball and hot dogs. In part 2, we discussed the growth of America’s love of hot dogs and America’s National pastime as well as the importance of Charles Feltman and Babe Ruth to hot dogs and baseball respectively. In part 3, we’ll continue with the historical examination of both, concluding with their place in Americana today.
By the 1890’s, the word “Frankfurters” was well-known, especially in 1893 when it became popular at the baseball parks. Credit is given to Chris Von de Ahe, who started the tradition. He was the owner of the St. Louis Browns major league baseball team.
Harry M. Steven, who had a food concession around the early 1900’s at New York City’s Polo Grounds, had his vendors sell the large, spicy Frankfurters on a roll during Giants baseball games, topped with sauerkraut and mustard. His vendors would yell: “Get your red hots! Red hots!”
Nathan’s has been recognized today as having the highest quality hot dogs in the world. Statistics show that last year, 360 million Nathan’s Frankfurters were sold. Plus they have the famous Frankfurter eating contest. These hot dogs are sold and enjoyed at 20,000 food service and retail outlets throughout the entire United States. Sports celebrities such as Joe Namath and Joe DiMaggio loved Nathan’s Frankfurters.
For both Charles Feltman and Nathan Handwerker, the American dream was embraced. This symbolized for them “a dream of social order in which each man and each woman shall be able to attain to the fullest stature of which they are innately capable, and be recognized by others for what they are, regardless of the fortuitous circumstances of birth or position.” (James Truslow Adams 1931)
For Babe Ruth, The Sultan of Swat, the American Dream was realized, as well. He’s the most recognizable, most adored baseball player to this day. The image of him sharing his hot dog with kids in the stands at Yankees games was commemorated in a film commemorating his life, The Babe, where he was played by John Goodman. It’s no coincidence that the National rise in popularity of both the hot dog and baseball go hand in hand. Charles Feltman sold Frankfurters in New York, where they were locally popular in the early 1900’s. Babe Ruth played in New York from 1920 to 1934. He loved this succulent treat and was the most famous athlete of that era perhaps of any era. His known consumption of hot dogs and baseball lore combined to spread the word that the “red hots” were great food and they should be tried, especially while viewing a ball game.
Soon hot dogs were sold at all baseball stadiums, the tradition was born, and the Frankfurter became a staple of the American diet and baseball itself. In fact, if you try to show off and make a mistake in baseball, it’s known as “hot dogging” because you’re trying to be better than you are when a hot dog is certainly good enough, especially the way they make them at the ball park. Today, many famous and delectable gourmet Frankfurters and variations of hot dogs are sold at all Major League parks, including the Fenway Frank in Boston, Nathan’s Dog in New York, the famous Dodger Dog, and even the Bison Dog in Atlanta. There are more variations of the delicious meat treat today than Derek Jeter has hits.
So when you go to the supermarket next time, you can get chicken, turkey, tofu or beef Frankfurters, or wait until your next barbecue, ball game or outside festival to eat that magical outdoors dog. But if you’re craving one now, you don’t have to wait for opening day, there’s always a “Nathan’s” to be found somewhere.
Red Hots! Anyone? You betcha…Hey, I’ll take one over here! It may not be diet friendly, but it tastes great and it’s certainly patriotic!