There was nothing special about the best hot dog I ever ate, at least the food part of it. Everything about it – the bun, the meat and the zig-zagged mustard on top – was very generic. It didn’t taste bad, but if I ate it anywhere else I could feel generous giving the place a two-and-a-half-star Google review.
It was the atmosphere surrounding it that made it so good. I was sitting lower deck along the first base line in Fenway Park as the summer sun set over New England. The half-eaten Fenway Frank was still in my right hand when I stood and celebrated Albert Pujols putting a ball over the Green Monster.
That is what made it such a good dog.
Even buying the hot dog felt iconic. The vendor and I swapped the foil-wrapped dog for cash before he fumbled mustard packets on the couple in front of us. They complained, and his rebuttal came through with a Boston attitude as thick as his accent.
“Hey, its all part of the Fenway experience.”
I can’t fully explain how, but hot dogs taste better while at baseball games. The two just go together. The best ingredients to go with any frank is warm summer air and America’s pastime. Just add mustard, relish and nostalgia.
It was the same when I went to Los Angeles last summer. Slightly shorter than a footlong, more than 2 million of the 10-inch “Dodger Dogs” are sold every year. Legendary broadcaster Vin Scully began advertising them on air when were introduced in the 1960s. They are as iconic as the ballpark itself.
The famous dog was even referenced in the classic baseball movie, “The Sandlot”, when Squints calls the new kids a weenie.
“Oscar Mayer even,” Yeah Yeah chimed in. “Footlong, Dodger Dog, a weenie!”
If they are so popular they must taste amazing, right?
Not really. As much as I enjoyed every bite, that hot dog would be far from special outside the stadium. But it was at the ballpark, and I still crave more Dodger Dogs.
Not all ballpark hot dogs are generic. A lot of Major League stadiums are upping their game and putting twists on their dogs. You can order a Chicken Enchilada Dog in Arizona, a Pastrami Sausage Dog in Philadelphia or the “Most Valuable Tamale” in Arlington – a one-pound dog topped with Texas-style chili and cheese. The Yankees, Twins and Orioles even have vegan-friendly hot dogs.
Hot dogs and baseball are an All-American combo. It isn’t hard to see why they go so well together. Making hundreds of hot dogs in a short amount of time is easy and inexpensive for the ballpark and eating them is convenient for the fans. No plate, fork or knife need to get in the way of enjoying the game.
More than just spectators love them. The story is that Babe Ruth once downed 12 hot dogs and eight bottles of soda before the second game of a double header, but not even the Great Bambino could handle that much meat trimming. He was later sent to the hospital with some terrible type of indigestion.
We are far from any Major League ballpark in Cache Valley, but we don’t have to travel far to find a good ballpark dog. My favorite night to catch a Salt Lake Bees game is on Wednesday, when hot dogs are only a dollar each.
Classic film actor Humphrey Bogart put it best when he said, “A hot dog at the ballpark beats roast beef at the Ritz.”