While new state-of-the-art ballparks have introduced food menus that rival those at five-star restaurants, the hot dog remains the most popular gastronomic attraction for stadium attendees. During a typical baseball season, more than 26 million dogs and sausages are consumed during innings. For a food so unassuming, how does the hot dog stay so relevant?
For some, it comes down to tradition. The marriage between baseball and pork casings began around the turn of the century, when Europeans marketed sausages as easily-handled street food. Credit for introducing hot dogs to baseball fans generally goes to one of two European immigrants. In the 1890s, as one story goes, German immigrant Chris Von de Ahe began to peddle the bread-bedded tubes at the ballpark he owned in St. Louis, home to the Browns. Others say a Brit by the name of Harry M. Stevens was responsible. According to that account, Stevens, who normally sold ice cream, decided to switch to what he described as “dachshund sausages” one frigid day. (Allegedly, a cartoonist who couldn’t spell “dachshund” was responsible for coining the term “hot dog.”) Whoever first brought them to ball fans, then, as now, the dogs were perfect stadium fare: cheap and highly customizable with toppings. (And for the calorie conscious, hot dogs usually top off at around 250 calories with the bun.)
Since then, hot dogs have been a staple at ballparks. Easy to prepare, keep warm, and hand out in aisles, they usually top polls of more expensive stadium food like pizza. Whether it’s nostalgia or a complete sensory experience, not even athletes are exempt from the pull of the hot dog: The Great Bambino once ate a dozen of them between the two games of a doubleheader.