“Take me out to the barf game, take me out to the puke!”
~Your obnoxious seven-year-old nephew who, you have to admit, probably has a bright parody career ahead of him
America invented most of the world’s best sports. Football? That was us. Basketball? Sure, it was by a Canadian, but only because he was being paid by the Springfield, Massachusetts YMCA when he came up with it, because Canadian dollars were still printed on tree bark at the time, and we were responsible for all the changes that make it recognizable as a sport today. Soccer? Nice try, not a real sport, next question.
But of all the excuses for young men (and women!) to vent out the aggression of youth in a competitive and potentially humiliating environment that has been birthed within these borders, only one sport is iconic enough to be known as our national pastime. No, not Mixed Martial Arts, that’s a terrible guess, are you high right now? We’re talking about baseball of course.
You might view baseball as a relic of a simpler age, when men were men, owners were horrific bigots, and amphetamines were just, everywhere, all the time, which would explain why the sport struggles in some markets to maintain its relevancy. It’s a slow-moving game trying to make its way in a fast-paced world, and say what you will about heart palpitations but taking the majority of the workforce off of Speed in the 80’s didn’t really do much for the pace of the game. Major League Baseball teams try to combat the issues implicit with asking some 40,000 Americans to sit very still for three or four hours by making a day at the ball game a full entertainment and gastronomical experience. This involves a gallons of watered down beer and, more recently, absurd, amazing American culinary disasterpieces for us to shove in our faces and slink into our chairs to ride out our food coma contently watching yet another 1-2-3 inning.
Sure, we could go on about crazy nachos served in miniature baseball hats, or giant cups of frozen sugar (okay, so maybe malt cups aren’t exactly a new development) but let’s be real here. This is America’s sport, we’re going to need to talk about America’s food. America’s best, most absurdly adaptable, most occasionally unnecessarily expensive food. Let’s get to it.
The Craziest Hot Dogs in Professional Baseball (Major League Edition)
For a sport whose biggest advancements in terms of on-field play consisted of a brief period where home run totals skyrocketed because everyone and their mother (especially their mother) was taking steroids, the culinary experience of the ballpark has drastically changed in the past decade after over a century of relative stagnation. Everyone’s dad used to be able to go to the ball game for a dollar, day of, and spend ten cents to get a hot dog, and might later splurge on a soda or a box of cracker jack, but they weren’t exactly there to have a fine dining experience. They would go because it was summer break, bleacher seats were cheap, and cheap hot dogs are necessary for survival (a little known fact- if an American doesn’t eat at least 50 hot dogs by their 18th birthday, they’re not allowed back into America if they ever go on a trip that takes them out of the country).
Even sports fans in their 20s and 30s remember the ball park as a place to get delicious, but cheap (in quality, not in price, obviously) junk food. You could snag a hot dog, nachos, maybe a slice of pizza, and your parents almost always bought that bag of peanuts outside the stadium which was like three dollars cheaper and which you were inexplicably allowed to take in.
That’s all changed in the past ten years. Yes, you can still get the same low-quality-high-flavor heart-attack-helpers from your youth, but now you can get gourmet foods, with high-end ingredients and higher-end prices. This could have taken a turn for the pretentious, but in true solidarity with baseball’s inherent American nature, they decided to go with decadently gluttonous instead. Which brings us to these beauties.
Honorable Mention: The Arizona Diamondbacks’ D-Bat Dog
We can’t in good consciousness call a corn dog the same thing as a hot dog. As we clearly stated in our four-article series mapping out the regional hot dogs of America, a corn dog is a sausage on a stick surrounded in fried batter- that’s not the same as the only-slightly-less-convenient-to-eat sausage in a bun. That being said look at this motherfucker. The unfortunately named D-Bat Dog was released last year at Chase Field, to give Diamondbacks fans yet another way to ensure they never have to pay attention to a baseball game. It’s 18 inches long (ladies) and is stuffed with cheddar, jalapenos, and bacon before being crammed into a box filled with fries and served with not nearly enough mustard and ketchup if the promo picture is of any indication. It costs $25, which might seem like a lot, but really, it’s a small price to pay compared to your dignity, which is also included in the price because there is absolutely no way you can pick that up by the stick and eat it without looking completely and utterly ridiculous. As in, we’re pretty sure that, though it might not be the main reason why Physics as a field was invented, a really big reason was to explain exactly how goofy you will look trying to guide 18 inches of stuffed meat skewered by an improbably long stick safely to your mouth.
Yeah, okay, so we just re-read the last half of that sentence, so we’ll just pause for a moment to let you fill in your own dick joke. Okay, done yet? Ha ha, that was a good one, man, really on point. Let’s go on to the actual hot dogs now.
The Los Angeles Dodgers: Playoff Dog
The Los Angeles Dodgers made the playoffs in 2014, and in 2013, and again in 2009 and again in 2008, which was the last time the Chicago Cubs made the playoffs. We just are contractually forced to rub salt into that wound for any Cubs fans reading this because we once lost a bet with a Cardinals fan, and if we ever mentioned baseball without rubbing the Cubs’ futility in their own faces, our articles would be flooded by a bunch of people from St. Louis talking about how they play baseball “the right way” which is just the fucking worst.
Anyway, the Dodgers made the playoffs in 2014, and to celebrate this feat, they released a special hot dog, called the Playoff Dog, and it sounds amazing. They took a hot dog, put it in a pretzel bun, and topped the whole thing with pastrami, mustard, and a thick pickle wedge. This might be the most sensible on the list, but we just wanted to slowly ease you into the “meat on top of different meat” direction that these hot dogs can take before we really hit you with the good stuff. For example-
The Pittsburgh Pirates: Polish Hill Dog
Foot-long hot dogs have existed for a while, but only lately have we started using them to their full potential. Time was, a.k.a. the 1990’s, you’d go to a Minor League park (they used to be almost only at Minor League Baseball games, but also at every Minor League Baseball stadium) and get a comically elongated tube of nitrates on either a regular or slightly bigger bun, laugh at how much of the hot dog hangs out of the bun, or laugh because of the existence of male genitalia (depending on if you had hit puberty yet) and would eat it with regular toppings. Now that they’re starting to make the jump to the big leagues, foot-longs are less of a novelty and more of a vessel to create an even crazier novelty (that you’ll spend like, 20 bucks on).
Which, in Pittsburgh’s case, presents itself with the Polish Hill Dog, or the “wait, and onion rings?” dog as we prefer to call it. Taking a foot long on a specialty bun (read as: a normal bun, but one that fits the whole sausage) the hot dog is topped with coleslaw and pulled pork doused in Kansas City barbecue sauce. While a pulled-pork-cole-slaw-foot-long would be enough for most mortals, the Pirates ratcheted things up by adding onion rings and pierogis because, eh, Western Pennsylvania, shrug.
The Pittsburgh Pirates have made the playoffs the last two years, while playing in the same division as the Chicago Cubs who have not (goddamn it, Craig, please let us stop doing that), but it’s important to note that this hot dog was released back in 2012, the last year that they didn’t make the playoffs. Are we saying that this glorious concoction is largely responsible for the Pirates winning ways? No, quite the opposite, we’re saying it only exists because they went twenty years without once reaching a .500 record, and they had to placate their fans somehow.
The Milwaukee Brewers: The Beast
“Oh wow, wait, Milwaukee makes a crazy unhealthy food that has bratwurst in it, and sells it to people who go to a sporting event where alcohol is consumed? This is a very surprising fact,” you might say if you’ve never heard of the state of Wisconsin or if maybe you had a really unfortunate accident with a nail gun that took out a very specific section of your memory. For the rest of you, us saying “Yeah, the Brewers sell ‘The Beast’ which is a bacon-wrapped hot dog/bratwurst combination” is greeted with a chorus of “yeah that makes sense” or maybe “huh, but no cheese though?”
The Brewers announced this sausage’s release over twitter, which we can only surmise is because any true Wisconsin resident within a forty-mile radius of the stadium knew of its existence the moment it was placed on its warm pretzel-roll bun. It comes with a pickle to be fancy, and chips because calories are a myth invented by gyms and fitness trainers and *has a minor heart attack* *pounds chest*
Anyway, this looks pretty damn tasty. Another job well done, Wisconsin.
The Baltimore Orioles: The Walk Off
The Baltimore Orioles have an executive chef. Well, admittedly, by this point, a lot of baseball teams have executive chefs, but John Distenfeld at Camden Yards is the kind of baseball chef who also appears on the show Chopped. Chopped, if you’re not familiar, is a show where top chefs are given strange, random mystery ingredients, and are given a time limit to combine them into a whole, delicious dish. It’s pretty much like every time you try to cook for your kids when your wife leaves town, only with a lot less crying and we’re pretty sure it’s against the rules to say, “Fuck this” and call Pizza Hut for delivery at the end of it.
Needless to say, Distenfeld has made a name for himself making insane hot dogs for casual sporting event consumption. Now, we could have included the crab-and-mac-and-cheese dog that they serve over at Camden, but we decided to go with the Walk Off, which is pretty much a giant, fancy version of that, and it has an actual name, and also shut up we shouldn’t have to justify to you why this hunk of majesty made this list over a completely different but worthwhile contender. This giant Old Bay Roma sausage is placed in a pretzel roll and topped with old bay crab dip, because Baltimore is crazy about crabs, and in about five years they’ll even learn to finally embrace the STD jokes they hear every time they state that fact.
Now would be the time that we’d say something snarky about how “it defeats the purpose of having a hot dog if you have to cut it with a damn knife to even eat it” but look at that knife, it’s so shiny. So shiny.
Sorry. Got distracted. But that leads us to our final dog of the day (don’t worry, we’ll get into the Minor Leagues later this week)…
The Texas Rangers: Boomstick
We understand why foreigners like to make fat American jokes. They’re lazy and tired, but we get it, because we’re kind of lazy and tired as a nation too. Wait, now, it’s because we spend a lot of our time writing about things like the Boomstick up there with a combination of childish glee and a haunting knowledge that we know that the words “cardiac arrest” will appear somewhere on our death certificates. That being said…look at the Boomstick! That looks so great we could die eating it and be like, eh, we had a good run! The Boomstick runs you back $26, which, considering that the all-beef hot dog is 2-feet long, runs you exactly one dollar per inch of hot dog.
We’re not great at math.
Anyway, the Boomstick is smothered in chili, macho cheese, caramelized onions, and jalapenos and placed on a sturdy potato bun, weighing about three pounds in total. It makes sense that this would exist in America, and it makes a lot of sense that Texas would be the state to come up with the idea, and it makes so much sense we’re thinking our work here is done, and America is about as American as it can get when we’re told that in 2012 (the first year the Boomstick was put on the menu) over 20,000 were sold, netting in about half a million dollars in sales.
That’s right. Either we’re so desperate to eat ridiculous foods, or baseball is so boring (probably both) that over half a million dollars has been spent on giant, novelty hot dogs that, when stood up vertically on the ground (OH GOD ALL THE CHILI AND TOPPINGS ARE SLIDING TO THE GROUND THIS IS A MESS WHY DID WE THINK THIS WOULD BE A GOOD IDEA) from end to end, it would be taller than the world’s smallest man. We don’t know about you, but that makes us proud. God bless baseball. God bless America.