The other night while watching Chris Sale try to pitch the Red Sox out of their early season funk, I thought about how much I prefer watching baseball in my man cave to schlepping over to Fenway Park. I would much rather consume beverages and snacks purchased at Costco than pay confiscatory ballpark prices. The Red Sox traditionally charge the highest prices for concessions although in 2018 Fenway was surpassed by Wrigley Field. Wrigley charges $6.50 for a hotdog, slightly more than the $6.25 charged at the Met’s Citi Field. Interestingly, Yankee Stadium charges only $3.00 for a dog but I no longer go there since I always get stuck sitting in front of hairy guys named Sal and Lenny who look like they want to roll me for my sneakers. I prefer Camden Yards which is a superior venue and has $1.50 hotdogs.

Baseball’s association with hotdogs started in 1881 St. Louis when Chris von der Ahe, a Prussian immigrant, purchased the struggling Brown Stockings (today’s Cardinals). The budding entrepreneur owned a popular saloon and gambled that he could subsidize a low ticket price (25 cents) by plying customers with wieners and beer. The visionary businessman is also credited with coining the term “fan” which is short for fanatic.

The man who made hot dogs a way of life in the U.S. was Nathan Handwerker, a Jewish immigrant from Poland who worked as a bread slicer at Charles Feltman’s popular Coney Island restaurant. Two of the restaurant’s singing waiters complained that they couldn’t afford Feltman’s ten-cent hotdogs and convinced Nathan to open a five-cent hotdog establishment. Nathan’s got off to a rocky start because potential customers were wary of possible unhealthy items lurking inside the half-price dogs. Undeterred, Nathan hired white-jacketed young men to stand in front of his stand eating hot dogs. Passersby decided to try the wieners because “all of the doctors are eating them.’” Nathan’s became world famous as did the two singing waiters- Eddie Cantor and Jimmy Durante.

Americans consume 20 billion hot dogs per year or approximately 70 per person. Seven billion dogs are consumed between Memorial Day and Labor Day with 150 Million of those eaten on July 4. The leading purveyor of prepared hot dogs is 7-Eleven which sells 100.million annually.  Call me crazy or snobbish but if I want to be unhealthy, I’d rather smoke a carton of Lucky Strikes than eat a 7-Eleven dog.

Got Mustard? 
Speaking of healthy choices, mustard plants are close relatives to a variety of vegetables, including broccoli and cabbage. Egyptian pharaohs stocked their tombs with mustard seeds to accompany them into the afterlife and Hippocrates praised mustard paste as a miracle remedy for aches and pains.  Pythagoras endorsed a poultice of mustard seeds as a cure for scorpion stings and ancient Roman physicians used it to ease toothaches. Over the years, mustard has been used for appetite stimulation, sinus clearing, frostbite prevention, hair growth stimulant, immunity booster, cholesterol regulator, and cancer prevention. BTW, mustard’s yellow color stems from turmeric not the seeds themselves. And if anyone asks, you can tell them that more than half of the world’s mustard plants are grown in just two countries: Canada and Nepal.

Cracker Jack Controversy 
In 1896, the first lot of Cracker Jack was produced in Chicago and sixteen years later the sugared popcorn and peanut concoction was packaged with a prize.  Since then, more than 23 billion trinkets and cards have been distributed. Amazingly, some vintage Cracker Jack prizes are valued at more than $7,000. In my opinion the only thing lamer than the prizes has been the declining number of peanuts in the boxes. Thank God, investigative journalism didn’t die with Woodward and Bernstein. In 2005, the Seattle Times did an exhaustive expose and found that while the 1918 Cracker Jack formula called for 40 peanuts per box, the average box in 2005 contained only 5.83 peanuts. To paraphrase Abraham Lincoln “You can’t fool all of the Cracker Jack consumers all of the time.”

Have a great weekend and please exercise some self-control at 7-Eleven.

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