How Hot Dogs Became A Classic Food At Every Baseball Game

composite of hot dog and sports stadium
composite of hot dog and sports stadium - Static Media / Shutterstock / Getty

The marriage between America's favorite pastime and its quintessential street food has become so ingrained in the national psyche that it's hard to imagine one without the other. According to The National Hot Dog and Sausage Council, 19.4 million hot dogs were consumed at Major League Baseball stadiums during the 2020 season alone, and their survey reported that more than 60% of Americans think the ballpark is the best place to enjoy a hot dog. Although the frankfurter sausages which we now call hot dogs date back to the 1600s in Germany and baseball was first played in a public venue in 1846, the two didn't come together until the 1890s. For that, we owe thanks to a bar owner in St. Louis, Missouri.

German immigrant Chris Von Der Ahe noticed that baseball games brought more business to his saloon, and had the foresight to snap up a majority interest in the early St. Louis team. Legend says that he introduced hot dogs to the crowds at the game, and they became a hit. On the East Coast, another immigrant entrepreneur, British-born Harry M. Stevens began hawking the sausages to sporting crowds at about the same time. Both men took advantage of the rising popularity of the convenient bun-wrapped sausage, which was also known then as a dachshund (little dog) sausage.

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No Matter What You Call It, It's A Hit With The Fans

American flag hot dog
American flag hot dog - Image Source/Getty Images

The origin of the name hot dog is as disputed as a bad call from an umpire. There are a number of legends, but no firm conclusion. We do know that German immigrants brought frankfurters to America, and also their dachshund dogs, and somehow in the mix the long skinny sausages and canines became linked in popular culture. What's more certain is that the widespread adoption of hot dogs in ballparks grew rapidly thanks to Harry M. Stevens, who was said to be as famous as the ball players of his time.

Harry M. Stevens parlayed a career selling baseball scorecards into a national concessions business that streamlined the offerings at large sports events. Peanuts, hot dogs, ice cream, and beer became the standard menu in baseball stadiums due to Stevens' catering business expansion into so many cities. So, whether you call them red hots or hot dogs, we owe a tip of the hat to the German and British entrepreneurs who laid the foundation for America's most classic baseball snack.

Read the original article on Tasting Table.