The History Behind Your Favorite Stadium Snacks
If you’ve ever been to a Pittsburgh Pirate’s game, you may have wondered why baseball stadiums serve the classic staples they do throughout the park’s concession stands. Of course, we’re talking about delicious snacks such as hotdogs, peanuts, and crackerjacks (just like the song says)!
The History of the Hotdog
The hotdog dates back to the 15th century when the “frankfurter” was created in (you guessed it) Frankfurt. For a while, it was simply a sausage. Sometime in the 19th century, the snack that would later become the hotdog grew a fanbase in America after immigrants from Europe brought it with them.
So, what makes a hot dog different from a frankfurter? The bun. Many hotdog historians credit Antonoine Feuchtwanger, a St. Louis vendor who offered his customers a pair of gloves along with their hot sausages to keep them from burning their hands. Unfortunately, many customers walked off with the gloves rather than returning them, so profits naturally took a drop. Around 1883, the concessionaire’s wife came up with a creative solution: long rolls that perfectly fit the sausages. The snack became known, at the time, as “red-hots.”
Many other historians point to Charles Feltman, a German butcher who began selling hot sausages on rolls out of the pie wagon he carried up and down the dunes in Brooklyn’s Coney Island in 1867. It only took a few years for him to expand his business from a single pushcart into a hot dog empire. The business was going great until Nathan Handwerker, a bread slicer at Feltman’s, broke away to open his own stand in 1916. And he did something drastic—he cut the price from 10 cents to 5, undercutting his old boss. Today, the familiar Nathan’s Famous Hotdogs can be found in thousands of retail locations across the country.
So, where does baseball come in? Hotdogs took a while longer to make their way into the game. But soon, it became recognized that there were no organized concession stands around the time baseball began. The only food available was the food that locals brought into the game and tried to sell, and fans were naturally drawn to finger foods that they could eat with their hands.
Around the turn of the century, though, the concession game changed, and hotdogs have been available for purchase ever since! P.S. you can celebrate National Hotdog Day on July 21st and National Chili Dog Day soon after on July 29th (make sure the buns are Cellone’s)!
History of Peanuts
No matter how you choose to eat them—salted, roasted, shell on or off, peanuts have been a classic baseball snack since the very beginning.
It’s believed that peanuts were discovered by Spanish conquistadors who were introduced to them in South America, likely Brazil or Peru. They took the plant home with them to Europe, and soon, it gained popularity across Africa and Asia. Slave traders brought the peanut back across the Atlantic in the 1700s and used it as a cheap food source to feed African captives.
Farms in America began growing peanuts in the 1800s, but it was considered food for livestock and something only the low class chose to eat. That all changed during the Civil War when soldiers on both sides realized how tasty and convenient peanuts are for a snack. After the war end, demand quickly increased as vendors began selling freshly roasted peanuts on street corners, at the circus, and you guessed it…baseball games!
History of Crackerjacks
Thousands of years ago, Native Americans first started popping corn as a tasty snack. Flash forward to 1893, popcorn makers Frederick and Louis Rueckheim were determined to give the popped kernels a new twist. The two brothers added molasses and peanuts into the mix and started sharing the sweet and savory treat at the World’s Fair in Chicago in the 1890s. A few years later, they developed a secret formula to keep the ingredients from sticking together (the recipe remains a mystery today).
A satisfied taster nicknamed the snack “crackerjack,” using a slang term of the era that translates to “awesome.” The Rueckheims trademarked the expression which soon became a crucial part of the classic song “Take Me Out to the Ballgame,” which we still sing at Pirates games today.
What’s your go-to baseball snack? Cellone’s is proud to be a partner of the Pittsburgh Pirates, so if it happens to be a hotdog, you’re in luck next time you hit the ballpark! Let us know what you think.