Timber Dan’s Outdoor Living: Baseball & the Birth of an American Icon

Did you ever hear the story of how the term “hot dog” came about? It was in the 1880s and a cold spring day at the Columbus, Ohio, baseball park.

The usual fare of peanuts and cold drinks was not selling. Nor was the “delicious box lunch for only a dime,” which consisted of a sandwich, apple and piece of pound cake.

Concessions manager Harry Stevens sent some boys out to a nearby deli for some sausages and buns.. “Put the sausages in boiling water, stick them in a bun and go through the stands yelling “Red Hots,” Stevens said. They sold like hot cakes, or, rather, like hot dogs.

The item remained “red hots” for some 20 years. Then, famed New York cartoonist Tad Dorgan pictured a dachshund nestling in a bun. America’s favorite sandwich has been as “hot dog” ever since. And Harry Stevens was the first of a great family of sports concessionaires.

Pre-Radio Era

Before radio came to life in the 1920s, newspapers had little competition for sports (or other) news items. With the evening paper coming out late in the day and no night games, many events were reported almost as they happened, by telephone dictation or by telegraph. You can imagine how quick a person in the office had to be in “taking down” these stories!

Some of the early bits of sports writing were much too “corny” for today’s tastes, but I’ll let you be the judge of these leads, quoted from a great book of news clippings I have called “Baseball Extra.”

Early ‘World Series’

PROVIDENCE DAILY JOURNAL, Oct. 24, 1884: “The Providence (National) League champions and the New York Metropolitans, champions of the American Association, played the first of a series of base ball games for the championship of the United States at the Polo Grounds today. Great interest was felt in the contest and over 2,500 persons assembled to watch the game. The disagreeable weather was the means of keeping away three times as many than the number present,. A raw, cold wind blew across the grounds, and even made the players shiver at times.”

(Providence won the game 6-0 and took the “championship series.”)

Orioles No. 1

THE BALTIMORE MORNING HERALD, Oct. 3, 1894: “The ovation given to a Roman conqueror returning home with his captives dragging at his chariot wheels wasn’t a marker to the reception the Baltimore Base Ball Club got last night when they touched foot in the Monumental City with the scalps of 11 other National League teams dangling from their belts.

Their train arrived at Comedian Station at 6:32 p.m., being exactly three minutes ahead of time.”

Feeding Time?

NEW HAVEN SUNDAY LEADER, Oct. 17, 1909: “The Yale bull dog and the Army mule chewed and kicked each other on the West Point Plain this afternoon in their annual football tussle.” (In the second paragraph, we find out that Yale won, 17-0).


And in a brief note following the above story:

John L. Lilly, Yale varsity tackle and son of the late Governor Lilley of Connecticut, has been arrested on Pelham Parkway in New York for speeding his car at 25 miles per hour when the law allows 15.”

‘Pets’ Won Series

NEW YORK EVENING SUN, Oct. 16, 1912: “The Giants and Red Sox met in Fenway Park this afternoon in the deciding game of baseball’s World Series. With the two teams tied at three apiece and another 11-inning game tied (due to darkness) it would seem that enthusiasm and interest would be at concert pitch.

Such, however, was not the case. Apparently, the Red Sox rooters had lost all hope of the championship coming to the Hub and preferred to stay at home rather than witness the final humiliating of their baseball pets.”

(Only 12,000 Boston fans were there, but their “baseball pets” won the game and the Series, 3-2.)

Harvard Scored On!

THE BOSTON TRAVELER, Oct. 11, 1913: “Williams matched its fast and experienced eleven against Harvard’s powerful football machine on the Stadium turf this afternoon. Before the game, there were few who were willing to say that Harvard would not be forced to show all the football it had. A year ago, a Williams team came down and scored on the Crimson. They did that again today, but Harvard prevailed, 26-3.”

Under The Lights

THE BOSTON POST, Oct. 13, 1920: “Under the white flare of five great arc lights that shut out the stars, Georges Carpentier, heavyweight champion of Europe, knocked out Battling Lavinsky tonight in the first few seconds of the fourth round. A right hook to the jaw was the winning smash as 35,000 fans from the lowest to the highest brows in the Metropolitan Circuit paid out more than $350,000 to see the bout at Boyle’s Thirty Acres.”

(Boxing was illegal in New York at the time, so they fought across the river, in a makeshift stadium not far from The Meadowlands. Carpentier later was KOd by Jack Dempsey in a title bout at the same site.)

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