Take into account Dodgersdominance of the last decade. Since 2013, they have been baseball’s most successful team, the only club in that streak to post a winning percentage above .600. They led MLB in each of those seasons. In just about every metric – wins, payroll, various forms of fan engagement – they’ve made a habit of sitting at the top of the league.
And one more: the Dodgers sell more hot dogs than any other team. By a plot.
It helps, of course, to have those league-leading attendance totals at baseball’s biggest stadium. But it’s not just a numbers game. It’s also the legacy of the Dodger Dog – a signing that has been with the team for as long as it has played at Dodger Stadium, with a history as tied to the club as Vin Scully, Sandy Koufax or Clayton Kershaw. There have been a few changes over the years. Some have been twists on the classic (kosher dogs, vegetarian dogs, chili-and-jalapeno-laden “Doyer Dogs”) and some have been behind-the-scenes moves: This is the first season with a new producer, the company of Southern California Papa Cantella’s sausages after the Dodgers were unable to reach a new deal with longtime meat partner Farmer John’s. But the basic idea here remains the same. The Dodger Dog is baseball’s most iconic hot dog, which has also helped make it the most popular, and it’s not close.
Here are the numbers: Heading into this season, the Dodgers were expected to sell three million hot dogs this year. That’s a slight increase over the past few years, but not dramatic, after the team averaged 2.7 million dogs from 2015-2019. (These are the last seasons with full hot dog data available for comparison – baseball’s various pandemic restrictions make it difficult to track dogs for 20 and 21.) In other words, three million Dodger Dogs this year would be about business as usual in Chavez Gully. As for the team projected for second place in the Hot Dog Wars? The Yankees… at 1.2 million. This means no one else should sell half as many hot dogs as the Dodgers. Who’s checking: No team averaged more than 1.4 million hot dogs a year between ’15 and ’19. While the Dodgers pushed for three million, only a handful of teams have ever been able to clear a million, and none have come close to two million. (The Yankees are joined at the Million-Hot-Dog Club by the Cubs, Guardians, Rangers, Giants, Cardinals and Red Sox.) It’s not just a win for the Dodgers. It’s a beating.
These numbers come from the king of hot dog data: Eric Mittenthal, president of the National Hot Dog and Sausage Council. (He holds a joint position with the North American Meat Institute as chief strategy officer.) He estimates that Dodger Stadium accounts for 15% of MLB’s annual hot dog sales. That means more than three out of four people who visit end up getting some form of Dodger Dog, a hot dog attraction unmatched in baseball.
Is Dodger Stadium the single building that sells the most hot dogs in the United States? Unfortunately, there are no exact figures on this. (At least none tracked by the National Hot Dog and Sausage Council.) It’s clear from the existing data that Dodger Stadium easily beats all other American sports facilities. But when it comes to all the buildings, there might be some competition from another of the most iconic frankfurters: The Chicago Dog. “O’Hare Airport sells a lot of hot dogs to millions of people every year,” Mittenthal says, though he repeats that he can’t be sure exactly how it compares to Dodger Stadium.
The Dodger Dog is made from 10 inches of 100% pork. (If you want 100% beef, you go for the Super Dodger Dog, and a plant-based version is also available.) The story goes that the name comes from longtime Dodger Stadium concessions manager Thomas Arthur: When he took the gig for the stadium’s inaugural season in 1962, he originally considered marketing these hot dogs as feet-long, but he didn’t want anyone complaining about the missing two thumbs . It seemed better to go with the truth in advertising and call them something else. The right name would be something catchy, something concise, something that sounds just as good being shouted at by a salesman as it is in an advertisement…and the Dodger Dog was born.
The hot dog was already synonymous with baseball by the time the Dodgers moved west to Los Angeles. Both had seen a double rise in popularity as the 19th century turned to the 20th: baseball entered into its role as a national pastime as it became more professional, and the sport found its perfect match in hot dogs, which were already increasingly common at fairs and in street food. The hot dog was everything a turn-of-the-century American could want: “You had meat in a convenient package that you could carry around,” says Bruce Kraig, one of the nation’s leading hot dog historians. and author of Hot Dogs: A World History and The Man Bites the Dog: America’s Hot Dog Culture. (Yes, the hot dog offers enough material to fill a book, then another.) As baseball grew, the hot dog was there for the ride.
The Dodger Dog appeared more than half a century later. But he managed to unleash new potential and reach heights never seen before.
One factor is size. There is nothing special about an ordinary six inch dog. On the other hand, a foot long may sound like, well, long. There is real success to be found with something in the middle. A 10-inch Dodger Dog works because it taps into an old Oscar Mayer discovery: People are more receptive to a hot dog if it’s slightly longer than its bun, Kraig says. It makes them feel like they’re getting more for their money, and it’s aesthetically pleasing, too. The fact that the Dodger Dog was the perfect length set it up for success right from the start.
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Another is the name. This may seem like a small detail. But to make a hot dog at a baseball game something more than a meal — to feel like a destination unto itself — it needs some kind of eye-catching branding. “It’s just sounds fine,” Kraig says. “Dodder Dogs is alliterative. It works.” (It’s a tried-and-true move: he points out that the closest analog to a Dodger Dog is a Fenway Frank.) Unnamed, it’s just a hot dog. an icon.
And much of the rest is circumstantial. To sell three million hot dogs a year, it helps to play in baseball’s biggest stadium, and it helps to have a team good enough to fill it day in and day out. This helped the original producer, Farmer John’s, choose to sell Dodger Dog hot dogs in local supermarkets for years, which boosted brand awareness. (The new producer, Papa Cantella’s, has also started selling them in stores.) It helps to have been around for decades, even though the original has been modified and expanded, to have an established role as an integral Ball Game: A Dodger Dog is not an optional add-on to the stadium experience. This is experience.
Hours before Monday’s Home Run Derby, the saleswoman is busy straightening her station. She’s been selling Dodger Dogs here at the stadium for 20 years now. (Citing strict instructions for vendors not to speak to the media given ongoing work tensions, she declines to give her name but agrees to chat, anyway.) It’s changed, she says: It seemed that she saw the same customers all the time, subscribers and other regulars she recognized, coming to eat a hot dog night after night. Now there are more people telling him it’s their first time.
“People say they come from out of town just for the Dodger Dog,” she says.
She doesn’t know what the numbers looked like when she started selling two decades ago. But it seems to him that they have become more popular. On a good night, she’ll now sell 1,400 Dodger Dogs per game, she says, with a nearly even split between traditional dog (pig) and super dog (beef).
“It’s iconic,” she says.
And perhaps best put by one of the attendees at Saturday’s celebrity softball game:
“There’s something about being here at Dodger Stadium and seeing this Dodger Dog sitting there, with mustard on it, relish, onions,” actor Bryan Cranston said. ” You know what it is ? When you go to the cinema, you have to have popcorn. You have obtained have some popcorn. When you come to a Dodger game, you must have a Dodger Dog.
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