Saturday, September 14, 2013

We in Chicago ought to applaud the idea of “mustard-only” hot dog vendor

If either of our professional ball clubs had any sense, they’d figure out a way to make Charley Marcuse a part of their ballpark atmosphere.

He’s not capable of pitching 200 innings, playing a stellar shortstop or depositing fly balls into the outfield seats on a regular basis. He wouldn’t help the on-field activity.

BUT HIS HIRING would make a statement totally in character with the ethos of our home city – or at least the way we’d like to think of ourselves.

Marcuse is a hot dog vendor. Or at least he was until this week. Since 1999, he has worked concessions at Detroit Tigers baseball games. He’s one of those guys roaming through the stands with a metal box – selling you overpriced hot dogs to munch on while you watch a ballgame.

His particular schtick that made him stand out was as the “Singing” vendor. He’d sing out his cry for people to buy hot dogs as though he were parodying an operatic singer.

But that’s not why he ought to come to Chicago. In fact, I suspect if he did set foot inside a Chicago ballpark, he’d come across as being more annoying than Ronnie Wickers, the “Woo Woo” man in the stands at Wrigley Field.

WHAT MAKES MARCUSE stand out in my mind that he believes hot dogs are meant to be served with mustard. He is known for letting people who ask for ketchup on their ballpark hotdog just how little he thinks of them.

In fact, it seems that attitude is what caused Sportservice (which handles concessions at Detroit’s Comerica Park) to let Marcuse go. Friday’s Tigers game against the Kansas City Royals was the first since 1999 where he wasn’t present.

The Detroit News reported that “general employee conduct” was the reason Marcuse was given for losing his job. Although speculation is that it was his “no ketchup” attitude – which some fans have said on various Internet sites was so over the top that he came across as intimidating to fans.

Which reminds me of the one-time “Andy the Clown” who used to roam the stands at old Comiskey Park – using his loud, piercing voice to be able to shout cheers over the din of the ballpark crowd. Some fans hated having to be the one sitting near where he stood because he could be that loud.

OTHERS FOUND HIM to be part of the atmosphere of the old ballpark that never carried over to the structure now known as U.S. Cellular Field.

Now in writing this commentary, I don’t seriously expect Marcuse to relocate his life from Michigan to the greater Chicago area just to take a job as a hot dog vendor.
Hot dog lovers to an extreme in L.A.

But the whole idea of someone willing to take a stand for the lack of ketchup (which I personally don’t put on anything I eat) is something I wouldn’t mind seeing promoted. Even though I realize that the vendors at our own ballparks don’t offer ketchup (you have to go to one of the stands underneath the seats if you want it).

A no-ketchup vendor who’s proud of it would be a kick – even if it were just to last for a day.

BESIDES, IT'S ONE of the quirks of Michigan that Marcuse has actually developed his own brand of mustard that can be bought in assorted stores and served in some area restaurants.

Perhaps a Chicago stint could help him expand his market. At the very least, it would appease those people who get all worked up over the genuine “Chicago dog.”

Although I’ve always found a hot dog with mustard and onion to be an adequate edible item.


EDITOR'S NOTE: For anybody who thinks crusading against ketchup on a hot dog is silly, keep in mind that it makes more sense than anybody who can't envision the Wrigley Field baseball experience without an Old Style-brand beer.

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