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November 10, 2011

The Lineup Card

Buy Me Some Wontons and Crackerjack: 11 Foods That Should Be Available As Ballpark Concessions But Aren't

by Baseball Prospectus

1) Communal Fondue

Since the beginning of man and the beginning of cheese, man has been enjoying cheese in a community setting. I live my life by the adage that community cheese equals community love, yet I can’t participate in community cheese while attending baseball games, and that is very disappointing. Listen up, Major League Baseball: it’s time for communal fondue at all parks, mandatory cheese to encourage goodwill and togetherness.

Hot, melted, delicious cheese is the perfect accessory to any dish, but very rarely is cheese allowed to wear the big suit. Yes, cheese is a featured player in nachos—a common dish found at ballparks across North America—but nachos are always more chip than cheese, and let’s not even pretend that the quality of nacho cheese allows it to stand on its own in the first place. Fondue is the perfect vehicle for cheese, putting the product on the pedestal it deserves, distributing its molten curds onto the various accessories you choose to dip into its golden loins. I can take a sanitary stick of some variety, plunge its sharp spike into a piece of cubed bread or cooked meat, and then dip the sanitary spike into a cheesy pit of love. I can watch my fellow man plunge his sanitary stick into our shared cheese, bringing us closer together in the process. My cheese is his cheese, and together we feed as one.

My proposal: Set-up hundreds (even thousands!) of communal cheese stations throughout the ballpark, with different cheeses for different sections, with different edible accessories ready to partner with the cheese offered by nearby vendors. Every paying costumer is issued one sanitary stainless steel spike as they enter the park, with additional sanitary spikes available if you happen to misplace or destroy your device during the feeding process. If you use the sharpened spike for anything other than cheese consumption, your cheese consumption privileges will be revoked for the season—the ultimate punishment to any paying costumer.

Communal cheese breeds communal love, as the outcomes on the field will matter far less than the outcomes of the cheese stations, bringing together fans and foes alike. Don’t like my team? Big deal. I see you enjoy the same cheese with the same edible accessory as I do, so you are okay in my book. Grab your spikes, find a cheese station, and make a friend. —Jason Parks

2) Fun Dip (AKA Lik-M-Aid)

Fun Dip is a sugar stick that you dip in sugar. Another way of looking at it is as a sack of sugar that you eat with a utensil made of sugar. A third way is that it is all sugar and it is delicious. It's the most efficient sugar delivery system we've developed. I've typed sugar so many times it doesn't look like a word anymore. S-U-G-A-R? That can't be right. Please vote for Fun Dip. —Sam Miller

3) Boudin Balls

College baseball is king and a mad hatter rules the town, but nonetheless, Southern Louisiana has a snack worthy of inclusion on every Major League Baseball menu. In keeping with the spherical theme of the game, this Cajun treat is the Boudin Ball. A battered and fried ball of Cajun goodness, most commonly these are made from pork rice dressing but can also be made from beef or seafood without straying from tradition. Much like the hot dog—itself a tradition at the ballpark—the Boudin Ball has its own customary dipping substance. This, however, is not your dad’s ketchup and mustard. This is a must have combination of curry and mayo. This is remoulade. This is a snack dressing with a kick that is unequaled in American cuisine.

Rice dressing itself is a Cajun dish to behold, but fried rice dressing is simply not fair. This fried treat is powerful enough to make even the healthiest eater cave to temptation. Without a doubt, this would already be a "ballpark food" if Louisiana had a team. That said, I'd love to see it on the menu at Comerica Park and across Major League Baseball. —Adam Tower

4) Bombe Alaska

This suggestion isn’t based on taste, though a little more ice cream, sponge cake, and meringue wouldn’t go amiss at most stadiums. This one is all about the spectacle. Admittedly, fans who find the wave distracting might take even less kindly to a flaming dessert, but sometimes a little distraction goes a long way. According to this recipe, the bombe Alaska is a “real show-stopper”—exactly what we need during blowouts or those late-season affairs between the Mariners and Royals. After all, even the most ardent fan has to tune out sometimes. Miguel Olivo is up? Kyle Davies coming in? Instead of staring at the crimes being committed on the field, why not scan the stands for potential pyrotechnics caused by bombe Alaska buyers on their way back to their seats? Who wouldn’t want to see the eyebrows singed off the guy behind home plate who was too intent on waving to the camera to take proper precautions with his concession stand purchase? If the arrival of a vocal beer guy brightens your day, just wait till you see the commotion caused by a visit from the bombe Alaska guy. The mechanics of bombe Alaska preparation at the park might be complicated, but I’ll let someone else deal with the details. If they can build ballpark-safe guns that shoot t-shirts, surely they can find a way to bring us flambé.—Ben Lindbergh

5) Burritos

A cursory glance at my credit card statement for any of the spring or summer months will reveal two things about me: I love baseball (that's what all those Ticketmaster charges are), and I love burritos. In a world where I can get a bacon cheeseburger nuzzled between two warm, artery-wrecking Krispy Kreme doughnuts and something called a funnel dog, why is it so difficult to find a burrito? —Bradley Ankrom

6) Thanksgiving Dinner

I’m not just talking about a slab of turkey or a corn on the cob; I’m talking about the whole enchilada (or whatever the 17th century New England equivalent would be).  Turkey, stuffing, gravy, cranberry relish, green bean casserole, corn, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, hard cider, pumpkin pie—the works.  Maybe this is just my latent desire for Turkey Day to get here now manifesting itself, but I think the Thanksgiving dinner deservers a spot in the ballparks of America’s favorite pastime.  After all, what meal better symbolizes perserverance and friendship?  And what’s more American than that?  Sure, baseball season never comes close to approaching Thanksgiving, but that shouldn’t stop us from enjoying the most satisfying meal of the year on every possible occasion.  I find myself indulging at least five times per year, anyway, so I’m not going to complain if the ballpark crew puts in the preparation efforts in lieu of my own.  Are you?

Call me crazy, but this wouldn’t even need to be confined to the ballpark.  The world would be a better place if Thanksgiving dinner were served everywhere.  Required to attend jury duty?  There’s a black-and-white-clad chap in a funny hat dishing out turkey right there in the courthouse.  Have a PTA meeting to go to?  There’s a scantily-clad Native American woman scooping stuffing in the… actually, that might get some of the dads in trouble, but you get the idea.  Thanksgiving dinner: a welcome addition to any environment. —Derek Carty

7) The $2 Veggie Taco and the $3.50 Microbrew

Back in the dark ages, when my wife was my girlfriend, it was very hard to find anything at the ballpark that she would choose to eat based on something more than her innate desire not to be high-maintenance—a quality that certainly aided her quick ascension from girlfriend to wife. Since then, however, ballparks have come a long way towards providing a wider variety of food options, especially with regard to healthier food and specialty diets. Nowadays, it’s not uncommon to find gluten-free food and beer (by the way, ick) or vegan options on the menu alongside the traditional dogs and beer. One thing hasn’t changed, however: the sky-high price of ballpark concessions, especially specialty foods that are less likely to apply putty to your ventricles.

Thus, I would love to see my favorite concession stand meal from last summer available at every ballpark: a $2 veggie taco, washed down with a $3.50 microbrew, as served at a Humboldt Crabs game in Arcata, California. I may be wrong about the exact prices—in fact, the taco may have been a buck that night—but not by much, and while both were more serviceable than transcendental, they rated miles above standard ballpark fare and came at a fraction of the price. As Dayn Perry famously pointed out, you can have beer AND tacos—you just shouldn’t have to dig into your HELOC to afford both. If you can enjoy them while listening to the World Famous Crab Grass Band tear through a spirited rendition of “Smooth Criminal,” all the better. —Ken Funck

8) Apple Pie

Baseball is, of course, constantly referred to as America’s Pastime. The recent influx of new stadiums has brought with them a bevy of new non-traditional stadium fare, but one key component is missing: apple pie. Nothing fits the traditional, clichéd American menu more than apple pie. It’s perfect for every baseball occasion—the cold of the spring and fall or even celebrating the country on the 4th of July through the rest of the summer. Warm apple pie is not only delicious, but it’s far more patriotic than hot dogs, peanuts, cracker jacks, or garlic fries and should be mandatory at all stadiums. The only hindrance to this idea is the potential distribution of pies. At Yankee Stadium, there is a butcher cutting up slices of meat on the lower level; shouldn’t there be room for a baker as well? I can already imagine a family of four grabbing an entire apple pie to have some at the game and bring the rest of it back for dessert that night.

On an individual apple pie slice level, the new CBA needs to negotiate some method of distributing individual apple pie slices at MLB games to the masses. Should it be in the rectangle shape in which McDonald’s hands out their disgusting slices? Is there an effective way to distribute the traditional triangle shape? Most importantly, can there be a method to pass out via people going up and down aisles without compromising the integrity of the pastry? These are all questions that must be resolved by the start of next season so that America’s pastime can have the most American dessert distributed throughout all 30 stadiums next year. It’s far more important and necessary than adding a second Wild Card. —Sam Tydings

9) Slim Jims


A few years ago I was in the Colorado Rockies' clubhouse before a game, and I saw one of their staff members eating this enormous Slim Jim. I don't know if he was a trainer, a strength coach, or part of the clubhouse staff, and I guess it really doesn't matter. It got me thinking, though, that Slim Jims would fit right in with most ballpark fare as they are overpriced, greasy, and not very healthy for you. Plus, the name is funny. It all makes perfect sense to me. —John Perrotto

10) Smoked Turkey Leg

In 1999, my pal Nick Stone and I decided that the impending closure of the venerable Tiger Stadium demanded action. Students of baseball history, we had learned about how the park (open since 1912) was renowned for its intimacy; fans in the seats were far closer to the action on the field than in nearly any other ballpark. Wanting to experience this firsthand, we plotted a late-September baseball trip that would start in Cleveland (where we would see the Indians' dynamo battle the Yankees at the relatively new Jacobs Field), pass through Detroit (where we'd see the Indians play the Tigers), and conclude in Chicago (where we'd see the Cubs and Sammy Sosa take on the Cardinals and Mark McGwire). Side trips to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland and the Motown Museum in Detroit, as well as a visit to Nick's stepbrother in Chicago, only sweetened the deal.

For our night at Tiger Stadium, we were seated in foul territory down the left field line, close enough to the players that I threatened to yell, "Have you stopped beating your wife?" at domestic abuser Wil Cordero. Of course, by this time the beer—a veritable bucket of beverage delivered by an affable vendor named J.D., who urged us to call specifically for him when we needed a refill—was doing some of the talking. Though we had dined in Greektown before the game, we inevitably had to sample the ballpark's wares. History does not record what I settled for, but Nick purchased a smoked turkey leg that was comically large. It looked like something straight out of the Flintstones, a brontosaurus leg that might be used as a war club should the situation turn ugly—should I make good on my threat, say, only to have Cordero climb into the stands to confront me. And it was—as Nick kept reminding me with every bite, and as I briefly sampled—delicious.

Via Google, I know that there are major league ballparks that do sell smoked turkey drumsticks. Hell, for all I know, they may sell them in some part of new Yankee Stadium that I have yet to find. But just as no extant ballpark can match the gritty, soulful charm of Tiger Stadium, I'm quite sure no smoked turkey leg sold at those venues can live up to the one we sampled that September evening in 1999. I want one of my own now, please. —Jay Jaffe

11) Poutine

I’m cheating a bit in this selection, because poutine used to be served in a major-league ballpark. This Quebecois combo of French fries topped with cheese curds and brown gravy was a staple of Olympic Stadium in Montreal. Before the Expos were relocated to Washington D.C., I had the privilege of indulging while being guided by fellow BP-er and Mr. Expo himself Jonah Keri. Having done so, I can report that while this is a very filling ballpark snack to consume while watching some latter-day Andre Dawson take his hacks, it is not neat. If you aren’t careful, you will end up wearing the French-Canadian national dish, which can lead to joining the Mounties and being elected prime minister. The other risk in consuming poutine is that it’s simply not good for you. This seems a silly thing to say given that very little in the way of ballpark food is healthful—thanks to New York City’s calorie-display laws, we now know that a single bucket of Yankee Stadium popcorn could satisfy the weekly nutritional requirements of an African white rhino—but poutine in its most basic form is deep-fried tuber, sour milk fats, and beef gravy. This is a dish that lets your cardiologist keep both a wife and mistress in style. That said, it’s hard to imagine a snack that would be better suited to a cool night atop the Green Monster than this hot bowl of potatoes ‘n’ goo from our friends to the north. —Steven Goldman

53 comments have been left for this article.

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Future Shock: Wilson R... (11/10)
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