April 15, 2004
Frank McCourt, Let Our People Eat
Consider the hot dog.
For some of us, it's nature's perfect processed food -- with bun or plain, grilled or steamed, sliced up and cooked with beans or lathered with spicy brown mustard, sweet onions and pickle relish. But always enjoyed best at the ballpark -- especially at Dodger Stadium.
Or so they tell us.
If you keep kosher and you're a Dodger fan, enjoying a hot dog in Chavez Ravine is about as remote as right field, about as unlikely as a championship pennant or of even harboring thoughts of baseball in October in Los Angeles. And that's too bad.
Why whine about this now? Or at all? Because the season has just opened, and many of us Dodger fans who happen to keep kosher can't stomach the prospect of sitting through another season with cheese pizza, garlic fries and peanuts to keep us fed and entertained.
We want to enjoy the same experience as that fan over there -- the one jamming a grilled Dodger Dog into his face and relishing a belt-loosening ballpark rite as old as the game.
It's the right time for the Dodger front office to acknowledge the significant Jewish fan base in Los Angeles and make plans to consistently link us up with a kosher product that we can put in a bun of our own -- every game, not just on Jewish Community Night.
New Dodger owner Frank McCourt has talked about rebuilding the family-owned Dodger legacy and serving up an enjoyable fan experience. And quite frankly, if management can't deliver Pudge, Nomar or A-Rod, the least we hope it can do is persuade its vendors to deliver us a "K Dog."
To their credit, the Dodgers have tried to make accommodations and find a solution. A kosher stand on the reserved level of the stadium quietly pops up for special events or when advanced ticket sales flag the arrival of busloads of kippah-wearing camp kids.
On-site food storage and preparation are key issues, as is Farmer John's substantial advertising sponsorship, but certainly they are not insurmountable. As many as 11 other major league ballparks have managed their way around similar issues.
According to the National Hot Dog and Sausage Council, Los Angeles is second only to New York in the number of pounds of hot dogs purchased on an annual basis -- 44.7 million --and Dodger Stadium is the reigning ballpark leader in hot dogs consumed, with 1.5 million sold in a season.
Of interest, too, is that the kosher hot dog category is growing at twice the rate of the total hot dog market, even though only a quarter of the 6 million Americans consuming kosher products are Jewish, according to the council. You can imagine that Farmer John might be a bit concerned.
But this is not about doing away with the legendary Dodger Dog. No way. It's simply about expanding a menu choice for the thousands of the more observant Jewish Dodger fans included among the 650,000 Jews who call Los Angeles home.
A movement to bring a kosher hot dog alternative to Dodger Stadium is gathering steam, although we would prefer, when the kosher dogs come, that they be grilled.
The Lou Barak Memorial Hot Dog Committee is a growing group of Dodger fans, ticketholders and Jewish community leaders who are rallying efforts to see kosher at Dodger Stadium. The movement honors a San Fernando Valley educator and Dodger fan whose persistence and caring sent hundreds of school children on strong life paths. And, well, Lou liked a good kosher hot dog.
These days, it's easy to argue that there are plenty of issues far more critical to the Los Angeles Jewish community than hot dogs. And we would agree the Dodger front office should stay focused on finding a few hot dogs for the field.
But spring is in the air. The Fox guys have left the building. And there's hope, however fleeting, that the Dodgers can step up to the plate and deliver a winner. Heck, we'd be satisfied with a wiener -- a kosher one.
We'll worry about the bun later.
To get involved, contact the Lou Barak Memorial Hot Dog Committee at firstname.lastname@example.org .
Steve Getzug is a Los Angeles-based public relations executive and lifelong Dodgers fan. His e-mail address is email@example.com.