|Beer and baseball is a natural match, like here in Cleveland
where Great Lakes Brewing is a popular destination
One of our favorite pastimes is baseball – we have planned trips both to Cleveland to watch the home team as well as to Cincinnati (to watch the team that I grew up with, the San Francisco Giants.) And as much as we do like our Major League games, our true love is with games at the minor league level. Despite the realignment that the minor leagues underwent which resulted in the loss of a number of minor league teams, many towns and cities are still home to a pro ball team within their boundaries.
One of our favorite things to check out is to see what food items might exist at every ballpark we visit. While we generally rarely stray from the good old classic hot dog and a beer combination, we do like to see what decadent treats might reside on the menus of the ballparks we do visit.
With that in mind, this blogpost and our accompanying blogpost focuses in on ballparks that are within a relatively modest drive away from our current residence in Central Ohio, and a select eye on some of the delicious eats you might find before you take your seat for a good nine innings or more of action (playlist embedded at the end of this post.)
1) “Take Me out to the Ballgame” – Carly Simon: It didn’t feel right to have this playlist without this seventh inning ballpark standard in it, so we lead off here with as good a candidate as any, the Grammy/Golden Globe/Academy Award wining singer and songwriter Simon, who contributed her version of this ubiquitous sing-a-long song to the soundtrack of Ken Burns\’ “Baseball” documentary.
2) “Funnel Cakes” – Andy Cohen, Moira Meltzer-Cohen: Toledo, Ohio, is the home of Fifth-Third Field and the Mud Hens, the Triple-A ball club of the Detroit Tigers. Paying tribute to one of the city’s favorite sons, Farr Out Funnel Cakes gives you everything you could want in a funnel cake, and representing this food treat is Andy Cohen and his daughter Moira. The senior Cohen has quite a musical history, with roots in Mississippi Delta Blues and Dixieland Jazz, and is a strong proponent of the dolceola, described as a miniature piano by some.
3) “Kielbasa Polka” – The Dynatones: Located in Eastlake, Ohio, the Lake County Captains are home to the Cleveland Indians’ High-A squad. Not surprisingly, something located so close to and associated with Cleveland would have the regional specialty The Polish Boy (basically, a Kielbasa sausage in a bun covered with barbeque or hot sauce, cole slaw, and french fries) on the stadium menu, and San Francisco’s Dynatones, known for their busy touring schedule and R&B/blues music sound, provide the plate to hold this bad boy treat in your lap.
4) “Hot Dog!” – They Might Be Giants: The hot dog is as ubiquitous a baseball meal item as any, and the Columbus Clippers, the Triple-A affiliate of the Cleveland Indians, provide as popular a promotion as any with their Sugardale Dime-A-Dog Nights at Huntington Park. Perhaps even more popular is Disney’s Mickey Mouse, and the Hot Dog song (here performed by the also very famous eclectic and witty post-punk/pop duo They Might Be Giants) always closes out the episodes on “Mickey Mouse Clubhouse.”
5) “Churrasco e Cerveja” – TJ Thiago Jhonathan: There be Dragons! The Dayton Dragons, the High-A affiliate for the Cincinnati Reds, are both a popular attraction (at the end of 2019, their record-setting sellout streak stood at 1,316 games) and have a pretty nice food options at Day Air Stadium, including a Brazilian Churrasco Sausage Sandwich. Hailing from Brasilia, Jhonathan has the perfect song for this item with his modern Brazilian pop vibe, and he throws in a beer (another baseball favorite) to boot.
6) “Crazy Feeling” – Lou Reed: Our first trip to a Major League Baseball stadium finds us across the border to Comerica Park, home of the Detroit Tigers. Detroit is the home to many culinary traditions, including the Coney Dog (and related past dalliances like the Coney Dog Egg Roll and Pizza) and it’s not shocking at all that you can find it on menus in the stadium. A few too many of these at one time might leave you with a “Crazy Feeling”, which is found on iconic rocker Lou Reed’s eighth solo studio release “Coney Island Baby.”
7) “S’mores” – Aux Heat Wes: Headed back down I-75, we find ourselves at another MLB stadium in the Great American Ballpark, home of the Cincinnati Reds and home this year to the new S’Mores Frybox, a decadent combination of chocolate sauce, marshmallows and plain M&Ms on a bed of freshly fried French fries. Hailing from Cape Town, South Africa, musician and producer Aux Heat Wes (who also records under the moniker TKOOJ) swerves from old-school 808/synth sounds and more futuristic sounds, or appealingly mixes it up as in this track.
8) “Spaghetti Junction” – Outkast: continuing our MLB stadium circuit, we travel north on I-71 to Cleveland to visit Progressive Field and the Indians at the corner of Ontario and Carnegie in downtown. Arriving in 2016, Dante’s Inferno bakes up pizzas for baseball fans, including the unique Spaghetti and Meatballs pie. Representing the more unique portion of that pizza combo is none other than Atlanta’s OutKast, who offer up a whole platter of Southern-fried soul/funk/rap jaunts off their “Stankonia” album, the fourth of of a series of five masterful album releases.
9) “What’s In It For You?” – Maurice Evans, Ron Hussmann: The Triple-A affiliate of the Pittsburgh Pirates, the Indianapolis Indians hosts visitors and baseball fans at Victory Field, located catty-corner from Lucas Oil Field, home of the NFL’s Colts. A Hoosier specialty, the Pork Tenderloin Sandwich, can be had at the stadium; representing this gut-filling creation here is represented here by the soundtrack to the musical “Tenderloin”, which had a succinct run on Broadway from 1960 into 1961. Interestingly, Evans, who did earn a Tony nomination for his performance, was better known both as a Shakepearean actor as well as his stint on the TV sitcom “Bewitched”, which featured him as Samantha’s cantankerous warlock father.
10) “Ice Cream” – Vitamin String Quartet: You can scream for ice cream if you visit Canal Park, home of Cleveland Indians’ Double-A Affiliate the Akron Rubber Ducks. Here, lactose- and full-tummy-tolerant fans can order up “The Screamer”, a bowl shaped like a baseball helmet filled with 21 scoops of ice cream, perfect for sharing with gobs of kids (and maybe an adult or two.) The Vitamin String Quartet, the Los Angeles-based group known for their classical interpretations of modern songs, fits the bill here with their elegant-sounding take on the hit BLACKPINK/Selena Gomez collaboration released in 2020.
11) “Shawarma” – Louisville: Rivals of the Lake County Captains, the Lugnuts of Lansing, Michigan hope their players are good enough to make the 2,000-mile journey to make the big leagues with the A’s in Oakland, CA. Those who opt for the Clubhouse All-You-Can-Eat option can have their option of any number of rotating menu items, including Chicken Shawarma: representing one of my favorite quick-eat food treats is Louisville, an artist based in Lagos, Nigeria artist who sings his love for this creation with an African vibe.
12) “Freestyle Dumpling” – Stereolab: another High-A rival of the Captains, the Fort Wayne TinCaps, San Diego Padres affiliate based in Indiana, has a website which has one of the better, more informative website sections detailing their food options, including Apple Dumplings and other apple-related items (the team’s TinCap name is related to a depiction of the mythical Johnny Appleseed, the former Ft. Wayne resident who reportedly often wore a cooking pot on the top of his head.) Providing our munching soundtrack here is Stereolab, the London-based outfit which combined elements of lounge music and kraut rock and splashed it with funk, Brazilian, 1960’s pop, and multilingual lyrics in their two-plus-decades worth of music, including this track from their 1996 release “Emperor Tomato Ketchup.”
13) “Hot Chicken” – Ocean Alley: as the Predators provide a rival for Columbus’s Blue Jackets, the Nashville Sounds (the Milwaukee Brewers’ Triple-A club) act as similar for the Columbus Clippers. If you think that a Nashville staple, Hot Chicken, might be on the menu at First Horizon Park, you would be quite correct; Australia’s up-and-coming Ocean Alley, hailing from the Northern Beaches area north of Sydney, provide their blend of psychedelic rock with a funk twist on “Hot Chicken”, a tune from their 2020 album “Lonely Diamond.”
14) “Pierogi Baby Polka” – Jack Black Polka Band: our final MLB dalliance for this playlist, Pittsburgh’s PNC Park, home of the Pirates, is one of the more picturesque ballparks in the league, with the Allegheny River, the Roberto Clemente Bridge, and downtown skyline and surrounding heights in view for the visiting fan. Hearty food is a hallmark of this traditionally blue collar city, and the stadium’s menu has happily contributed to that reputation, including a Pulled Pork & Pierogi Stacker. In many ways, the selected song has roots to Pennsylvania as well – actor Jack Black found his polka groove in the Netflix movie “The Man Who Would Be Polka King”, about bandleader/Ponzi scheme perpetrator Jan Lewan.
15) “Tears Over Beers” – Modern Baseball: we go into our final inning with beer, popular at almost any baseball venue but perhaps not done much better than in Asheville, NC, where the Tourists, the High-A level associate of the Houston Astros, offer up a fairly copious selection of local craft beer (their merchandise shop has a selection of “Beer City” items you can don along with your pint of brew.) Hailing from the Philadelphia area, a band with a more than appropriate name, Modern Baseball, closes out the scorecard with the pop-punk sound of this song, from the 2012 album “Sports.”