Selling Hotdogs at a Seattle Rainiers Game: A Baseball Reminiscence (1941)

  • By William J. Nass
  • Posted 12/07/2011
  • Essay 9980
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William J. "Bill" Nass (1924-1986) was born to German immigrant parents, Julius and Margaret Nass, and grew up with a love of baseball and near Sicks' Stadium.  While attending high school Bill had a part time job as a "hustler" at the stadium during Seattle Rainiers baseball home games. This essay describes a shift when he was selling hotdogs. It was dated December 5, 1941 (two days before Pearl Harbor changed life in Seattle forever), and was written as an assignment for Franklin High School Comp. IV, period 7:45. Bill was a senior at the time and received an A+. It was submitted to by his daughter, Kathryn Nass Ciskowski, of Eastsound, Washington.

Dec. 5, 1941                                    Bill Nass

Who Else Wants a Coney Island Red Hot?

We have probably all, at one time or another heard this heart-warming plea at some public get together such as the ballpark or U.W. Stadium.  This battle cry of the hot dog “hustler” is usually heard at some tense moment in the game, thus endearing him to one’s heart.  One probably wonders at his uncanny ability to do this at the right moment and while on the subject, the question also arises:  “Does the vendor ever put mustard on his thumb and sell it?”  Speaking from experience I will try to answer these vital questions.

First a few cold, scientific facts on the hotdog itself.  The hotdogs usually hover around six inches, the buns about eight inches.  (The unsold hotdog, when warmed again the next day may be an inch shorter but this is unimportant.)  On an average night at the ballpark, 1,000 dogs may be sold, while on a good Sunday over 5,000 are sold and over a gallon of mustard consumed.

But enough of this trivia.  My story starts at the ballpark an hour before the game.  All of the would-be hustlers for the night are sitting around waiting for Oscar (the boss) to appoint the sellers for the night.  Here he comes.  There go the peanut men, ice cream men and, happy day, I am a dog man tonight. (The cold drink men go later after we have made the people thirsty.)  And now it is time to go out and get rich.  There will be a fair crowd and it is cool outside.  Perfect!  I will try the bleachers first.  

“Hey folks, call right out here, hot puppies, hot puppies.” 

But it is still too soon after supper and people are not ready yet.  It is 10 minutes before I make a sale.  The people are coming in quite steadily now and the teams are warming up.  Now I am trying to compete against “The Hut-Sut Song” blaring raucously from the loudspeaker. 

“If they bite you back folks, they are not ours.  Thank you sir ... Have you a tax token mister?”

By now my coat has a rich golden yellow streak down its front (mustard is so hard to handle) and I have only put mustard on the napkin of one dog.  (It is so interesting watching the people get it on their hands and then glare at me. Mustard is usually put on the wiener, not the napkin we wrap around the bun for protection.)

The game is ready to start.  Hats off and now attention for the “Star Spangled Banner.”  I never failed to get a chill up and down my spine during the season as the lights were turned out, the flag raised to the stirring strains.

Batter up!  And now I commence to work in earnest. 

“No, lady, I don’t sell ice cream!” 

Now a small boy comes up.  “One, please.”... ”Here you are, bud.  They’re a dime, kid.  A nickel’s all you have?  Oh well Merry Christmas.  It’s on me.”  What can you do? 

“Thank you very much, sir.”  Well. Now a $.15 tip.  That will make up on my tax losses.  (When we fail to collect, it comes out of our pocket).

The crowd is strangely silent.  Bases are loaded, 3 and 2 on the batter, but I don’t know it and I’m thinking I am in a good place to make myself heard.  I am showered under with “Down in front.”  And “Shut up.”  Crushed and embittered, I retired to a different place. 

Here I collect my scattered wits and figure out how I can be seen and heard, but not get in anyone’s way or shout in anyone’s ear.  Anyhow, I finally sell the last dog and rush down stairs to replenish the supply.  

“Number 42, 100 dogs!” I scream, then hastily gulp a bottle of pop and turn to my basket again.  A new burner under the supply of dogs, fresh buns, a golden pool of mustard in my cup and napkins greet my eye.  The load is paid for and off I go again.  

Now in the grandstand.  I am not here a minute before a fellow Franklenite sees me and rushes up with rending pleas of “how about one?”  Remember  the time I gave you ... etc.?” That is another problem.  If I give him one, I shall be rushed by more “friends.”  If not I shall never hear the end of it from him.  I give him one and run.

“Who else is hungry  ?  Loaf of bread, pound of meat and all the mustard you can eat!”   

With such  poetic statements  as these I wend my weary way down the aisle.  I am just about to sit and watch the game for a moment, but nothing doing;  there is Oscar.  What a life! 

“A home run?  Who hit it?  Scarsella?  Good!” 

Now watch the sales pick up.  It is strange how crowd buying goes as the score goes.

“Will you please pass this down the aisle, sir?  Thank you.  Have a tax token?  Take it out ?  Okay.  Please pass the change back, sir?  Thanks.”

I’m glad to get out of there. 

Is that the smallest you have, sir?  I don’t think I can break this ten?  Oh, you can mister?  Why thanks.” 

Most people are cooperative.  It is just the occasional one who gives one thought of committing mayhem.

Well, the game is finally over.  Now to go down and check in.  I wonder how much I’ve made:  The cashier keeps track and tells us.  I’ve sold 200 dogs and made $4.00  A poor night.  Anyway, I don’t have to worry about my income tax yet.  

Anon to home where mother asks what the score was. What do you know?  I was so busy I forgot to look.

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