Say what you will about the new era of baseball analysis, but the great American pastime is still a nostalgic game, and that extends to the fans in the stands. They’ve been eating hot dogs since European immigrants began peddling these easy-to-hold buns in East Coast stadiums in the 1890s. Baseball stars have been fans, too. The Great Bambino regularly downed four hot dogs as a snack between innings in the 1920s and 30s on his way to that 714 home run mark, giving rise to the saying, “Babe Ruth did it with hot dogs and beer.”
Here in the Bay Area, many of today’s top sausage makers settled long before the arrival of the San Francisco Giants in 1958 and the Oakland A’s in 1968 – and the descendants of those early butchers carry on the tradition. It’s a storied history that includes an Italian sausage maker whose recipe dates back to 1908, Bavarian sausage makers who’ve been in San Francisco since 1926, and an outspoken East Bay favorite with Armenian roots who got his start in the 1930s.
So if you’re watching the game at home, you can pay homage to the game’s culinary roots while supporting your team. Here’s a guide to some of the classics:
Caspers Famous Hot Dogs
SPAR Sausage Co. in San Leandro is best known as the place that makes Caspers’ famous hot dogs for East Bay restaurants and legions of door-to-door customers. These old school hickory smoked dogs deliver that distinctive snap when you take your first bite. The signature recipe comes from two Armenian immigrant families who opened their first restaurant in 1934. In 1989, they created the SPAR facility (named after the founders’ first initials: Stephen, Paul, Ardam and Rose) to keep the making sausages all in the family.
Or buy: Besides grocery stores and specialty markets (Safeway, Lucky, Raley’s, Nob Hill, SaveMart, Diablo Foods), customers can also purchase Caspers Dogs, Polish Sausages, Hot Links, and Chicken and Beef Francs at 688 Williams St. in San Leandro, but call ahead for hours, 510-614-8100. www.sparsausage.com
Charcuterie and sausages from Chiaramonte
Talk about a proven recipe. Chiaramonte’s in San Jose has been making Italian sausages since the days when “Tinker to Evers to Chance” was the game’s fierce double-deal threat. Butcher Salvatore Chiaramonte brought the recipe with him from Sicily and opened the shop in 1908. Over the years, the original recipe – made in small batches from pork butt, with no additives – has spawned hot and garlicky versions, and now, owner Lou Chiaramonte Sr says, an Extra Hot version with jalapeños. He serves them in the store with peppers, onions and gravy, but he also enjoys a mustard baseball sausage.
Or buy: Only at the original store where the sausages are made, 609 N. 13th St. in San Jose, which is open 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Thursday, until 5 p.m. Friday through Saturday. 408-295-0943; http://orderchiaramontesdeliandsausages.com
Evergood Sausage Co.
From the Bavarian region of Germany came Jacob Rauscher and his family, who began making Old World sausages in a San Francisco smokehouse in 1926. They were later joined by the Harlan Miller and George Ehrlich families. Today, their sports-focused descendants—President Don Miller coached baseball at Campolindo High in Moraga for years—power Giants and A’s fans. At Oracle Park, Evergood provides the popular Hot Link sausage, the cult pineapple sausage, and the Kielbasa Polonaise, which is served grilled and topped with peppers, onions, and kraut.
Or buy: Costco, Lunardi’s, Zanotto’s, Safeway, Nob Hill, Lucky, Raley’s, Nob Hill and other retailers. Find the complete list on www.evergoodfoods.com.
New York Style Sausage Co.
The largest maker of fresh Italian sausages on the West Coast, this Sunnyvale company recently celebrated 70 years in business. The founding year of 1951 was a good year for the Giants, then still in New York, with Bobby Thomson hitting the Shot Heard Round the World and Willie Mays earning Rookie of the Year honors. Patriarch Frank D’Ambrosio’s recipe is today’s mild Italian sausage. Gordon Biersch’s locally brewed Märzen beer.
Or buy: Andronico’s, Safeway, Costco, Raley’s, Target, Walmart, Winco, Grocery Outlet, FoodMaxx, Nugget and many more. Find the complete list on www.newyorkstylesausage.com.
Silva Sausage Co.
Also in the family: Operation Silva Sausage, founded in San Jose and now based in Gilroy. Manuel Martins immigrated from Portugal to the United States, via Argentina, and began making classic Portuguese linguica in 1967. Italian sausages and Spanish-style chorizo were later added to the lineup. . Today, with Fernando and Rick Martins at the helm, fans can find their sausages at San Jose Giants, San Francisco 49ers and San Jose Sharks games. At home, you might want to think outside the box (dough or otherwise) and try one of Silva’s new varieties like Bourbon, Bacon, and Black Pepper Smoked Sausage.
Or buy: Whole Foods, Safeway, Costco, Food4Less, Walmart and others. Find the complete list on www.silvasausage.com.
Move over, Cracker Jack. Now there’s Ballpark Brittle
While we love the seventh inning song, we’ve gone beyond Peanuts and Cracker Jack since trying the sweet and salty A Day at the Ballpark Brittle from Sweetdragon Baking Co. of San Jose. Creative confectionery Hway-ling Hsu was exploring a combination of peanuts and pretzels, but pretzels made it think of beer. So that went with the lot. And then someone in the stewardship kitchen suggested adding a splash of mustard. HomeRun!
Or buy: Sweetdragon’s window is open for walk-in sales from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Friday and Saturday at 898 Lincoln Ave., San Jose. Find a list of other retailers or have the treat shipped to you. https://sweetdragonbaking.com.