Sonny Fulks
Sonny Fulks
Managing Editor

Sonny Fulks is a graduate of Ohio State University where he pitched four varsity seasons for the Buckeyes from 1971 through 1974. He furthered his baseball experience as a minor league umpire for seven seasons, working for the Florida State League (A), the Southern League (AA), and the American Association (AAA). He has written for numerous websites, and for the past fourteen years has served as columnist and photo editor for The Gettysburg Magazine, published by the University of Nebraska Press, in Lincoln Nebraska. His interests include history, support for amateur baseball, the outdoors, and he has dual arts degrees from Ohio State University.

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I’ve given up eating hot dogs over the years, and here’s why.  Eat a hot dog at a high school game and you might forget the game, but remember the hot dog until the wee hours of the morning.  But I’ve found some notable exceptions.  Read on.

Every journalist has been there.  You’re busy all day and you get to a high school (or college) basketball game in the evening without having eaten.  And by the time you unpack your gear, check your internet connection, and get ready to work your belly’s so empty you don’t care what you eat.

You go to the concessions stand and you have three choices.  Candy (no thanks), popcorn (I like popcorn, but I don’t want it for dinner)…and hot dogs.  Now for the sake of protein, and digestion, and the avoidance of issues like diverticulitis (popcorn’s tough on people that have it), hot dogs are the obvious choice.  After all, they’re said to be made from ‘good’ cuts of meat – beef, pork and in some cases, chicken.

Hot dogs were never intended as a substitute for steak, but they’re not all created equal, either.  The nutritionists tell us there’s stuff in them that isn’t good for you – loaded with nitrates and nitrites and preservatives, fat and cholesterol.  They’re all seasoned differently, which didn’t used to matter to my digestive constitution.  But that was then, and this is now.  Now when I eat a hot dog it’s an invitation for heartburn with which no antacid can compete.  If I eat one at a basketball game I’m usually tasting that thing long after I post my story on the game, sometimes into the wee hours of the next morning.

Indeed, all hot dogs are not created equal.  There are some notable exceptions…and over the course of time I’ve made it a point to ask why one school or another has better ones, and why.  And for the sake of your next good night’s sleep, I’ll share where I found four good ones.

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At Anna High School they serve a wiener that doesn’t give you heart burn, that’s well prepared on one of those rotary roasters, and for two dollars represents a pretty good value.  I think they call it a jumbo dog.  “They’re made by ‘Farmland’ “, one worker told me recently.  “We sell a lot of them and I think they’re pretty good, too.  I’d serve them at home.”  Now that’s a pretty good endorsement, if a mom would serve them at home.

At Northmont High School they’ve served the “Thunder Dog” for years, again a better hot dog that’s milder in taste, doesn’t make you burp, and is served on a bun so big it looks like a canoe.  A “Thunder Dog” is a meal, believe me.  You don’t need more than one.  I have no idea who the manufacturer is, nor does anyone there I’ve asked.  They just sell ’em.

I discovered a good hot dog at Wapakoneta High School’s Harmon Field this fall, during the high school football playoffs.  Again, it wasn’t boiled in water and wrapped up in a soggy bun (yuck).  It was prepared on a rotary grill of some kind and made a very good impression.  I had one, but I would have eaten two had I had more time.

And the best I’ve found are the ones they serve at Coldwater basketball games.  I know the people there well enough to ask plenty of questions, even go through the trash to check the discarded packaging.  And I discovered that they’re made by the John Morrell Company.  I ate two of them the last time I was there.  No burping, no heartburn, and no regrets.

But the average hot dog eater usually doesn’t care, or hasn’t been savaged in the wee hours of the night.  He doesn’t care about who makes them, or what’s in ’em.  But after reading this you might.  So here’s what I look for.

One, if they look more red, than pink, that tells me excessive food coloring…and no thanks.

Two, if they’re too skinny, that’s a turnoff.  And if they’re over-seasoned – burp!

Three, if they’re wrapped up in aluminum foil…I’m not a fan of that, either.  I know it keeps them warm, but it also makes them soggy.  And there’s something about aluminum and eating.

Four, if the kids are walking through the gym during the fourth quarter offering the hot dogs for half price because no one bought them earlier…you be your own judge.  For years my aunt worked in the concessions while her kids played high school ball over in Madison County, and she always brought home the leftovers and fed them to the farm animals.  Impressions last for a long time.

Look, we all know one hot dog won’t kill you, despite whatever bad stuff that’s in them. And hopefully they’re not like the one Kramer had at the movie theater (above) in that classic Seinfeld episode.

But on the other hand, and I urge you to discuss this amongst yourselves – would it kill anyone to simply serve a better wiener?

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