Put the champagne on ice, Baltimore.
With seven ballparks left on his journey, a man touring our great nation in search of the best ballpark hot dog gave the fare at Oriole Park at Camden Yards the highest ranking of his summer-long trip after taking in Tuesday night’s loss to the Chicago White Sox.
“I was pleased to give Baltimore the top score, but I was not surprised because of the history and reputation Orioles Park has," Tom Lohr, 52, of Tulsa, said a day after he visited Baltimore. “I don’t give anybody points they don’t deserve.”
Lohr, who on Wednesday was already in New York on his way to Citi Field with stops in Buffalo and Toronto scheduled for this week, has traveled 11,480 miles in search of hot dog perfection, and developed a two-part rating system that grades both the wieners and ballpark experience.
Franks are graded 1-5 on bun, taste, toppings, price, portability, and “it factor,” while the parks are graded 1-5 on location, access, cleanliness, ambiance, general admission ticket price, and fans. He visited 22 MLB parks and 17 minor league stadiums before his stop in Baltimore, and finally found what he considers perfection on Eutaw Street.
Lohr was a fan of the traditional Esskay hot dog from his other visits to the area, but part of what pushed the Camden Yards fare to the top was the specialty dogs available at the Stuggy’s stand in center field. He tried a crab mac-and-cheese dog with the ballpark’s executive chef, Josh Distenfeld, and had nothing but praise for it.
But where Camden Yards distinguished itself was in its ballpark score.
He said other ballparks, such as AT&T Park in San Francisco, muddle the retro feel with gimmicks like kids areas and special attractions.
Those parks try to be too much, he said, while Camden Yards “is a baseball stadium. That’s what it is. It doesn’t try to be anything else.”
Tuesday’s bargain night ticket prices, and the passion of the crowd on hand swung him to the highest marks possible.
“I was kind of on the edge there with the fans that showed up,” Lohr said. “They were so enthusiastic that I had to give them that score.”
The Colorado Rockies' Coors Field ranked highest as of the visit to Baltimore, with a score of 58. The Pittsburgh Pirates' PNC Park and the Arizona Diamondbacks' Chase Field both followed with scores of 57.5.
Lohr also visited two other local ballparks on his way up to New York — Nationals Park in Washington, and Prince George’s Stadium in Bowie, home of the Double-A Bowie Baysox.
Nationals Park scored a 55 — 26.5 for the hot dog, and 28.5 for the ballpark. Only the ambiance kept Nationals Park from matching Camden Yards as a ballpark. He likened the experience to “a baseball game [breaking] out in the warehouse section of Ikea.”
My friends in Bowie, unfortunately, didn’t fare so well. The hot dog scored a respectable 25, but the ballpark was given a 19 because of the small Friday night crowd.
I think I’ve had a hot dog in Bowie before, but so as to distinguish myself from my media colleagues, I will not discuss the food in Bowie.