Baseball’s Best Performance-Enhancing Drug: Nitrates

The famed Babe Ruth "Dog that Got Away" at the Baseball Reliquary.
PHOTO: Larry Goren

As another disappointing baseball season in Chicago winds down, I can’t help but hearken back to the good old days – when baseball players didn’t inject drugs and gorge themselves entirely on creatine and whey protein shakes but instead relied on hot dogs and beer for their nutritional needs and athletic prowess.

Take the biggest and best hot dog loving icon of them all – Babe Ruth. He’s rumored to have consumed between 12 and 18 hot dogs at a sitting: and that was between double-headers that he was playing in! Detractors badmouth the Bambino all the time, calling him a slob and a womanizer and a cigar-chomping glutton, but in my humble estimation, he was the greatest athlete of all time.

And I’ll stand on Michael Jordan’s coffee table in my Yankees cap and cleats and say that. (But in the plus column, at least MJ likes cigars, too.)

Hammerin’ Hank Aaron may have hit more homers (don’t even mention the name Barry “Mister Ass-ter-ick” Bonds to me), and Bob Gibson may have a better career ERA, but in the all-around department, on and off the field, Babe was truly “larger than life” – and that wasn’t all just hot dog girth.

Observe Larry Goren’s photo of perhaps the one and only Babe Ruth "hot dog that got away" in 1925, now in the Baseball Reliquary. Some people get excited by the bones of heroes and saints, but to a hot dog diarist, this treasure is worth a pilgrimage.

The phrase that appeared on posters in San Francisco when Mister Ass-ter-ick came to the plate or took his place in the outfield was “Babe Ruth did it on beer and hot dogs – what did you do it on?” Well, given Ruth’s magnificent records that he achieved playing all day and partying all night, it may be time to look into nitrates (plentiful in hot dogs) as performance-enhancing drugs. What other explanation can there be?

Who else but a Hot Dog Hero could wield a 42-ounce bat and generate enough speed with it to smack out 714 home runs? Who else had a 1.75 ERA, completing better than half of the 40 games he started as a pitcher? Ruth did, in 1916. Today, it’s big news if a pitcher even completes a game, no matter how “athletic” he may seem.

Blame it on the nitrates. The Babe was on to something good -- and sort of addictive.

Nobody but a hot dog lover could be that naturally gifted.

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