First came the strike zone box on every TV broadcast. Then, the powers that be decided every extra inning needed to start with a runner on second base. Now, baseball fans are suffering yet another indignity: Farmer John Dodger Dogs have been kicked to the curb by the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Dodger Dogs, probably the best-known ballpark concession after Cracker Jacks, have been made by Farmer John since the team landed in Los Angeles in 1958. The Los Angeles Times noticed today that the famed purveyor of frankfurters is no longer providing the treat at Dodger Stadium this year. There are still red hots called Dodger Dogs—the team owns the name—but they’re not provided by Farmer John, and all references to the company have been removed from the stadium.
“After the 2019 season, Farmer John made the difficult business decision not to renew its contract with the Dodgers. As a result, the Dodger Dogs that were previously supplied by Farmer John, are no longer available at the stadium or in supermarkets. We no longer produce this item and they are not available under another name in the Farmer John portfolio,” the company said in an emailed statement.
Make no mistake: Ballpark franks are big business, with MLB fans consuming more than 18 million tube steaks a season. And compared to other fanbases, Dodger loyalists are like competitors at the Coney Island hot dog eating contest: More than 2.7 million Dodger Dogs get chomped down at home games over a full 81-game season, according to a National Hot Dog and Sausage Council 2019 report. That probably generates more than $18 million in revenue. Cubs fans come in a distant second, gobbling up 2.1 million weiners a year.
It’s worth noting that the switch from Farmer John isn’t really the big, rich Dodgers hurting a small businessman. The real Farmer John, a concessionaire named Thomas Arthur, died in 2006. He had started selling the dogs at the L.A. Coliseum when the team left Brooklyn and held concession rights in Dodger Stadium until 1990, when Marriott took over. In 2004, the Farmer John brand was sold, along with its L.A. processing plant, to Hormel Foods for $186 million. The business is now part of Smithfield Foods, itself a subsidiary of China’s WH Group, which has a market cap of $13 billion. It’s the largest pork company on Earth, selling hot dogs under the Nathan’s Famous and Krakus brands, among many others.
Requests for comment to the Dodgers and Smithfield Foods weren’t immediately returned.
(This story has been updated with a quote from Farmer John in the third paragraph and a correction in the second paragraph to reflect that the Dodgers moved to Los Angeles in 1958.)