“The one constant through all the years has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It has been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game: it’s a part of our past. It reminds of us of all that once was good and it could be again.” -James Earl Jones as Terrance Mann, Field of Dreams
Autumn’s leaves have begun to fall, Baseball’s World Series is around the corner & our National Pastime has come into full swing. Joining together in droves are children of all ages, fathers & sons, and the best of friends sneaking out of work early for afternoon bleacher seats… cheering on their home team, as 18 Ballplayers contest across 9 innings – Every pitch, hit & catch played until the very last, 27th out of the ballgame.
Sounds ring of white pine bats cracking, ballplayers chattering between pitches, umpires feverishly jeered, that old piano track running as each new batter approaches the plate, the crowd singing in unison, “Take Me Out to the Ballgame,” & Vendors screaming, “PEANUTS! GETCHA PEANUTS!!”
Carried across a gentle breeze are smells of the most beautiful fresh cut grass, earthy pine tar slathered upon wooden bats, dugouts filled with sunflower seeds, powdered chalk streamed from home plate to foul poles, the tightly wound leather of a new baseball, neats-foot oil of a baseball glove, & those timeless “diet-conscious” staples of American ballpark concession stand cuisine.
On the field are visions of a game played as it was 100 years ago, fastballs brushing the opposing hitter from his position in the batters box, the Third Base Coach vigorously running through a series of secret hand signals calling the next play, base runners hustling down the line, stretching a single into 2 bases, an outfielder flagging down the deepest of long fly-balls, a Manager & Umpire, nose-to-nose, with hats backward “dialoging” the missed call, & the cadillac stroll of the clean-up hitter as a monster home-run clears the center-field fence.
For me, baseball from a young age has held a special place in my heart – Playing & watching the game from the time I was young enough to pick up a bat. My only dream (maybe still to this day) was to go to work every day on the corner of Michigan&Trumbull, put on a uniform embroidered with the classic Old English “D,” & lace up my spikes as a Detroit Tiger. I wanted to be Alan Trammel, Lou Whittaker, Kirk Gibson, Jack Morris, and/or David Wells. I just loved the game within the game, the competition, comradeship amongst teammates, cheering of the crowd, the smell of the dirt on a well-worn ballcap, thrill of victory, agony of defeat, shaking hands like men when the last out was notched, & bringing it all back in perspective at post game BBQs.
That said, after 1,000,00s of practices, even more miles logged on rigidity old buses sans air conditioning, 1,000s of packages of Big League Chew Bubble Gum consumed, a few games played in between, & more blood, sweat / tears than one body should exhaust… On July5 (National Cracker Jack Day) at the Age of 23, I signed a Professional Baseball Contract! All of my hopes & dreams come true!! And, although I never did make an appearance for my beloved Tigers, my time in the Minor Leagues was the complete Thrill of a Lifetime & an undeniably memorable experience!
But, in looking back upon a lifetime that has long since past, I think of what Baseball meant to me & so many others. Was it really just the competition? Was it just the Wins & hard work between losses. Was it just the roar of the crowd? And, in this moment of reflection… it became clear it was something else.
I grew up playing ball with my father as a coach & a close-knit family who were so incredibly supportive of my passion… But, my love of the game was genetically passed down from my Grandfather. My first memory of the game is sitting in his living room watching the ’84 Tigers on a small tube Television. He was at every game of mine he could attend & I was by his side as often as I could, listening to the rustic tones of Ernie Harwell’s voice over the AM Radio. We spent summers cheering our “De-Troy-It” Tigers & when Detroit’s games were over, Grandpa’s voice was loud & clear in the stands of my games – yelling as I pitched, “JUST THROW ‘EM THE HEATER – THEY CAN’T HIT IT IF THEY CAN’T SEE IT!” And, at most other points of the game he graciously offered the umpiring crew reminders of weaknesses in their Strike Zone consistency – Was the Strike Zone smaller than a soup can?? Or, was large enough to drive a freight-truck through??! But, Win or Lose (no draws in baseball), there was always a bear-hug & hand shake waiting from Grandpa after the last out (and on rare occasions a wink to the Umpires).
And, here I ponder, what is Baseball? To me it’s MORE than just the Crack of that bat, the winning run crossing the plate in extra innings, the bright lights, fresh cut grass, & ROAR of the Hometown Crowd – It was an is something more.
It’s the 1,000 afternoons I so wish I could have back, on the porch beside Grandpa with a lemonade, listening to play-by-play. It’s the hours upon hours of time spent with Mom driving to/from practices & games – sacrificing her time for my Love of the Game. It’s a chilly Opening Day in Motown with my Father sharing the best $9.50 Ballpark Frank I’ve ever tasted. It’s after-school sandlot games with my brother & countless neighborhood friends of childhood past. It’s weekend nose-bleed bleacher seats & ice cold brewskies along with my buddies @ Comerica Park, Wrigley Field, & Yankee Stadium. It’s the card games, stories, (mostly inappropriate) jokes, & laughs shared with teammates on those long, long bus trips. It’s the hard work invested & bonds forged amongst friends in Victory & agonizing Defeat. It’s Coach Knapp & Mishler teaching the lessons of life through a game played with a wooden bat & ball. It’s trips to the Ice Cream Parlor after Little League games for reward of a BIG Home-run or great performance in the field. It’s the backyard BBQ’s with families, friends, & significant others of the Team – Dad’s gathered around the Grill strategizing the next game, Mother’s organizing all matters of BBQ Party chaos, & young ones running without abandon through sprinklers… as the game has become a long distant thought of the past.
So, what is Baseball? Yes, it is a game. But, for me it has been & continues to be a backdrop for something so much more meaningful.
Now when I walk into a Stadium, after much reflection, having seen the game from the inside-out – I look only a seat away in knowing the real reason why I’m at the ballpark. It’s the smile upon my son’s face as he cheers with all his heart for the next Verlander Strikeout, it’s watching him fall in Love with a Game that will one day be Opening Day with his Father, the Game that may galvanize the Best of his Friends, the lasting memories of his Grand-Father, an avenue for life lessons learned, & one day a backdrop to watching his Son follow his Passions.
This. Is. Baseball.
With understanding this is a “Food Blog”… The conversational breaks SLAM & gears shift – As I began pondering my inspiration for this “Celebration of Baseball Season” Recipe (What a MONUMENTAL TASK considering the array of what is now defined as, “Baseball Food”), my mind began rounding the proverbial bases of Baseball Cuisine.
Of course, the classic Staples of Baseball cuisine are engrained in the culture of America – A sultry combination of a Dieticians WORST-Nightmare, all rolled into one Carnival-like Concession Stand Menu!
Roasted Chili Cheese Dogs, Grilled Burgers, Buttery Popcorn & Warm Shelled Peanuts (or a combination of both – Cracker Jack), Cotton Candy, & the most expensive Cheap Beer in all of the land. Dachshund Sausages have been on the scene since the mid-1800’s & were (un)officially named Hotdogs @ the Polo Grounds, circa 1901. Cracker Jacks were introduced in 1893 via the World’s Fair, but popularized in 1908 by the Baseball Anthem, “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.” Peanuts were introduced as a cheap treat in the 1830’s, & Cotton Candy… well, I couldn’t really find much research to support the origin of Cotton Candy & baseball, but it’s the critically-acclaimed dessert of choice for the most discerning of Baseball pallets.
But, in recent years, I have seen 1st hand the platform for ballpark food incrementally & progressively becoming more haute with cuisine. Fresh Hand-rolled Sushi in San Fransisco. The most tender BBQ Ribs in Kansas City. The GRANDEST of ALL Ballpark Burgers – The 5 POUND Fifth Third Burger in Grand Rapids. Dungeness Crab Cakes in Baltimore. Mahi Mahi Tacos in Miami. Mile-high Mountain Oysters in Colorado. Grilled Fresh Pacific NW Salmon in Seattle. And, the finest cuts of Prime Rib in New York @ Yankee Stadium.
When all options considered, I was brought back in time to those Backyard BBQs with family, friends, & teammates – the classic staples of Baseball Cuisine, BBQ & BEER! This recipe has BOTH, but updated with a crazy amazing combination of flavors that burst, all twisted over the the Infra-Red HEAT of this Bachelor’s Grill. I give you, “Grilled Guinness BBQ Brisket Sandwiches” with Fresh Coleslaw & Salted Peanuts!!
NOW… Crack a few cold ones, Fire up the Grill, Grab at least 1 BBQ Brisket Sandwich for each hand, Tune in that Game, & ensure you are surrounded by Family & the BEST of Friends! ENJOY & GO TIGERS!!
- 5 Pounds Beef Brisket
- ½ Cup Chili Powder
- 2 tablespoons Smoked Paprika
- 1 tablespoon Ground Cumin
- 1 tablespoon Dry Mustard
- 1 teaspoon Oregano
- ½ teaspoon Onion Powder
- ½ teaspoon Granulated Garlic Powder
- Kosher salt and ground black peppercorn, to taste
- A Bachelor & His Grill's ORIGINAL: "Guinness BBQ Sauce" (Recipe Below)
- Coleslaw & Peanuts, optional
- Pre-Heat oven to 225F.
- Rinse brisket.
- Pat dry with paper towel and coat liberally on all sides with dry spice rub.
- Double-wrap TIGHTLY with foil.
- Place covered brisket, fat-side up in baking pan, then place into oven.
- Cook for about 3 hours and 15 minutes
- During roasting, make A Bachelor & His Grill's ORIGINAL, "Guinness BBQ Sauce" (Recipe Below).
- Pull brisket from oven, unwrap, and brush generously with BBQ sauce.
- Pre-Heat grill to hot.
- Place brisket on center-most grates.
- Grill 5 minutes per side or until nice exterior crust forms on brisket.
- Basting intermittently.
- Pull from grill and place on cutting board.
- Brush again with BBQ sauce and tent with foil for 5 minutes.
- Remove foil and cut brisket in ⅛-1/4" slices, against the grain.
- Serve on fresh bun, add sliced brisket, and additional BBQ sauce (to taste) with scoop of slaw.
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 medium onion, finely diced
- 3-4 cloves garlic, minced
- ¼ cup molasses
- 20 ounces Guinness Draught
- ½ cup apple cider vinegar
- 8 ounces tomato paste
- 1-2 teaspoons cayenne pepper
- ¾ cup brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 1 tablespoon Worcestershire
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- In a saucepan over medium heat, add oil, onion/garlic and saute until tender.
- Add all other ingredients (except tomato paste) to saucepan a whisk to integrate.
- Bring to a boil, reduce temp. to simmer, cover, and stir occasionally for 10 minutes.
- Mix in tomato paste, recover dish and simmer for additional 30 minutes.
- Remove saucepan from heat when desired sauce consistency is reached.
- Pour into blender and puree until smooth.
- Set aside and cool to room temp. before applying to meat.