The above video was a scoreboard advertisement for Kahn’s during Cincinnati Reds games at Riverfront Stadium in the 1990s. More specifically, the ad was for a product called the Big Red Smokey, which, as the ad makes abundantly clear, is a SMOKED SAUSAGE, and definitely not a hot dog.
The Big Red Smokey commercial, in its heyday, was truly one of the high points of attending a Reds game in person - particularly in those mid-to-late ‘90s seasons, when the Reds were so far out of first that rudimentary animations were just as good a use of the scoreboard as displaying the actual score of the game. Indeed, despite the outdated technology, scoreboard time-passers like Big Red Smokey or the Mr. Red Race often held their own against the action on the field in terms of fan excitement. Big Red Smokey came to be a reliable late-game distraction during the time between innings and to this day is held by many to be a treasured memory of days gone by. On one hand, it has been all of these things for me as well. On the other hand, when viewed objectively, it’s really quite disturbing.
When shown at the ballpark, the beginning of the piece is heralded by horns playing the Charge fanfare, followed by the crack of the bat as Smokey puts the ball in play. If you weren’t paying attention before, you damn sure are now. Smokey circles the bases as a jaunty tune plays on the organ. The video skips a frame here and there, so it should be noted that Smokey actually rounds first before making a headfirst dive into second base and a cloud of dust. A sausage playing baseball! Cute, right? Don’t worry, it goes way downhill from here.
The umpire, presumably way late to the play as he was nowhere to be found during Smokey’s slide, now enters the frame to deliberate the call. You’re joking, right? The shortstop gets to the bag an eternity after Smokey, and he never actually puts the tag on the runner at all. He’s safe. Stop wasting time. But Smokey isn’t ruled safe. Or out, for that matter. Instead, our brilliant umpire weighs in with, “Yer … a hot dog?”
Uh, yes, hello? What does that have to do with anything? Just make the call. Hot dog, bratwurst, who gives a shit? You don’t need to know the guy’s personal information to see that he was clearly safe. This would be like Ichiro slapping one to the opposite field and legging out a double while Cowboy Joe West stands in the general vicinity of second base trying to guess which one of them Asian countries this guy came from.
Smokey’s skipper, ever the player’s manager, trots onto the field to defend his honor. “Yer blind! That’s a smoked sausage!” And a proud one at that. It’s unfortunate to see the manager take the umpire’s bait, but alright, cards on the table. Everyone now knows what race of sausage Smokey hails from. And, devil’s advocate, at least it’s looking less likely that the ump mistakenly calls him out. Can we get on with the game now?
“I call ‘em as I see ‘em!” replies Blue. “That’s a hot dog!” Dude. Ump. Let it go, man. They just told you he’s a smoked sausage. Do you need to see his birth certificate or something?
At this point, the previously composed manager totally snaps. The once-merry organ music takes a dramatic turn and begins to crescendo. “SMOKED SAUSAGE!” he shouts, as he picks up Smokey and ... wait, what are you doing? Have you lost your ...
Welp, he’s dead. At least he went out on an extra-base hit. I only hope those involved don’t immediately insult his memory.
Oh, would you look at that. The racist umpire and the homicidal manager are best buds now. All it took was the death of an innocent smoked sausage. “Yer right!” the umpire finally concedes.
Big Red Smokeys are available at your local grocery store. The end.