That signature call of Charley Marcuse, "the Singing Hot Dog Man," will not be heard when the Detroit Tigers return to Comerica Park next week. After 15 years serving hot dogs to Detroit baseball fans, the controversial vendor has been fired by Delaware North Companies Sportservice, the concessions company that provides food and beverage to the stadium.
Marcuse announced his own firing on Twitter Friday afternoon: "After 15 years the Tigers finally got what they've aways (sic) wanted: I was fired by @delawarenorth #Sportservice this morning."
"For 15 years I have tried to provide a unique, engaging, and fun experience for everyone," Marcuse wrote in a statement released to Tigers blog Bless You Boys and other Detroit media outlets. "The vast majority of feedback and interactions have always been positive. Fans constantly tell me that I have added to their enjoyment of the ballgame. The Detroit Tigers and Sportservice, a Delaware North Company, see it differently. After so many years I am very sorry to see this day come."
Marcuse has plied the gimmick since the final season of Tiger Stadium, 1999, he notes on his website. Selling hot dogs before a performance of the Three Tenors at the team's former ballpark, he dressed up as an opera performer and sung out his familiar "hooooot doooogs" call to sell his product. It was successful from the start.
The singing vendor also alienated more than a fair share of fans. In 2004 the Tigers asked him to stop singing, as it annoyed some fans and presumably the team's broadcast partners, who could pick it up clearly on their in-stadium microphones. Only after national attention and an outcry from a number of fans was Marcuse allowed to continue singing, and even then only when the Tigers were in the field and during select innings. Since then, he has had minor run-ins with his employers, which he detailed on Twitter from time to time.
The Tigers did not comment on his firing, instead referring questions to Sportservice communications manager Glen White, who released a statement to the Detroit News:
"While it would be inappropriate to comment on specific confidential personnel action, in general Detroit Sportservice takes personnel action only after a complete and thorough review of an employee's performance, all in accordance with its personnel policies and applicable collective bargaining agreements.
Sportservice prides itself on providing the highest level of guest service to enhance the guest experience at Comerica Park. We encourage our vendors to interact and provide an excellent experience for the fans and are proud of the great vendors who are serving fans throughout Comerica Park."
It's a bit silly, when you get right down to it, both that the "Hot Dog Man" character exists after more than a decade and the intense reaction to it both pro and con -- the story remained among the most read on Detroit-area newspaper websites hours after it broke. Marcuse is, after all, a guy whose job description calls for him to stay out of the way of the game. Yet the "Hot Dog Man" has grown in stature and Marcuse has even branched out into a business, Charley's Ballpark Mustard, whose marquee product is available in Detroit-area grocery stores.
After all those years, some who once found it cute might question whether the gimmick has gone on too long, while others in Detroit see Marcuse as part of the ambiance of Comerica Park, just as John Adams and his drum are heard at Cleveland Indians' home games. The difference, some would point out, is that Adams was always a fan but Marcuse was an employee. Disagreements will continue between those who'd like to see Marcuse return and those who are happier without him.
But will the "Hot Dog Man"? From his statement, it appears Marcuse is not ready to give up the fight, but he has declined media interviews to this point. "I am deeply thankful to the fans for their loyalty and support," his statement concluded. "It has been an amazing experience serving you for the past fifteen years. All of you are the reason I keep coming back. I hope to have the opportunity to serve you again in the future."