I have eaten a lot of meat at baseball parks this summer. Specifically, at major league baseball parks. So, when one of the concessions I hoped to eat became an impossibility thanks to a changed menu, it was time to mess with the formula and find something different from everything else I've put in my stomach since June. As I had exhausted almost all that the majors had to offer in regard to abnormally large eats, it was time to focus on the minors to see what madness they were concocting in the hopes of getting noticed.
Have you ever been to a minor league baseball game? The games themselves can be a good time, especially if any of the players are talented, but that's not necessarily the business the teams are in. They're all about putting on a show, keeping fans invested and smiling, and giving them a reason to show up even if they aren't a prospect hound or diehard fan. They want to be something for you to do, somewhere for you to go -- especially if you have kids -- so they put on little games between innings, emphasize their mascots and, in the case of the Lake County Captains of Eastlake, Ohio, created an enormous sandwich and attached a challenge to it.
I know, I said I was doing something different this time, so how is a sandwich different? Well, it's a fish sandwich, for one, and it weighs 3 pounds.
That is an entire loaf of bread, and it is full of fried fish filets among other things. This monstrosity is known as the Moby Dick, and, amazingly enough, only costs $20. On top of that, I was informed by the Captains' staff that after they pay the cost of the ingredients for the sandwich, the rest of that $20 goes to the organization's charity. I don't know if this is because they feel guilty for what they are doing to the poor saps who pay for the privilege of destroying themselves with this sandwich or if it's out of true benevolence, but I'll bury my face in a sandwich for the sake of charity and your amusement either way.
Review: The Moby Dick
How It Was Made
There is a specific concession stand on the first base side of the stadium to buy the Moby Dick sandwich from, and there are helpful signs littered around the concourse at Classic Park to show you the way. In addition, the PA actually alerts everyone in attendance to the existence of both the sandwich and the challenge, so unlike in many parks where it's just something else that's there, they tried hard to make this part of the experience.
Above the concession stand in question is this terrifying sign, alerting you to what you're getting yourself into when you hand over a Jackson:
Fish filets, clam strips, fries and a whole lot of other. That's basically 2 pounds of seafood plus fries before you even get into the fact it's served on a loaf of bread and has any cheese on it at all for some reason, never mind eight slices. Normally, I wouldn't be thrilled about tartar sauce -- it's not awful, it just kind of is as far as condiments go -- but considering all the fried fish I was about to eat, anything to change the taste up occasionally was going to be a plus.
I had to wait around 15 minutes for them to bring out the sandwich, which seems to be the standard-ish time for large concessions. It came on a tiny tray that it barely fit on, but it was large enough to carry to my destination without any issues.
So, It's Just You Then?
What the warning sign does not tell you, and I did not know until I sat down at the special table reserved just for Moby Dick challenges ...
... is that this challenge was for two people. I was asked where my second challenger was by the Captains' staff, and everyone was very excited when I, confused by this question, told them I was attempting to eat it on my own. When I actually picked up the sandwich, the two-person thing made a whole lot more frightening sense: Each sandwich is a massive, 1.5-pound accomplishment on its own, and you're supposed to have one hour to eat it. I had an hour to try to eat both halves by myself.
The First Bite
There is only one way to attack something this hefty, and it's by going all-in from the start.
I wasn't sure how it was going to taste, but thankfully it was pretty good. It was juicy, the fried fish -- walleye -- was tasty, the fries weren't overly potato-y, and the combination of Other Stuff in the sandwich was a good addition to the fish, even if it was just more I was going to have to eat. I still don't really know why cheese was part of a fish sandwich, and it didn't serve its purpose as well as the rest of the non-fried goodies.
I'll be honest: I had no idea what fish from the Cleveland area was going to taste like, and this was happening just a few weeks after Toledo residents had been told not to drink their water from Lake Erie because it was full of toxins. I know Cleveland and Toledo aren't that close, but you don't know where these fish have been. They could have been visiting family in Toledo before they were caught for my consumption -- then I was going to be full of Lake Erie toxins. Not immediately keeling over after taking a few bites was enough for me to forget about my pre-meal apprehension and dig in.
You're Gonna Need A Bigger Fork
After I had made some progress to shorten this first half of sandwich, it became obvious that this thing wasn't going to hold together well -- bits were falling out all over the table with every bite. I had a fork and my hands, though, so I opened up the first sandwich half and started grabbing fish filets, clam strips, fries and tomatoes individually:
This helped me speed up the process, as I was no longer picking up fries, lettuce, tomatoes and so on that were falling out with every bite. I could also target specific parts of the sandwich to vary up the taste of what I was eating, which would be crucial later on as my mouth started to tire of anything resembling fried seafood.
One Sandwich Down
A little less than halfway through my hour, I was all finished with the innards of the first half of sandwich. There were some bits of shredded lettuce drowning in tartar sauce left over, and a single clam strip that I would pluck from the middle of the sandwich after taking this photo, but I was calling it quits on that half after eating all the fries and seafood contained within.
It became apparent to me that I was not finishing this two-person challenge as one person. I mean, I think I always knew I wasn't going to, once I had the thing in my hands, but I was admitting as much to myself at this point. I opened up the second sandwich and started going at it the same way, with my hands and a fork depending on what I was grabbing. The one change in strategy I made here during the second was to go back to eating bread: I started ripping off pieces of the bottom from the previous half of Moby Dick, so that I could eat something with a different texture. You can only eat so much fried seafood before your mouth and stomach start to conspire against you, with a combination of warning gurgles and a refusal to salivate to help with the chewing process. With each bite of filet, I was risking full-on revolt of my body, but I had around 30 minutes left to finish as much of this sea creature as I could.
To help with changing up the flavor, my partner in this endeavor -- my future father-in-law, who, bless him, did not tell me to leave his daughter alone after watching me eat this -- grabbed me some mustard and hot sauce from the condiment table. The mustard was just okay, but the hot sauce was a blessing after eating not only this much fish, but all that tartar sauce, too. It wasn't going to make me capable of finishing all 3 pounds, but it did, at the least, spark a little bit of new life into the proceedings, and helped get my mouth and stomach back in line instead of actively fighting my continued eating. I also made the decision to stand up with about 20 minutes left, in the hopes that not having to bend over to take bites would help me squeeze just a little more food in.
During much of the second half of Moby Dick, I had a rotating audience, made possible by my location behind home plate at a table anyone walking on the concourse could see:
People wanted to know what I was eating, how much it cost, what I got if I finished it -- "A T-shirt!" I enthusiastically but sarcastically responded -- and I even had a group of people invite me out for drinks at the bar across the street after, just for bothering to attempt to eat this leviathan of a sandwich. During the last 15 minutes, I cherished these visits, as they gave me an opportunity to quietly chew the small bites I was at that point taking while giving me something to look at besides the mess of sandwich still in front of me. I had consumed more than what was expected of me had I been going at this with a tag-team partner, but going solo like this just meant I was losing a handicap match to a pair of sandwiches.
At the time I essentially quit, there were five minutes left, and this much sandwich:
A rundown of what was left: the entirety of the bread from sandwich No. 2, two slices of tomato, four french fries, one fish filet, a couple of clam strips and the top bun of the first sandwich. In the five minutes left to me, I would take a couple of bites of the final of five quarter-pound fish filets, and all but one clam strip. There was a lot of bread left, but I had done some serious damage to this sandwich, roughly 2 pounds worth. Still, I felt a little dejected that I didn't get through more of it.
The Last Bite
This was basically ceremonious at this stage, as it came right after the hour was up, and I had saved a clam strip just for the final bite.
No more clam strips, and just one filet left. Not bad, but not finished. I did feel better, though, after speaking with the staff in charge of monitoring the challenge. They told me that no one person has ever finished the Moby Dick challenge, and that I had gone basically as far as anyone attempting to go solo had before. They were amazed both at how much food I had eaten, and how much was still left. I politely declined their offer to put the rest in a box for me to take home, though, even if their news had cheered me up post-challenge.
This was absolutely worth it even if I avoided having fried catfish for a few weeks after. It was just $20 for the sandwich, part of which goes to charity, and the Captains set you up to be a star attraction at their park while you attempt to eat the sandwich. Since I visit Ohio occasionally, I'm honestly considering going back to try this again, only this time with someone else eating the second half of the sandwich. As goofy as it sounds, winning a T-shirt is still winning, and I don't want to be beaten by a fish sandwich forever.
If you're in the Cleveland area, go to a Captains game sometime. The park is lovely, the staff is friendly, and you can do some charity work for the low, low cost of $20 and your dignity.