Sunday, May 26, 2024

A Smorgasbord! Kahn's Wieners

From the 1970s through the 1990s, it seemed like you could find your favorite baseball stars on food product packaging everywhere you looked: supermarkets, corner stores, restaurants, and beyond. This past year, in an effort to capture a little more nostalgia, I set a goal to expand my own collection of these "food-issue" cards. In this series I'll show the specific examples I've acquired, and share a little bit of history about the food or beverage sponsor as well. 
It's springtime. Leaves are green. The air is warm. Baseball season is rolling along. By 2:10PM EST today there will be nine games underway. So what's for lunch? 
I think a hot dog is the natural answer.
1989 Kahn's Cincinnati Reds NNO Paul O'Neill

So here's Paul O'Neill, taking a big swing on his 1989 Kahn's baseball card. (Nice matching red borders.) Since there's no indication of the brand on the front, here's the card back.
At the top right you'll see Kahn's signature red rose logo and wordmark. And as I discovered, the company's history with baseball goes back a long way—much longer than I'd guessed.
Kahn's began issuing trading cards in specially marked packages of their hot dogs way back in 1955. Only six players appeared in that inaugural set, and they were all Cincinnati Redlegs. (Kahn's was based in Cincinnati, Ohio.) 
By 1957, the company had expanded the set to include some nearby Pittsburgh Pirates, including Roberto Clemente and "William" Mazeroski. With popularity booming, Kahn's would continue their trading card sets into the 1960s. By the second half of the decade, Kahn's was issuing larger sets (as many as 45 cards!), with select players from the Braves, Cubs, White Sox, Reds, Indians, Mets, Pirates, and Cardinals.  
Here's Atlanta Braves pitcher Denny LeMaster, showing us how the cards were included on hot dog packages in 1966:

Good design, overall. Those yellow and white stripes have a circus/carnival vibe, and you can't miss that Kahn's logo. I can imagine baseball-loving kids running to the refrigerated section of the supermarket and finding those packages pretty quickly.
But here's the interesting thing: After 1969, Kahn's stopped issuing trading cards in packages of hot dogs altogether. And it would remain that way until the junk wax boom of the 1980s. (1987, to be exact.) That's when the company resumed issuing trading cards, albeit only for the Reds, and not directly on the packaging. Cards would instead be available as promotional items at select Cincinnati Reds home games. Team sets could also be acquired through a mail-in offer. And guess what? Kahn's is still issuing a team set of Cincinnati Reds cards to this day!
Pretty cool story.
But hang on a second. I'm not sure if one hot dog at the ballpark is enough. So lets have another!
Yep, that's Howard Johnson on his 1990 Kahn's baseball card, fresh off his second 30-30 season in a three-year span. Based on that follow-through and his eye line, it looks like he might have connected on another homer. 
Here's the card back:

Not much else to say here. Simple design. It's interesting how they made the effort to separate HoJo's AL and NL stats at the bottom of the card. Nice touch!
If you're wondering why Mets players were being featured on Kahn's baseball cards back then, here's the explanation: From the late-1980s through the 1990s, Kahn's was not only the official hot dog of the Cincinnati Reds. It was also the official dog of the New York Mets, served proudly at Shea Stadium! (Currently, the Mets serve Nathan's Famous franks, which makes more sense from a regional point of view.)
And now that we've polished off two dogs, I think it's time to wrap up this first serving from our food-issue card smorgasbord.
I usually go with mustard and a little relish on my dog. Maybe a little sauerkraut if I'm feeling frisky.
What about you?

Share in the comment section, and thanks for reading!


  1. I got some Kahn's cards at a Mets game in 1989. I've never heard of Kahn's in any area other than baseball cards. Nathan's or Oscar Mayer is what I think of with hot dogs. I'm a ketchup man myself.

    1. Ketchup on a hot dog can get you kicked out of some New York establishments. Be careful, Bo ;-)

  2. I think I have a few of those Mets cards sitting somewhere in my collection. As for hot dogs... it depends. My go to is ketchup, relish, and onions. However... if jalapenos are around for the nachos, I'll toss them on as well.

    1. Ooh, caramelized onions or regular onions? Either sounds good to me. Going to have to try that. Maybe a jalapeno, too. Thanks for the suggestions, Fuji!

  3. My favorite toppings for hot dogs is actually banana peppers, or just ketchup if there are no other options.

    1. Banana peppers. Another good suggestion. Thanks, Matt!

  4. I can enjoy hot dogs plain...sometimes feels like a chore to load them up. Nothing wrong with ketchup and cheese and onions though. Nice start!

    1. Thanks, Jafronius! I'm not sure I've ever had a hot dog plain, but I might have to try it now.

  5. I'd probably be stoned to death in certain areas of the country for saying this, but hot dogs are one of the foods that I find to be the most disgusting. Just the smell of them can trigger my gag reflex. The only other thing that does that to me is mayonnaise.

    1. Oh man, I completely agree with you on mayonnaise. Blechh.
      I won't be throwing any stones for your take on hot dogs, however, so no worries there.