NOW that the Detroit Tigers are winning a respectable number of ball games (rather than almost none last season), fans are starting to come back in larger numbers. But they are missing something unique: the operatic voice of the hot dog man.
That would be Charley Marcuse, a curly haired 22-year-old vendor who until earlier this season belted out his throaty pitch with all the verve of Pavarotti from the aisles near home plate in Comerica Park.
"HoOoOoOtt DOoOgGs!" Mr. Marcuse intoned joyfully. "HoOoOoOtt DOoOgGs!" Well, you had to be there.
But now the concessionaire who employs Mr. Marcuse has put a stop to the exuberant arias. Why now is a mystery, since he's been singing and slinging red hots for five years, dating back to the team's final season at old Tiger Stadium in 1999.
Supposedly a few tin-eared season ticket holders complained, although nobody's being very specific. "There's no final decision, but we've asked Charley, over the last couple of home stands, to stop singing," said John Verespie, general manager of the concessionaire, Sportservice Corp. "We will assess the situation and make some more decisions going forward. There have been some people who told us they miss the singing."
Actually there are lots of them, so many in fact that Mr. Marcuse's supporters have put up a Web site - www.singinghotdogman.com - with an on-line petition intended to pressure the company into rescinding the gag order and giving Mr. Marcuse his voice back.
"He was one of the things that made Comerica Park special and distinguished it from other ball parks - better than the ferris wheel or the carousel," commented one signer. "Especially when the Tigers weren't doing so well, Charley was one of the few entertaining things about the park."
"Baseball has got enough problems," wrote another, obviously contemplating overpaid players and overpriced tickets. "What's next, no cheering? Let freedom ring. Let Charley sing!"
The fans know what Mr. Marcuse's boss and, by extension, Tiger management, haven't learned about opera and the national pastime:
The ball game's not over until the hot dog man sings.
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