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Hal the Hot Dog Guy Returns to Action — This Time for the Oakland Roots

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 (Oakland Roots SC)

Although he officially retired from the Oakland Coliseum’s workforce, Hal Gordon, the most beloved hot dogger in the East Bay, will return to action — for one night only — for the Oakland Roots soccer club’s Saturday, March 25 home opener. 

“Hal the Hot Dog Guy,” as Gordon is best known, is busy completing his PhD in Economics at UC Berkeley. But he will appear for the one-time hot dog toss during halftime, when he’ll throw 25 pre-packaged hot dogs with ketchup and mustard packets into the fan section. Think of a T-shirt toss at any sporting event — except instead of fabric, you might catch an edible team memory.

We’re doing it because [Hal] has been in our supporter section for a while now and comes to our games as a fan,” says Tommy Hodul, a co-founder of the Oakland Roots SC. “It’s already a kind of halftime tradition. So there’s no better way than having the legend there himself to do it for our first game.”

Inspired by a viral TikTok video of Romie tha Homie at a Rolling Loud concert — when the DJ tossed a turkey leg into a swarm of music-loving fans — the team has adopted the concept but swapped the bulky Thanksgiving classic for hot dogs. (Romie himself was later invited to toss hot dogs at a game.)

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The March 25 matchup against the Memphis 901 FC will kick off the team’s fifth overall season, and third in the United Soccer League, after first bringing pro soccer to Oakland in 2018. Since then, they’ve been one of the last-standing representatives for professional sports in Oakland, after the Las Vegas Raiders and Golden State Warriors both left for more glamorous destinations. With the Oakland A’s appearing to be on the move as well, the Roots are doing everything they can to maintain a familial sporting atmosphere in The Town.

Besides Hal, other notable home opener acts will include the performance of an original poem, “Write Your Roots,” written by Oakland teenagers in collaboration with Chapter 510 — a nonprofit that publishes the voices of local youth. In addition, the Roots have teamed up with Off the Grid, the popular food truck conglomerate, to handle a “Block Party” style of food offerings on 10th Street during every game. Vendors will include a rotating array of guests, such as COOL!NARIA, Southern Comfort Kitchen, Kabob Trolley and Bay Area Munchiez.

Even if you’re not a fan of sporting events and the jersey-staining foods that come with them, the Roots might win you over for the ways they’re building a different kind of sports club — one that is branded as “the first purpose-driven sports team in the United States.” The franchise prides itself in being a civic-minded organization, having founded the Anti-Racist Project and frequently collaborating with small businesses in the greater community. Though those kinds of partnerships may seem obligatory for any sports franchise, the Roots are locally owned and seem to have a particular affinity for creative social contributions, having teamed up with graffiti artists, breweries and popular clothing boutiques throughout the city.

This season, the team will introduce their “Small Biz Spotlight,” wherein fans will be able to nominate their favorite small businesses to receive $1,000 during every home game played throughout the 17-game season, as well as amplification via the Jumbotron and social media. 

“We’d love for suggestions on who we can support,” Hodul says. 

They are also debuting the East Bay’s first women’s soccer team, the Oakland Soul, who have already amassed an energetic fanbase. Having this kind of culture-forward sports organization rooted in Oakland feels like a score for the community — no matter who’s tossing out the goods.

The Oakland Roots SC home opener will kick-off at 7 p.m. on Sat., Mar. 25. The Hot Dog Toss with Hal Gordon will take place at halftime. The opening home game for the Roots will be played at Laney College Football Field (entrance on E. 10th Street and 2nd Avenue in Oakland) and is accessible via Lake Merritt BART. Future games will be played at Merritt College.

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