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Oakland Coliseum's Best-Known Hot Dog Vendor Serves Up Frank Takes on A's

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A man dressed in a pinstriped red and white shirt with a hat holds a hot dog and container with several people seated behind him.
Hot dog vendor Hal Gordon sells hot dogs as the Oakland Athletics play a game. (Courtesy of Briana Chazaro)

The Bay Area’s Major League Baseball teams are closing another chapter on Wednesday.

The San Francisco Giants won around half of their games, finishing third in the National League West. The Oakland Athletics are dead last, though, in the American League — with more than 100 losses.

Despite the outcome, one constant in the stands remains — keeping fans fed and fired up — even when the stands at the Coliseum look empty.

“There are nights when anything you yell, the players will be able to hear you loud and clear because there’s nobody else shouting you down,” said Hal Gordon, who in the Coliseum is better known as Hal the Hot Dog Guy, wearing his signature old-school bow tie with a red-and-white-striped shirt.

Gordon has been vending in ballparks in Chicago, Washington and San Francisco off and on since he graduated from high school in 2005. In 2017, the A’s asked him to create a fan experience: to don a red-and-white-striped shirt and bow tie and carry an old-school steel hot dog steamer.

“I enjoy vending, I enjoy hustling, I enjoy selling stuff,” he said. “But more than that, I enjoy the look on a kid's face when they have a great time or getting a whole section of baseball fans to start chanting whatever ludicrous thing I can think of.”


Outside the ballpark, Hal is working toward earning a doctorate this year, in agricultural and resource economics at UC Berkeley.

This experience gives Gordon a special take on the A’s season — full of keen insight and the fervor of a fan. He reflected on this with KQED’s Brian Watt.

This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.

BRIAN WATT: What have fans been like this season?

HAL GORDON: It has been sometimes surreal, sometimes frustrating, but a lot of the times it's still been a lot of fun. I was looking at the A's attendance, [which] is down by 50% from 2019. It’s not surprising.

Why’s that?

The A's traded away all their best players. They went from competing, [from] winning close to 100 games a year for the last four years, to losing 100 games this year.

I look pretty hard at your Twitter feed and I can tell that you are trying to see all sides of the A's quest to get a new stadium. How are you seeing this now?

I don't know exactly what's going on. No one tells the hot dog vendor exactly what's going on. As someone who lives in the Bay Area, I think converting what is right now a parking lot for semi-trucks to 3,000 units of housing and a ballpark sounds good if the city can do it in a responsible manner.

But what it seems to be is that there's also going to be a lot of money required for [this] off-site infrastructure. And the city has been pretty clear to say that they won't use their general fund money for that off-site infrastructure. And I think that's reasonable. If you're the city, you're worried that you might end up getting sucked into something that ends up spending hundreds of millions of dollars in order to get a baseball stadium.

I have read that you are a vegetarian. So have you ever eaten a hot dog?

Oh, I remember what hot dogs taste like. And I think I probably inhale — just from the steam — at least a few hot dogs worth of hot dogs every season.

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