DETROIT - Comerica Park will be packed Monday for opening day, but there's one thing that will be missing -- the man known simply as the "singing hot dog guy" won't be there.
Charlie Marcuse was best known at Tiger games as the singing hot dog vendor. Last season, he got fired.
The Detroit holiday known as opening day is a celebration like no other. Getting out of work is the norm for most. Others would like nothing more than to be at work, and that's the case for Marcuse.
The operatic vendor has been a fixture at the ballpark for 15 years, starting his career in Tiger stadium's final season and then moving over to Comerica Park.
"My father saw an article in the paper and said, 'Hey, it's outdoors, it's talking to people, having fun, you should give it a try,'" Marcuse said.
Marcuse has been a salesman his entire adult life. He's been working at the Claymore shop in Birmingham since high school. He wasn't always the singing hot dog guy. That began after he worked a three-tenors concert at Tiger Stadium. With Pavarotti and friends as inspiration, he found his niche.
"People seemed to like it, so I brought that back to the ball games and it worked," Marcuse said. "Sales increased, people had a lot of fun with it. People sang back, you know, it was another way to make the experience special."
Sports-service is the company that manages the vendors at Comerica Park. They fired Marcuse late last season. No reason was given. Some say fans got annoyed by the singing. Others say it came down to Marcuse's insistence that customers only use mustard on their hot dog, saying ketchup has no place at a baseball game. He maintains a firm stance on that issue.
"There's no ketchup in baseball. What do you think these are, freedom fries," Marcuse said.
To sum up his thoughts about the issue in one word -- "immoral."
Baseball is a game filled with home runs, power arms and plenty of testosterone. According to many, including Marcuse, ketchup doesn't fit the mold.
"Baseball has always been a man's game and sort of an adult pastime. Kids have always enjoyed it, but it's always been about that experience," Marcuse said.
For 15 years he has made friends, helped with marriage proposals and, of course, sold many, many hot dogs. Along the way, he's also taught a generation of Tigers fans about the long history of mustard and the dog.
"That's the thing about traditions, is if nobody teaches you, you don't know about it," Marcuse said. "You should give it a try. A little mustard never hurt anybody."
Local 4 tried to get Marcuse to take a bite of a hot dog dressed with ketchup.
"In this instance, we're going to have to get rid of that," Marcuse said as he tossed the ketchup into the trash.
He went to his condiment of choice and laid out the mustard.
Always willing to help a customer, Marcuse took time to explain why he was being interviewed in the middle of his work day.
Entering the park as a fan is a foreign concept to Marcuse. After all, it's his "Cheers," where everyone knows his name.
"More than anything I'd like to come back, in some capacity, as long as it's fun," Marcuse said. "And it's a passion of mine. I do it for the pure enjoyment of it and for no other reason."
When Local 4 reached out to Sports-Service they declined to comment on the situation. Marcuse is part of a union and steps are being taken to get him back into uniform. He says he's willing to make concessions for concessions, saying he would sing less if needed.
"It's difficult to negotiate one-sided, but you know, as long as there was still a way to make it fun. You know, there's politics in everything and it's sad to be a part of that. It (would) be nice to just sell hot dogs, and can't we all just get along? Can't mustard and hot dogs bring us together?"
Time will tell whether or not the two sides can reconcile. Marcuse said he will be ready to go if he gets the call.
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