0

Magical mustard from the Cuyahoga - Rob Felt

We're talkin' Cleveland, friends. Ohio that is, the real Cleveland, Mr. Bulldog.

The Cleveland Indians handed them New York Yankees their worst loss in franchise history Tuesday night – 22-0. Personally, I always love my Yankees served beaten, but this win was an extra magical one for me.

Why is that? Because I helped.

Impossible, you say. Harrumph. Let me explain.

Two weeks ago I visited my hometown of Cleveland, and one night while having dinner with my friends I was reminded of a super-elixir from my youth. A substance so powerful that its smell alone could awaken a young boy in the hot, late July bleachers of Cleveland Municipal Stadium from a sixth inning daze, and fill him with enough vim to push him well through the ninth and into extra innings if need be.

Bertman's Ballpark Mustard!

If you haven't heard of it, you're missing out. Bertman's is famous in both the baseball world and in culinary circles for being served in Cleveland's stadiums for more than 50 years, and spawning hordes of inferior copycats across the fruited plains.

To try and distill exactly what makes it great on this printed page is an almost useless exercise, but I'll try. Just for you, the reader.

It's a creamy light brown mustard – spicy but smooth, and its aftertaste is a clean echo of the greatness that hits your tongue as soon as you bite into a salty hotdog and a warm, doughy bun. Best served alone, with no other condiments to dull its glorious luster, this mustard will have you eating another dog just to taste its rare quality.

Sure, you can order it on the Internet, and I may be crazy enough to think that my mustard helped the Tribe cripple the Yankees, but I'm not crazy enough to order mustard over the Internet. I mean, really.

So I made a quick stop while I was home and bought three bottles of Bertman's – one for me, one for my dad and another for a displaced Ohioan friend here in Atlanta.

I can't speak for the others, but this week I ate three hot dogs, slathered to the gills with the mustard in question, and two days later the Indians pulled off an unheard of feat. They're a decent team, but not exactly at their franchise peak right now, and to think they could accomplish what they did against Jeter and Co. without a little divine intervention would be to ignore the legendary quality that baseball lore emits.

The hypothesis is that eating a hot dog with Bertman's mustard is akin to praying for the Indians, and if enough fans do so, it will bring them the proportional strength of a tiny ant trying to carry a mustard seed up the stairs of the Empire State Building.

That's exactly what the Indians did. One hundred and one years of pinstriped glory, soiled handily on Tuesday night, right there in Yankee Stadium. Babe Ruth, Mickey Mantle, Lou Gehrig – to think, that for even a few short hours, a team from a city whose polluted river once caught on fire could lay waste to such prestige.

With a little help from me and a bottle of mustard.

Rob Felt is the photographer for the Daily Herald. He can be reached at (770) 957-9161 or via e-mail at rfelt@henryherald.com .