EVE ZIBART is on The Post's
THEY DON'T call 'em ballpark franks for nothing. Whether it's the fresh air in the stands, the subtle rhythm of the game or the contagious jawing of the bleacher-seat umpires, baseball seems to reduce its followers to a primitive stage of constant hunger. Inning after inning, food-fixated fans pile through the aisles like mice in a maze. It's an obsession -- a subconscious, stadium-wide famine set off by the sight of all those wide-open mouths shouting "O!" during the "Star-Spangled Banner" -- and it will take more than analysis to solve this Eatipus complex.
With all that mindless munching, it's no wonder baseball parks have turned into open- air fast-food franchises. But given the hazards of climbing a foot-wide concrete trail into the upper deck while juggling a cardboard tray of beer and nachos (not to mention the riots incited by a crucial play's being obscured by the traffic), it makes a lot more sense to bring your own.
So beat the eaters at their own game. Pack up a play-by-play nine-course picnic, with all the accessories: plates, of course; plastic bottles of mustard and ketchup marked "squeeze play" and packs of napkins labeled "brush back."
The possibilities are legion, depending on your personal all-star lineup. They don't even all have to be homemade, but they should probably start light, or you may have an early hit -- and run. Scout these out:
*The equipment bag: melon balls and veggie-stick bats (especially useful for warm- ups in the car).
*Base on balls: alternating squares of thick-cut country or cured ham and cheese balls on skewers. Sophisticated snackers may spring for caviar on melba toast.
*Knucklers: crab-stuffed fried chicken drumettes carried out from the local Thai tastery; hard-core fans might experiment with jars of pickled pigs' feet.
*The overhand curve: back ribs, smoked or dry-barbecued and cut apart at home.
*The Baltimore chop: mesquite-grilled veal or pork chops, seasoned with dried orange peel and peppercorns or marinated in orange juice and soy sauce.
*Ground-rule doubles: two-decker burgers or club sandwiches (if there are only three diners on deck, you'll have a 6-4-3: six patties for three people, a classic if there ever was one).
*The seventh-inning stretch: sub sandwiches made on whole loaves of french bread, sliced into single servings on the spot. (Fans of Kent Tekulve may prefer to dub this the Submariner, for his pitching style.)
*Tippy tacos: full-sized tacos -- ,a la Orioles' pitcher Tippy Martinez -- should be assembled at the last minute from bags of ingredients, but a taco salad would be easier. This will probably not spell relief, however.
*Infield fry: slabby potatoes or skins, onion rings, even shrimp tempura -- it's your call.
Other possibilities include the Hunter Catfish, Davis chili and the Shelby T-bone; rhubarb pie, the grand salami sandwich and the fowl ball (chicken salad scoops), Baby Ruth and Reggie candy bars . . . which brings up that old favorite, the hot dog.