First the pigskin, then the pork: Baltimore's not a city for wieners anymore.
Last March, Baltimore Colts owner Robert Irsay pulled a quarterback sneak, moving his fading National Football League franchise to Indianapolis in a midnight convoy of Mayflower moving vans.
Yesterday, the financially troubled Esskay Meats, best known as purveyor of hot dogs and half-smokes to Memorial Stadium sports fans, announced that the company just couldn't push its local franks any fur'ter. Like the Colts, Esskay is pulling out for Indianapolis.
"Indianapolis has taken our Colts and Indianapolis now has taken our bacon," sizzled Baltimore Mayor William Donald Schaefer.
"I guess they'll call Mayflower movers," ran a common joke in town. "They already know the way."
Edward Bennett Williams, owner of the Baltimore Orioles, heaped a few last coals over Irsay and Esskay at a dinner honoring Jim Palmer Thursday night:
"Mayor Schaefer spoke before me, and he was anguishing, I mean anguishing, over the departure of Esskay from Baltimore," Williams said yesterday. "I got up and said, 'Well, we survived the loss of one hot dog last year; I'm sure we can survive the loss of another.' "
Orioles groundskeeper Pat Santarone, whose long tomato-growing rivalry with then-manager Earl Weaver made him a familiar gastronomic figure at Memorial Stadium, scoffed at rumors that Esskay might return to Baltimore sometime in the future.
"Fat chance of them coming back," said Santarone, refueling rumors about Esskay's porcine ingredients.
"You know," he said, "I've been a groundskeeper most of my life, so you can bet I've eaten some stadium hot dogs. But I think Esskay is not for the Birds."
Stan Rappaport, acting sports editor of the Baltimore News-American, suggested that some rival hot dog manufacturer should hitch a ride upon the Philadelphia Stars, the American Football League team that plans to move into Memorial Stadium next year.
"Hebrew National or Oscar Mayer should locate in College Park," where the Stars will wait in temporary eclipse, "and move to Baltimore [with the Stars] in '86."
It just seemed everyone was ready to ham it up:
Though onetime Oriole, now Angel, Reggie Jackson was winging from New York to Seattle yesterday, his agent Matt Merola welcomed the opportunity to fan the flames a little:
"Reggie's not a hot dog anymore," Merola said, "but let's just say it's one of the things he most enjoyed about Baltimore . . . right next to Earl Weaver."