Monday, September 03, 2001

Order local mustard for ballpark

        Great American Ball Park deserves a great American mustard. Something distinctive and tasty. With local color. And historic ties. A condiment that says “Cincinnati.”

        On this Labor Day — the last hot-dog grilling, mustard-slathering, ballgame-watching holiday of 2001 — I've got a request for the home team:

        Serve up a proper mustard with a home-grown pedigree when you move into your new ballpark in 2003.

        For decades, Cincinnati's Frank Tea and Spice Co. made a delicious batch of brown, spicy-hot mustard just for Crosley Field.

        Sources tell me, that homemade mustard — or a reasonable facsimile — could be made again.

Top Cleveland

        The Reds' present home — Cinergy Field — serves two brands that don't cut the mustard. French's bright yellow stuff looks like poster paint. Gulden's brown mustard is OK. But it comes from New Jersey.

        What the Reds need is a mustard with hometown pride. Cleveland's Jacobs Field has that with Bertman Ball Park Mustard. For more than half a century, this smooth, sandy-hued delicacy from the city up north has been plopped on hot dogs at three Indians' stadiums.

        The Reds are interested in a special mustard at their new digs.

        “We'd be willing to look at something like that,” said John Allen, the team's chief operating officer.

        “Keep us informed.”

        My pleasure.

Mister Mustard

        A tip from Cromer Mashburn Jr. — his family's Coke plant sold cola to the Reds at Crosley Field — let me talk mustard with John Frank.

        Before embarking on a career in commercial real estate, John spent 15 years at the Frank Tea and Spice Co. His grandfather, Jacob, founded the firm in 1896 — 12 years after the Reds started an 86-year run of playing baseball on the future site of Crosley Field.

        The company sold Jumbo Peanut Butter, Mister Mustard and Frank's RedHot Hot Sauce.

        The Frank's mustard made for the Reds was not available in stores.

        “We only made it for Crosley Field,” John recalled. “The Reds used to buy hundreds and hundreds of barrels each season. They sold lots of hot dogs.”

        The special mustard's recipe — as “dredged up” from John's memory — sounds deceptively simple.

        “We took our brown mustard and dumped in lots of Frank's hot sauce.

        “The Reds wanted it real hot. The hotter the mustard, the more beer they sold.”

        John believes the mustard's exact recipe is “lost forever.”

        “We sold the company in 1969. It's been sold many times since then. The woman who ran our lab died years ago.”

        Refusing to give up, I'm sending out an SOS. Know anything about the recipe for Frank's brown mustard? Or how much hot sauce went into the special batch for Crosley Field? Please call me at: 513-768-8379.

        This mustard could be a winner at the cash register. Serve it at the Great American Ball Park. Sell it at the stadium's gift shop. Mass-produce and distribute it worldwide through another Cincinnati institution, Procter & Gamble. That company's sagging stock price and food division could use a boost.

        I'll keep you posted about the search.

        Meanwhile, the grill's ready. Hot dogs are barking. Pass the mustard.

        Columnist Cliff Radel can be reached at 768-8379; fax 768-8340. Past columns at


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