Harry Stevens Early Life
by Tom Knuppel
Harry Stevens and his family came to the United States and arrived in New York City in 1882 from England. At that time he is said to have had $5 in his pocket. He took a job at the iron and steel mill in a town in Niles, Ohio. His job in the mill was stirring molten metal to remove any impurities. The job had some danger to it and Harry Stevens had a string personality. Nine moths after he began, he was elected head of the union. things didn’t go well and the mill close in 1883 due to a strike.
Stevens was broke. He even pawned his wife’s wedding ring. He had a generous landlord and was allowed to stay in his home. The landlord was German and used to say “you are honest. You are a worker. You will succeed and you will pay me when you can.”
Stevens became a traveling book salesman and sold Irish Orators and Oratory and later he added a book which included a biography of Civil War General John Logan. One day he attended his first baseball game in Columbus, Ohio in the late 1880’s. Not knowing much about baseball, he bought a scorecard to help him out. He was disappointed in it.It was nothing more than a piece of paper with each players name on it. He thought he could do better, so he went upstairs to see the owner.
He met with team vice-president Ralph Lazurus. Harry Stevens told him that he could do better and if given the chance, he would make them and split the profit. A counter offer was made that stated if Stevens gave the team $500, he could have the entire scorecard receipts. That is like trying to raise a million dollars today. Stevens accepted.
Harry Stevens- The Business Man
He left his traveling book sales job and found printer to make scorecards. He sold adds to those and raise $700 which met his goal and had some left over. The scorecard he created is basically the same one used today with few changes. It has an illustration on the front and an ad on the back. On the inside it included name and position of players and a space for note taking. Stevens was soon selling his scorecards at the ballpark, wearing a distinctive red coat and top hat as he yelled his sales pitch: “You can’t tell the players without a scorecard!”
Harry Stevens was so successful that he got the job of selling his scorecard in Milwaukee and Toledo. From there he got a contract in Pittsburgh in 1892. the net year he met John Montgomery Ward, the manager of the New York Giants. He told him:
“A fellow with your energy ought to come to New York,” Ward said, as recalled by Stevens during a 1926 interview with The Sporting News.
He told writer Fred Lieb that he had previously been intimidated by the prospect of taking on New York, but Ward’s encouragement was enough to convince him. The following spring Stevens went to New York to the National League owners meeting. He met Giants owner Cornelius Van Cott and Ward. He had to jog ward’s memory of he talk and then Ward suggested to Van Cott to give him a try.
Harry Stevens and Concessions
He was given the chance and did well selling scorecards but they were low margin profits. Then the rains came for a few days and that hurt the bottom-line for Stevens. The real money to be made was in concessions. He added peanuts and soda. Stevens son, Frank, told him most people want sandwiches and beer an told his dad to try frankfurters.
On a cold day at the Polo Grounds they were concerned because ice cream and cold drinks weren’t wren’t selling well. Stevens remembered the conversation with his son and he bought a bunch of frankfurters and the vendors began selling “hot dachshunds” (this came from German immigrants. A cartoonist, Tad Dorgan, didn’t know how to spell dachshund so he wrote hot dogs instead in his cartoon in the New York Times.
That is how hot dogs began in baseball.
Feel free to contact Tom at [email protected]