The Klement’s Famous Racing Sausages Turn 20
It started as a simple scoreboard animation and it now has sparked a tradition 20 years in the making.
Do you remember those first races on the old black-and-white scoreboard at Milwaukee County Stadium? Bob Betts’ voice. The Racing Sausages running over the Hoan Bridge. The race to the finish. It began as a novelty and has developed into a phenomenon. When coming to Miller Park, it is definitely something that fans don’t forget.
On Thursday, June 27, the Brewers will celebrate this tradition as an important date in Brewers history. On that date in 1993, the Klement’s Famous Racing Sausages came to life from animations on the Milwaukee County Stadium Scoreboard on a scoreboard to live racers.
The celebration starts at 6 a.m. at NorthPoint Custard, 2272 N. Lincoln Memorial Drive, along the Lake Michigan shores. The first 250 fans will receive a free sausage breakfast sandwich (of course), a coffee, and best of all, an exclusive 20th Anniversary Klement’s Famous Racing Sausages Commemorative T-Shirt. Fewer than 500 of the shirts will be made, and the event will be first come, first served. The Klement’s Racing Sausages will also be on hand.
The celebration will continue at Miller Park that afternoon as the Brewers take on the Chicago Cubs at 1 p.m. A pregame ceremony will honor the Famous Racing Sausages and the race itself will feature the “Original Three Sausages”—The Bratwurst, The Italian and The Polish—with The Hot Dog and The Chorizo holding the finish line.
The Klement’s Famous Sausage Race began as a scoreboard animation in the early 1990s with just three characters—The Bratwurst, The Polish and The Italian—running toward Milwaukee County Stadium against a backdrop of Milwaukee.
In the fall of 1992, Milwaukee graphic designer Michael Dillon of McDill Design presented an idea to Gabe Paul who was the Vice President of Operations for the Brewers, to transform the race from the scoreboard to live action. Paul was a little hesitant on advancing the idea, but that didn’t stop the creative mind of Dillon. Dillon designed and created costumes of his own of the lovable characters. He was ready and waiting for a call from Paul–that call came in the Spring of 1993.
The first live race was originally scheduled for Saturday, June 26, 1993. That was a big weekend series at Milwaukee County Stadium, marking the first time Paul Molitor would play as an opponent against the Brewers as he joined the Toronto Blue Jays in 1993. A scoreboard malfunction postponed the first race until Sunday.
On June 27, 1993, as the Sausages approached Milwaukee County Stadium on the scoreboard video, the left field doors swung open and—much to the surprise of players and fans–out came the larger-than-life mascots. The three made their way to home plate with The Bratwurst (worn by Dillon) winning the first-ever live race.
Dillon said the first live race was a well-kept secret and received a mixed reception. The fans went nuts. The players and umpires? Well, as you can see in the video, they didn’t seem very enthused (actually, they looked pretty confused).
For the rest of the 1993 season, the Sausages raced live only at those games with particularly high attendance. In 1994, the live Sausage race resumed on Sunday, May 29—the day the Brewers retired Robin Yount’s number 19 jersey—and became a fixture at every home game since—with Klement’s as the official sponsor.
Later in the 90s, The Hot Dog joined the race. In 2006, The Chorizo joined the race for a one-day tryout. The Chorizo became a regular racer in 2007 and rounds out the group of five racers fans see now. On Sunday’s, a tradition has been started with the “Little Weenies,” where children get to take part in the race.
Today, The Klement’s Famous Racing Sausages are celebrities wherever they go. The icons have traveled to Major League Baseball All-Star Games, had a cameo in the feature film “Mr. 3,000,” have gone missing, and survived assaults and kidnappings. A total of 15 MLB teams were inspired by the Brewers Famous Racing Sausages and now have live races of their own. Below are two of the ESPN “SportsCenter” commercials that the Famous Racing Sausages appeared in:
A special thanks to Michael Dillon and the staff at McDill Design for working with our staff on this fun promotion. As the regular readers of the blog know, I love researching history and the history of this institution was fun to research with their group. Thank you also to Klement’s for their ongoing partnership with the Brewers and the Famous Racing Sausages.
I’m sure everyone has a favorite memory of the Klement’s Famous Racing Sausages. Share your memories of the Famous Racing Sausages with us below in the comments or via social media by using the hashtag #Sausages20. For more fun facts and information, visit Brewers.com/sausages20.