Some Milwaukee things come and go, while some Milwaukee things become iconic. Mandatory Milwaukee is all about the latter. This week: The Famous Racing Sausages.

They’re beloved by fans of all ages. They’re an oft-imitated but never replicated part of the game experience. They’re a point of local pride, a community fixture, and a source of stadium-wide celebration at least 81 times annually. They’re arguably more popular than the very team that brought them into existence. They’re the Famous Racing Sausages.

While it feels like these meaty oversized mascots have been around forever, the Famous Racing Sausages have actually only existed in their physical form for just 30 years. Exactly 30 years, in fact. Yes, during a game at Milwaukee County Stadium on June 27, 1993, three racers took to the field donning Bratwurst, Italian sausage, and Polish sausage costumes for the first in-person Sausage Race. The rest is history.

A couple years before that on-field debut of the Famous Racing Sausages, the promotion was just a crude animation show on the stadium’s archaic scoreboard. However, in 1992, Milwaukee graphic designer Michael Dillon of McDill Design approached the Brewers front office with the idea of making the Klement’s-sponsored promo into a real life race. The following season, Dillon (dressed as the Bratwurst) won that fabled first race.

Originally, the Sausage Race was only held on Sundays and during special occasions. “We didn’t want to wear out the welcome,” then-Brewers vice president Laurel Prieb said of the unheard of in-game entertainment offering. That didn’t last. Soon, the Sausage Race became a part of every Brewers home game. The Hot Dog was added to the race in the mid-’90s, with Chorizo becoming a permanent competitor beginning in the 2007 season. Along the way, mini sausages (featuring children racers in costume) became a part of races during Sunday games.

It hasn’t been all smooth sailing, of course. On July 9, 2003, Pirates player Randall Simon hit the Italian Sausage with a bat and knocked the racer—a young woman named Mandy Block—to the ground. Simon was arrested, hit with a fine, suspended three games by Major League Baseball, and was asked to issue an apology. Then in 2013, two of the Racing Sausage costumes were stolen during an appearance at a Cedarburg bar. Following an extensive search effort, the suits were returned to the team. A few years ago, Klement’s lost the rights to the Famous Sausages and sponsorship shifted to the Brewers’ new in-game sausage partner, Johnsonville. It wasn’t pretty.

Those few minor issues aside, the Famous Racing Sausages have been an incredible asset to the Milwaukee Brewers. As a fixture at local festivals and a wide range of area events, the quintet of encased meats essentially serve as team ambassadors all year long. The Brewers have also built a cottage industry from the merchandising the Famous Racing Sausages, and the annual Sausage Run 5K raises funds for the Brewers Community Foundation.

The novel concept of having people dress up as a regional point of pride and racing around the warning track has also caught on elsewhere. Since the first time the sausages trotted around County Stadium exactly 30 years ago, a number of other teams throughout professional baseball have unveiled their own take on this Milwaukee-born creation. The Nationals race Presidents and Pittsburgh has pierogi. Arizona trots out “Legends” from its World Series years and the Guardians have the eerily similar racing hot dogs. The Royals race Heinz condiments, the Braves have Home Depot tools, and the Rays continue the shameless corporate tie-ins with racing Pepsi products.

Try as they might, nothing other teams attempt will ever come close to matching the appeal of the Famous Racing Sausages here in Milwaukee. They started running three decades ago and are likely to keep running for years and years to come.

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About The Author

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Co-Founder and Editor

Before co-founding Milwaukee Record, Tyler Maas wrote for virtually every Milwaukee publication (except Wassup! Magazine). He lives in Bay View and enjoys both stuff and things.