Worst sports promotion ever – Cleveland Indians 10 cent beer night

12 Jan

Baseball, like any other business, is about promotion. You have to get the meat in the seats to make any money – unless you’re the Marlins and just trot out the lowest priced talent possible and let revenue sharing pay the bills that is. Some promotions run by baseball are great and have become traditions like hat day, or half price hot dog day. Others have presented a problem or two as can be seen at nearly any bat day back in the day when teams gave away real full sized baseball bats. A few promotions were great one time draws, and some were absolute disasters. It is the disasters that are fun to look at.

On June 4, 1974, the Cleveland Indians hosted 10 cent beer night – how could anyone not see the potential for problems with that idea? The fact was the Indians stunk and nobody wanted to see the team. Even free giveaway tickets went unclaimed, but the idea that really cheap beer could draw a crowd seemed like the answer. The rule was that for a dime, you would get an 8 ounce beer – and you could only get 6 at a time. The good news for the thirsty faithful was they could get their 6 refills an unlimited amount of times – it was 1974, things were different than today.

Chalk it up to some heavy tailgating and maybe the larger than usual crowd that showed up for batting practice, but in just the first inning there were already plenty of problems. People were setting off firecrackers in the stands, lady fingers and bottle rockets alike. During the second inning a woman ran on the field, flashed everyone, and then tried to make out with an umpire. In the fourth inning a man ran onto the field and streaked everyone – he did not try to make out with an umpire.

In the fifth inning two men hopped over the outfield wall, and mooned the Rangers outfielders. There was a lot of nekkidness going around. By the sixth inning, drunk fans were running onto the field with regularity. A few dozen reportedly hung over the wall and blew chunks on the field, tarp, roof of the dugout, etc… it was like a “Stand By Me” real life pie eating contest barf fest.

Rather than admit there was a problem, the game went on. By the bottom of the sixth inning, the concession stands couldn’t get beer to the fans fast enough. Fearing a drunken riot, some idiot had the brainchild, or brain fart, to pull the beer trucks in closer and let fans get beer straight from them rather than the actual concession counters. In the seventh inning the Rangers bullpen was bombarded by a firecracker assault. In the eighth inning – if records are correct, Mike “The Human Rain Delay” Hargrove was nearly hit in the head by a wine bottle while on the field.

The ninth inning just got worse. A fan ran onto the field and tried to steal Jeff Burrough’s hat. That’s odd, but not too bad. When Burroughs confronted the would be hat burglar, who was nowhere near as lovable as the McDonald’s Hamburglar (robble robble),  he tripped and hurt himself. Billy Martin who was then managing Texas, and always being the voice of reason and all things rational, armed his entire team with bats and marched them out onto the field. Proving how bad an idea that was, as if provoking drunks is ever a good idea, the fans accepted the challenge and came onto the field. They didn’t have bats, but they did have knives, chains (How did those get in there, and why?), and chairs actually ripped from the bleachers.

Before anything really tragic happened, the Indians took to the field and intermingled with the Rangers players while the umpires quickly called the game a forfeit and got everyone securely secreted away in the locker rooms while the stadium was emptied. The Rangers were awarded the win, and after that the office of the MLB commissioner had to be notified of such planned promotions for approval when alcohol was involved. Eventually the MLB as a whole adopted rules limiting each person the purchase of only two alcoholic beverages at a time, and that sales be stopped after the seventh inning.


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