A Brief History
On June 4, 1974, baseball history (not the good kind!) was made in Cleveland. Although we have run many articles about great baseball performances, the event described in this article is not one of them.
On a beautiful June night in Cleveland, over 25,000 fans came out to the ballpark to watch the Indians play the Texas Rangers. While there, they enjoyed 10 cent beer, a promotion that provided more of a draw than the baseball team on the field. Stadium management wisely (that is a joke… we are kidding) limited fans to only 6 beers per trip to the vendor. How could that go wrong? (please note the sarcasm…) It seems management did not think people might make more than one trip, and, of course, that is exactly what fans did.
A nickel beer night promotion in 1971 had gone off without incident, which gave stadium security a false sense of confidence that this night would be no different. Another factor was that the beer had only 3.2 % alcohol content, but, needless to say, if you have quite a few, you could still get drunk. What event planners did not consider was that the two teams had been involved in a brawl at the Rangers’ home field less than a week prior to 10 Cent Beer Night .
So, when the Rangers took a 5-1 lead, the crowd began to get rowdy. A woman ran onto the field and flashed her breasts; a naked man ran out to second base; and, in good family-event fashion, a father and son ran onto the field and mooned the crowd.
Close plays, the Rangers pitcher being hit by a line drive and later being spiked by an Indians player raised the level of emotion with the players and in the crowd. Fans began throwing objects at Rangers, and someone even threw firecrackers into the Rangers bullpen.
After the Tribe managed to rally and tied the game at 5-5, a fan ran onto the field and tried to snatch Ranger Jeff Burroughs’ ball cap. Burroughs tripped, causing the Rangers to think he was being attacked, and they ran to his rescue, some carrying bats. Fans flooded the field, some with pieces of broken seats, others with knives or chains ( seriously, what the heck!). Even some Indians ran onto the field with bats to protect the Rangers! The head umpire quickly called the game a forfeit and was promptly belted on the head with a seat. The Cleveland Police were then called and order finally restored, but not before the bases had disappeared.
Only 9 fans were arrested, but an unknown number of people, players, officials and fans were injured. The Indians general manager made the politically incorrect statement that the fault for the riot lay with the umpires for “losing control of the game.” The Sporting News was not buying that line (who would?), and American League President Lee MacPhail (let’s call him “Capt. Obvious”) said he thought beer had something to do with the riot. That is right, he blamed the beer…
After all that, do you think that would be the end of 10 Cent Beer Night at Cleveland Stadium? No! Incredibly, only 2 weeks later they had another one! This time, only 2 beers at a time with a maximum of 4 per ticket holder were sold, which must have been just the right number because even though over 41,000 fans showed up, no one rioted.
Question for students (and subscribers): Who says baseball is a dull game? Please let us know in the comments section below this article.
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For more information, please see…
Grimes, Daniel R. Ten-Cent Beer Night and the 1974 Baseball Season. BookBaby, 2014.
Wyshynski, Greg. Glow Pucks and 10-Cent Beer: The 101 Worst Ideas in Sports History. Taylor Trade Publishing, 2006.
The featured image in this article, a photograph by Jgera5 of a PBR concession stand at Progressive Field in Cleveland, is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.
You can also watch a video version of this article on YouTube: