At 162 games a year, Major League Baseball’s regular season is really long. Just to put that in perspective, an NFL team that makes it to the Super Bowl will play at most 20 games a year, and both the NBA and NHL’s regular seasons are only 82 games long. Naturally, it’s hard to convince fans to commit to 81 home games, so baseball owners have long tinkered with all manner of promotions to convince fans to come out to the ball game, ranging from the now regular bobblehead night to the amazing gimmicks dreamt up by American legend Bill Veeck.
All of this is to say that in 1974 when the Cleveland Indians brass decided that significantly lowered beer prices would be just the right novelty to bring fans to the ball park, it would not end well. It was 40 years ago today, the Indians played host to Ten Cent Beer Night, one of the most disastrous promotions in the history of professional sports.
Before the game even started, there were signs of trouble: 1) The Indians and their opponent for the evening, the Texas Rangers, had last met a week before in a game that featured several thrown punches and a bench clearing brawl. 2) The Cleveland sports media spent the week stirring up fan emotions by promoting the idea that vengeance must be visited upon the Rangers when they came to Cleveland Stadium. 3) The Cleveland faithful decided to pregame Ten Cent Beer Night and arrived in the stands in all manner of inebriation.
The Rangers took a quick 5-1 lead, and as the game went on the crowd got more unruly and began hurling insults, garbage and firecrackers at the Rangers. Of course, because it was the 1970s, there were a couple of streakers. Eventually, in the bottom of the ninth the Indians managed to tie the game 5 to 5 with a runner on second ready to win it for the home team. It was at that moment that an Indian fan ran on to the field and attempted to steal Rangers outfielder Jeff Burroughs’ hat. Rangers manager Billy Martin and his players charged at the fan, armed with baseball bats and soon spectators armed with weapons and pieces of broken stadium seats stormed the fields. Indians players, also armed with bats, had to rush out and protect the Rangers players. The umpires soon declared that the game could not be finished and forced the Indians to forfeit. Amazingly, the Indians would hold another “ten cent beer night” promotion
Oh, and one final note on Ten Cent Beer Night: The poor Indian player that was on second base when the riot broke out was Rusty Torres. Torres was a journeyman player who served on five teams during his nine year career and by sheer misfortune this was the second of three baseball games he was involved in that would end in a literal riot! The first was the came in 1971 at the Washington Senators’ last ever home game. Later, in 1979, Torres would be on hand with the Chicago White Sox hosted Disco Demolition Night, which would force the White Sox to forfeit the second half of a double header.
Obviously to honor this event, we’ve got to have a beer drink, so we turn to the best “beer cocktail” I know, The Boilermaker. This simple drink’s industrial name works as a tip of the hat to Cleveland’s once glorious industrial heritage, and if you truly want to memorialize Ten Cent Beer Night, use the cheapest whiskey and beer you can get your hands on. Of course, that shouldn’t stop you from using the good stuff (and if you’re using the good stuff, invite me over).
- 1 shot of Whiskey
- 1 Beer
There are two ways you can make this: Shoot the whiskey and chase it by sipping the beer, or drop the whiskey shooter into the beer and drink them together, whatever works best for you.
Tomorrow: A shocking pair of hips.