10 cent beer

35 years ago today, on June 4, 1974, one of the most infamous events in sports history occurred. In 1974, the Cleveland Indians played at the extremely capacious Municipal Stadium. Unfortunately, the ’74 team was mediocre at best, so there weren’t many fans (about 8000 was normal) and the place often looked deserted. The Cleveland brain trust hit on what they thought was a great idea to increase attendance – 10 cent beer night.

Well, beer night worked. Lots of people did show up, about 25,000 in fact. The Tribe took on the Texas Rangers that evening. The box score shows the Rangers surged to a 5-1 lead in the early innings. The fans took it harder than normal since they had been drinking cup after 10¢ cup of Strohs beer pretty much since the gates opened. According to Wikipedia:

. . . the crowd in attendance continually misbehaved. A woman ran out to the Indians’ on-deck circle and flashed her breasts, and a naked man sprinted to second base as Grieve hit his second home run of the game. A father and son pair ran onto the outfield and mooned the fans in the bleachers one inning later. The ugliness escalated when Cleveland’s Leron Lee hit a line drive into the stomach of Rangers pitcher Ferguson Jenkins, after which Jenkins dropped to the ground. The fans in the upper deck of Municipal Stadium cheered, then chanted “Hit ’em again! Hit ’em again! Harder! Harder!” 

As the game progressed, more fans ran onto the field and caused problems. Ranger Mike Hargrove (who would manage the Indians and lead them to the World Series 21 years later) was pelted with hot dogs and spit, and at one point was nearly struck with an empty gallon jug of Thunderbird.

By the time the ninth inning rolled around, a full fledged riot broke out. Umpire Nestor Shylak, (my all time favorite umpire by the way) after dodging rocks and ripped out stadium seats forfeited the game to Texas. 

There have been no more unlimited 10-cent beer nights since.

-William Gurstelle (courtesy of bboing)

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