I memorialize this every year because I am a sucker for well-intentioned ideas that turn into utter disasters and the recognition that, oftentimes, we simply can’t have nice things. And really, what is better intentioned and what is a nicer thing than giving people fatigued by Watergate and economic stagnation a night of cheap beer?
But we note it again today, the 40th anniversary of Ten Cent Beer Night in Cleveland. The Indians’ promotion that gave unhappy people unlimited quantities of nearly-free alcohol which, amazingly, turned into utter chaos. Paul Jackson’s 2008 story remains the gold standard on the topic, giving us the background of how it went down and why Cleveland in 1974 was the perfect time and place for that to turn into the mess it became.
As I noted last year, I am less shocked by the riot itself than I am about the conditions which led up to it. The accepted notion that, heck, people are going to get drunk and rowdy at the ballpark in large numbers and that people throwing bottles onto the field — before the riot started, mind you — was just the cost of doing business to get, like, half a million people to come see your games over the course of the season. Now the least bit of bad fan behavior is newsworthy. And the notion that you have to accept such ridiculousness in order to get a small number of people through the turnstiles is positively foreign.
Maybe the beer is too expensive today. Maybe there are too many distractions and family-friendly promotions that relegate the game to an afterthought at times. I often think that’s the case anyway. But I’d willingly take today’s excesses over those of the bad old days of the 1970s.
Infielder Javier Baez is back in camp with the Cubs after helping Puerto Rico to a second-place finish in the 2017 World Baseball Classic. He was the focal point of what was, to many, the most memorable play of the entire tournament: Baez pointed at catcher Yadier Molina, who was attempting to throw out a would-be base-stealer, before applying the tag for the final out of the eighth inning.
While Baez didn’t receive much criticism for his theatrics, aside from an insignificant handful of spoilsports, he is one of the players who most exemplifies the emotional, celebratory culture that foreign players bring to Major League Baseball. U.S. (and Tigers) second baseman Ian Kinsler is on the other side of that spectrum, as he said prior to the WBC final that he hopes kids mimic the solemn way U.S. players play the game rather than the emotional, passionate way players from Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic play the game.
Baez isn’t about to apologize for the way he and his teammates play the game. Via CSN Chicago’s Patrick Mooney, Baez said, “We do a great job playing and having fun out there. That’s what it’s all about. This is a game. It’s not as serious as a lot of people take it. but, you know, everybody’s got their style and their talent. I have a lot of fun.”
He continued, “It’s their choice to look at how we play, how excited we get. To us, it’s really huge what we did, even though we didn’t win. All of Puerto Rico got really together. We were going through a hard time over there and everything got fixed up for at least three weeks. Hopefully, they keep it like that.”
Angels outfielder Mike Trout came up with an idea that would allow less experienced umpires an opportunity to call some major league spring training action. As ESPN’s Buster Olney reports, Trout thinks the veteran umpires should only call five or six innings as they get back into regular season shape. The rest of the innings could be called by minor league umpires.
According to Olney, baseball officials loved Trout’s idea when they heard about it last week. One official said, “It makes a lot of sense for a lot of different reasons.” Another said, “That’s Trout — he’s always paying attention to stuff beyond what he’s doing.”
Of course, I have to agree that the suggestion is a great one. As Olney notes, the turnover rate for umpires every year is relatively low, so younger, less-experienced umpires have few opportunities to get a feel for what it’s like calling major league action. Even beyond the actual interpretation of the rules, interacting with big league personalities would also be helpful for minor league umpires.