On June 4, 1974 the Cleveland Indians did what every right-thinking organization in need of an attendance boost would do: they offered fans ten cent beer with no purchase limits (in today’s dollars it would be 47 cent beer night). What could possibly go wrong?
Everything, of course:
Meanwhile, throughout the contest, the crowd in attendance, which was already heavily inebriated, grew more and more unruly. 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 crowd was further agitated when Cleveland’s Leron Lee hit a line drive into the stomach of Rangers pitcher Ferguson Jenkins, after which Jenkins dropped to the ground. 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 was pelted with hot dogs and spit, and at one point was nearly struck with an empty gallon jug of Thunderbird.
And that’s before the full-scale riot actually occurred, ending the game. And note: why anyone would bring a bottle of Thunderbird to a game when the beer was already dirt cheap is beyond me, but it was the 1970s I guess.
A few years ago, Paul Jackson of ESPN wrote a long remembrance of Ten Cent Beer Night, complete with background, Cleveland history and an analysis of everything that led up to and fell out from the ill-fated promotion. It’s great reading.
Oh, and the best part: despite the ten cent beer promotion more than tripling average attendance that night, the park — with a capacity of some 81,000 — still only held 25,000 that night. Different times, dudes. Different times.