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.
In Major League Baseball, players are routinely pressured to play through injury and pain. Sometimes it’s just a minor ache, and sometimes it’s a very serious injury. The pressure comes from everywhere: the players themselves, their peers, coaches, front offices, media, and fans. Players who develop a reputation for landing on the disabled list are described as “soft” and “fragile.” Players who battle through the pain get talked about as “gritty” and “dedicated.”
Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that the Cardinals are trying to encourage their players to be more honest about their health. The culture surrounding this is tough to change, but manager Mike Matheny wants his players to come to him if “anything that is off.” As Goold notes, Alex Reyes and Matt Bowman revealed they were, in Bowman’s words, not “entirely forthcoming.” Carlos Martinez said he pitched tentatively because he was “scared” of re-injuring himself. Matheny also called pitcher Michael Wacha “a great liar” when talking about his arm health.
Matt Carpenter has also played through injury and takes pride in it. He’s an example of the old mentality the club is trying to pierce through. Caarpenter said, “I’m a believer in if you’re getting paid to do a job and you’re capable of doing the job — even if it’s 85 percent of your best — I feel you have the obligation to be out there. That is the mentality I’ve always used. I could have very easily, at times last year, sat on the [disabled list], but I felt like I could still go out and do my job.”
Goold points out that players approach dealing with health issues differently depending on where they’re at in their careers. A young player who just got called up has pressure to stay in the big leagues and appear in games, so he may not want to address a health issue. A player who has already secured a multi-year contract may have less pressure on him and thus may be more willing to come to the trainer’s room.
I’ve long believed that player health will be the next arena in which front offices will separate themselves from the pack. Analytics had been that battleground for a while, but with every club now having an analytics department in some capacity, front offices will have to find value in new ways. Limiting the amount of time that players miss due to injury would be a significant boost for a team and it will start with players being forthcoming about what’s bothering them rather than trying to fight through pain.