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Ten Cent Beer Night

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By the time you finish reading this article, you'll have an idea why MLB wants us to forget this event ever occurred.

Ten Cent Beer Night was a promotion held by Major League Baseball's Cleveland Guardians (then known as the Indians) during a game against the Texas Rangers at the former Cleveland Stadium on June 4, 1974. It was done to help the team's fan attendance, which was very low at the time.

However, it would soon go horribly wrong, as incident after incident occurred. Most sober fans departed early, leaving an increasingly drunk and unruly rabble behind. It then exploded in a riot in the ninth inning, including a mass pitch invasion. Players were forced to use bats to protect themselves while retreating off the field. Chief umpire Nestor Chylak declared the game to be forfeited in Texas' favor due to the mob's uncontrollable behavior. [1]

Background

The Cleveland Indians had similar promotion nights without any major incidents, starting with Nickel Beer Day.

A week before Ten Cent Beer Night, a bench-clearing brawl occurred between the two teams at Arlington Stadium. Tensions ran high that night as the clubs brawled on the field, and Rangers fans showered Indians players with food and beer when the team returned to its dugout. However, the game was not suspended or forfeited and neither team members were ejected. The Rangers went on to win the game 3-0. But after the incident, many Indians fans harbored a grudge against the Rangers. After the game, a Cleveland reporter asked the famed manager Billy Martin of the Rangers at the time, "Are you going to take your armor to Cleveland?" to which Martin tempted fate by replying, "Naw, they won't have enough fans there to worry about."

For the city of Cleveland itself, the environment was gloomy, as the city saw over 600 factories shut down in the past and thousands of people losing their jobs as a result. There was also a rise in crime, poverty, and drug addiction.

The Event

On a hot, humid day on June 4, 1974, 25,134 fans attended Cleveland Stadium, twice the number of people expected. They were offered 12oz cups of low-alcohol beer for just 10 cents each ($0.58 in 2022), a substantial discount on the regular price of 65 cents ($3.76 in 2022), with a limit of six beers per purchase but with no limit on the number of purchases made during the game. Only a small amount of security officers was present for that day. Granted, nobody expected this amount of people to appear.

For some unknown reason, perhaps because of the feud, many fans had firecrackers and even started to ignite and throw them. Early in the game, Cleveland's Leron Lee hit a line drive right into the stomach of Rangers pitcher Ferguson Jenkins, after which Jenkins dropped to the ground. Fans in the upper deck of the stadium cheered, then loudly chanted, "Hit 'em again! Hit 'em again! Harder! Harder!" Soon after, a middle-aged woman hopped over the fence, ran over to the Indians' on-deck circle and flashed her breasts much to the raucous approval of the intoxicated crowd. She then tried to kiss umpire Nestor Chylak, who was "not in a kissing mood". When Tom Grieve hit his second home run of the game in the fourth inning, extending the Rangers' lead to 5-1, he had not yet rounded third base when an entirely naked man ran onto the field and slid into second, "probably getting dirt in places unsuitable for speculation." In the fifth inning, a father-son duo in the outfield got into the act, jumping the wall and mooning the Rangers' outfielders. The players watched, hands on hips, shaking their heads as park security chased one hooligan after another across the diamond. [2]

As the night went on, many of the fans continued to buy and gulp down more beer. It got so out of hand that vendors reportedly gave up checking for IDs and tried to fill whatever container they were given. Beer trucks had to be called over to keep up with the demand. The girls who worked at the trucks soon gave up and the guests went all in on the beer. Eventually, the event basically became Free Beer Night.

In the bottom of the ninth, the Indians rallied from a 5-3 deficit to tying the game 5-5. They soon had two runners on base, including the winning run on second. However, with a crowd that had been drinking heavily for nine innings, the situation will go off like a bomb after this incident: 19-year-old fan Terry Yerkic ran onto the field and attempted to steal Texas outfielder Jeff Burroughs' baseball hat. Confronting the fan, Burroughs tripped.

Thinking that Burroughs had been attacked, Texas manager Billy Martin grabbed a fungo bat and said to the Rangers team, "Let's go get 'em boys!" and he and the team would charge to the outfield. A large number of intoxicated fans – some armed with various weapons fashioned from portions of stadium seats that they had torn apart – ran onto the field, and others hurled bottles from the stands. Two hundred fans surrounded the 25 Rangers, with more fans coming. Realizing that the Rangers' lives might be in danger, Ken Aspromonte, the Indians' manager, ordered his players to grab bats and help the Rangers, attacking the team's own fans in the process. Outnumbered by the drunken fans, the two teams ran through the hellish environment back to their clubhouses and closed and locked the doors. The crowd pulled up and stole the bases and anything else it found. Rioters threw a vast array of objects including cups, rocks, bottles, batteries from radios, hot dogs, popcorn containers, and folding chairs.

Done with the situation, Chylak declared forfeit declaring the Rangers the winner by a score of 9-0. The game remains one of the most bizarre in Major League history. This was the first game since September 30, 1971 (when the Rangers were known as the Washington Senators) to be forfeited. Per nationalpastime.com, Cleveland sold an estimated 60,000 cups of beer to the 25,134 in attendance. [3]

Aftermath

The Cleveland Police Department arrived in force soon after the game was forfeited to the Rangers. It took a half-hour, but the officers dispersed the crowd with the aid of stadium personnel, who helpfully turned off all the lights. Nine fans were arrested. Thankfully, no serious injuries were present. Seven people were reportedly hospitalized and then released. Indians players volunteered to escort their Texas colleagues to the team bus.

The next Beer Night promotion on July 18 attracted 41,848 fans with beer again selling for 10 cents per cup but with a limit of two cups per person at the reduced price. In the wake of the debacle, the Indians announced that drastic measures would be taken to prevent further chaos: At all future promotions offering 10-cent beer (three more were planned), fans would be restricted to four cups per night, no exceptions.

American League president Lee McPhail greeted this mandate with one of his own: All promotional events were canceled, pending league review. As they had for most of that decade, the 1974 Indians finished in fourth place in standings and in attendance in the AL East. Mike Hargrove would return to Cleveland as Indians manager in 1991. He kept a picture from Ten Cent Beer Night on the wall of his office. As of this writing, the missing bases have not been returned to MLB.

Trivia

  1. No TV footage of the incident exists (likely because of the fact that MLB wanted us to forget the event).

Videos

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