Promotions that went awry

The game of baseball lends itself to more self-promotion than just about any sport I know of. Baseball PR people have to be the most original thinkers on the planet! Some minor league teams have had the most bizarre and imaginative promotions one can think of. And how do the best public relations people get promoted? They get called up to The Show, of course! From there, it's second nature. Major League Baseball has had some absolutely DEMENTED promotions over the years! How many can YOU remember? We've all heard of Disco Demolition Night at Comiskey Park, right? No? Well, maybe someday we'll go over it again for you neophytes. For now, I give you....

Beer Night -
It's extremely doubtful that any team will ever dredge up a more misguided, ill-advised promotion than 'Beer Night' at Cleveland's Municipal Stadium on June 4, 1974 (with apologies to Disco Demolition Night!)

For some unfathomable reason, it didn't seem to occur to the Indians' front office that selling beer to fans for ten cents a cup might just cause a slight crowd control problem in a couple of sections. A total of 25,134 beer lovers (Municipal Stadium held 78,000 people, which shows you how badly the Tribe were doing that year!) showed up for a game against the Texas Rangers. When the dust had cleared, some 65,000 ten-ounce cups of beer had been knocked back. Do the math; that's nearly a quart of beer for every man, woman and child in the park that night. It's safe to assume that the vast majority of kids didn't have any and that there were some teetotalers in attendance, so NOW do the math!

The brewskies kicked in early, as 40 fans leaped onto the field and began doing somersaults and cartwheels. Then, a woman skittered onto the field and attempted to plant a smooch on umpire Nestor Chylak at home plate (she failed, but no word of how old Nestor felt about that). Next, a streaker ran out onto the field and was chased over the right field wall by security. He was wearing one sock (I'll leave it up to your imagination as to where he wore it...) This must have been hell for the parents to explain to their small kids following the game. The Indians' brass should have thrown in free psychiatric visits for the first 100 children.)

In the seventh inning, things really became lively (read: UGLY). Drunken Indians fans began pelting the Texas bullpen with beer, cups, tennis balls, firecrackers and smoke bombs. Rangers manager Billy Martin evacuated his players from the pen, which made the fans angry, as the bullpen was no longer a target-rich environment for their fun. The fact that Cleveland was losing the game couldn't have helped, although by that point, it probably didn't matter much what the score was. Cherry bombs exploded onto the field. A few deranged fans tied firecrackers onto strings, lit them and dangled them into the Rangers' duguot.

With two out in the ninth, the Indians staged a comeback, scoring two runs as John Lowenstein hit a sacrifice fly, scoring Ed Crosby and tying the game at 5-5. Cleveland had the winning run on third when, suddenly, 6 fans leaped over the right field fence and surrounded Rangers' outfielder Jeff Burroughs, who said after the game, "They grabbed at my glove and took my hat. I tried to call time out but nobody heard me. I was getting scared because I felt the riot psychology."

Burroughs pulled his arms to his face like a boxer doing the rope-a-dope, protecting himself from harm as the fans swarmed all over him. Billy Martin and the rest of the Rangers ran out to right field to help him. Several were waving bats as weapons over their heads. Martin later said, "I saw knives and chairs and other things. We just couldn't let our teammate get beaten up." Martin was no stranger to being out of control while intoxicated, so he may have sized up the situation quite well.

Fans wielding chairs and broken bottles came pouring onto the field from all directions. A group of concerned Cleveland players ran out to help the Rangers being attacked by crazed, drunken fans. (a week earlier, these same two teams had been involved in an ugly, bench-clearing brawl. Now here they were, teaming up with each other.) Security guards rushed onto the field. In the ensuing riot, three Rangers were injured and Cleveland pitcher Tom Hilgendorf was hit on the head with a steel chair (it wasn't bolted down??), as was umpire Chylak, who was covered with blood (he should have left with the woman who tried to kiss him!)

After the game, Indians manager Ken Aspromonte said, "When Chylak got hit on the head, I knew I had lost the game!" Sure enough, Chylak invoked rule 3.18 which allows the senior umpire to declare a forfeit if the field is not cleared in a reasonable length of time. The game was awarded to Texas. It was just the ninth forfeit in the major leagues since 1905. Chylak would later comment that he's seen better behavior in a zoo. He should be thankful there wasn't a good crowd that night!

Rangers + Indians = Cowboys + Indians. Yep, that about sums it up. Little Bighorn had NOTHING on this scene!

Billy Martin said, "That was the closest I've ever saw to someone getting killed in baseball."

At the time the game was called, there were approximately 5,000 people on the field. There were, of course, several arrests. The streaker was not charged, as he was a juvenile. American League president Lee MacPhail summed up Beer Night by saying, "There was no question that beer played a part in the affair."

Ummm, yeah. Okay, thanks, Lee....