What happens when you give a stadium full of unhappy baseball fans near-free beer? The Cleveland Indians found out on June 4, 1974 when they hosted the first Ten Cent Beer Night ,and it wasn’t pretty.
Ten cent beer night ended in chaos. After the field was littered with empty beer cups, after a couple of streakers ran through the outfield, and after tensions rose in the bleachers and in the dugouts, there was an all out riot on the field.
A 2008 story by Paul Jackson at ESPN paints a vivid pictures of the chaos that ensued during ten cent beer night. Jackson describes the Cleveland Indians and the Texas Rangers arming themselves with baseball bats before taking to the field like soldiers to fend off the drunken masses.
Rangers manager Billy Martin said: “That was the closest you’re ever going to be to seeing someone get killed in this game of baseball … Burroughs seemed to be surrounded. Maybe it was silly for us to go out there, but we weren’t about to leave a man on the field unprotected. It seemed that he might be destroyed.”
The game ended in a forfeit as authorities tried to restore order at Cleveland Stadium, but neither team seem disappointed with the scoreboard. Players, umpires and fans were just happy to survive ten cent beer night.
Umpire crew chief Nestor Chylak said: “F—— animals! You just can’t pull back a pack of animals. When uncontrolled beasts are out there, you gotta do something. I saw two guys with knives, and I got hit with a chair.”
Here’s a video about one of the most disastrous promotions in baseball history.