Disco Demolition Night isn’t the only baseball promotion to go off the rails.
Promoters have also given us Ten Cent Beer Night, a gimmick to increase attendance that had been pulled off before without incident, but that failed badly on June 4, 1974, in a game that was played in Cleveland between the Indians and Texas Rangers.
Before fans began to down beers, there was already animosity brewing because the two teams had brawled the week before, and Texas manager Billy Martin, five years removed from managing the Twins, stoked the animosity in response to a reporter’s question after the brawl. Asked if he was ready for the rematch in Cleveland, Martin said he was not concerned.
“Naw, they won’t have enough fans to worry about,” he said.
The promotion allowed as many as six beers per purchase, but there was no limit on the total number of beers purchased during the game. Finally, late in the game, a fan stormed the field to try to steal a baseball cap off the head of Ranger Jeff Burroughs, and the Rangers responded by rushing out onto the field as well, bats in hand. More fans followed and the riot was on. The game was ultimately forfeited to Texas.
Meanwhile, the Twins were at home to play the Boston Red Sox before a paltry Met crowd of 5,100 fans. The Twins finished dead last in American League attendance that season at 662,000 fans.
The Twins faced Bill “Spaceman” Lee, who went nine innings, allowing only three runs (two earned) on 11 hits. The Twins cranked out 12 hits, but still lost 4-3 in 11 innings, largely because they went 1-for-10 with runners in scoring position and committed three errors.
Iron man reliever Bill Campbell, who would go on to appear in 78 games for the Twins in 1976 and an incredible 82 games for the Cubs in 1983, took the loss, despite allowing only two runs over six-plus innings.
The Twins finished 1974 with an 82-80 record, and yet they led the AL in team batting average, hits and were fifth in runs scored. They also had the sixth best earned run average at 3.64. But they were terrible in the field, committing 151 errors.
The Minneapolis Tribune lede for the June 4 loss:
“Danny Cater has always hit particularly well against two specific clubs — Boston and Minnesota. So Boston went out and got him in a trade a year ago, and now he helps the Red Sox, but still kills the Twins.”
Here’s how the Fort Worth Star-Telegram and the Akron Beacon Journal covered Ten Cent Beer Night:
The Star-Telegram lede (with a Mike Shropshire byline):
“A robustly overweight woman wearing an Ohio State Buckeyes sweatshirt shoved her way to the outskirts of the police vanguard mustered to return the Texas Rangers to their hotel.
“Someone said it was a former Miss Cleveland.
“Please — please tell all the Texas players that not all Cleveland fans are that vicious,” she told a member of the Rangers traveling troupe.”
The Akron Beacon Journal lede, which played the story above the fold on the front page under a headline that reads: “Beer and blood at the old ball game.”
“Sickness won 9-0 here Tuesday night.
“The Cleveland Indians had to forfeit their game with the Texas Rangers when fans swarmed the field in the ninth inning and touched off a free-for-all.”
Extra innings …
-Twins starter Sonny Gray is a finalist for the AL Cy Young award. He finished the season with a 2.79 ERA, the second lowest in the American League. He also allowed more than three runs in only three of his 32 starts this season, according to MLB.com.
Sources: Baseball-Reference.com, Newspapers.com