1974, the year of mass brawls in sport; rugby union witnessed the “99” call, and MLB oversaw an all out stadium riot.
The instigator? 10-cent beers.
The ball game between Texas Rangers and Cleveland Indians had to be abandoned; one of only five games since 1954 that have had to be forfeited. It was carnage, both in the stands, and on the field.
The combination of the June heat, a local derby and thousands of University students was always going to create a lively atmosphere. And add 10-cent beers to that, it was basically like adding fuel to a fire; cue the madness.
As one student, Tim Russert, recalled:
“I went with $2 in my pocket. You do the math.”
20 pints later, rowdy baseball fans/University students were trying to kiss umpire, Nestor Chylak, until the match had to be called off in the ninth innings. Indians team President, Ted Bonda, who authorised the beer promotion had this to say on the matter during the game:
“Gentlemen! You’re giving beer a bad name!”
The 10-cent price is the equivalent to 49 cents in today’s climate; as if drinking at sporting events needs encouraging, this would have been the game any sports fan would have wanted to attend. There was a limit of six beers on the amount you could purchase at one time – but no limit on how many times you could go to the bar – 60 cents later, you’re calling your pals over because you can’t carry all the drinks.
What did the President of the team expect to happen?! Of course some 19-year-old is going to try and steal Jeff Burroughs’ cap. Perhaps funny at face value and looking back, but the two playing teams having to join forces to confront rowdy and drunken fans, was perhaps not so funny at the time for all involved.
The ball park became a zoo; players and fans – rightly so – were petrified.
Still, the mistake of 10-cent beers was to repeated just a month later. However, this time, fans were limited to just two cups per purchase; a promotion which attracted 41,848 fans, and the game completed.
The moral of the story, cheap beer sells crowds… and makes them very rowdy.