The 40th anniversary of 10-Cent Beer Night

Brendon Thorne

"Remembering" probably isn't the right word, for at least a couple reasons...

Today marks the 40th anniversary of the infamous 10-Cent Beer Night at Cleveland's Municipal Stadium, at which fans were allowed to buy ten-ounce cups of Strohs for ten cents (but only six cups at a time, because we've got to be reasonable). Regular price was 65 cents at the time, so the promotion was quite a bargain.

The Indians' opponents that night were the Rangers, against whom the Tribe had brawled in Texas one week earlier. Batters had been beaned in that game, punches had been thrown, and beer cups has been tossed at Cleveland players. Point being, things were tense between the two teams, and while it was probably too late at that point to cancel the promotion, the Rangers were probably not the ideal team to be on the field that night.

Texas wasn't concerned about it though. Said manager Billy Martin, "They won't have enough fans there to worry about," but 25,134 turned out that Tuesday night, more than double the team's average to that point in the season.

Many fans were drunk before they showed up; those who weren't didn't need much time to catch up. Early on a woman flashed players and the crowd from the on-deck circle. Later on a man ran naked onto the field, sliding into second base. A father and son hopped over the outfield wall and mooned everyone at one point, and objects were thrown on the team occasionally throughout the game. It's sort of amazing to me that the game hadn't already been called at that point, but I suppose that's always seen as a last resort, and while multiple on-field incidents are a rarity in this day and age, things could have been worse.

In the 9th inning, things got worse.

The Indians were down 5-3 heading into the bottom half of the inning, but George Hendrick doubled and Ed Crosby singled him in, cutting the deficit to one. Another pair of singles loaded the bases, and then a long fly ball off the bat of John Lowenstein brought in the tying run. Before Leron Lee could try and knock in the game-winner, the levy broke.

Fans charged onto the field, one of whom stole Texas right fielder Jeff Burroughs' glove. Beer, gold balls, rocks, and fireworks were among the items thrown on the field, in addition to metal chairs. Martin and other Rangers charged out to right field, many with a bat in their hands, to protect Burroughs, who seemed to be in trouble. Indians manager Ken Aspromonte ordered the Indians onto the field to help their fellow players from the crowd. Tribe reliever Tom Hilgendorf was hit with a chair, cutting his head open.

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Eventually the players fought their way off the field and into the safety of the clubhouses. The game was called off, with the Indians forced to forfeit. Another 30 minutes passed before the police who'd arrived were able to restore order. All three bases, and anything else that wasn't nailed down, had been stolen by that point.

Forty years later, the whole thing is looked back at fondly. Progressive Field sells t-shirts to commemorate it, so it's easy to overlook what a chaotic and dangerous scene it was at the time. Said Martin from the safety of the clubhouse, "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."

Burroughs, for his part, kept his cool. He asked if the forfeit meant his 0 for 3 night at the plate would be removed from the records (it was not).

Tribe skipper Aspromonte did see not take things so lightly. "It's the society we live in. Nobody seems to care about anything. We complained about their people in Arlington last week when they threw beer on us and taunted us to fight. But look at our people -- they were worse. I don't know what it was, and I don't know who's to blame, but I'm scared."

Incredibly, the Indians went forward with plans to hold another 10-Cent Beer Night just six weeks later. The only real modification was a two-beer limit. More than 40,000 fans turned out for that one, which was free of any serious incidents. According to the United States Department of Labor, 10 cents in 1974 had the same purchasing power as 39 cents today. If they held 39-Cent Beer Night next Tuesday, would you be there? How many cups would you put down?

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