On June 4, 1974, the Cleveland Indians offered a now-infamous 10-cent beer promotion at Municipal Stadium while hosting the Texas Rangers. The Indians were down 5-1 early. As the crowd got drunker, they got wilder, throwing stuff at players on the field. A few streaked naked across the diamond. In the bottom of the ninth, the Indians tied the game, but then the crowd filled the field and the Indians were forced to forfeit.
I was 19 and in my first year in college. This was like no game I’d ever been to, and I’d been to a lot of Indians games.
I went to the game with five friends. We were sitting up in the center-field bleachers.
A beer truck was set up right behind the home run fence. The truck looked like a big box, like a U-Haul truck. They had all the kegs inside and spigots coming out the side.
At first, people paid attention to the game, but eventually most people were more concerned about getting their beer. It was taking 20 minutes to get a beer. People started to get pretty impatient.
People were blowing off firecrackers in the bleachers. They weren’t big, but they were big enough. Everyone was trying to steer clear of them, but the security never got involved.
Tables surrounded the truck. The workers pouring the beer would fill up any container you brought them. I had a big Dog N’ Suds mug, maybe 32 ounces. It looked like a mini keg.
Anyone who wanted beer got beer. I was 19, so I could drink 3.2 beer, but I think they were just serving regular beer.
They probably should have figured what would have happened with cheap beer and that many people.
The crowd grew more impatient, and they threw the tables to the side. The people who were manning the truck basically abandoned it.
The police were standing right there. They didn’t seem to care. Or maybe they thought they couldn’t handle that many people.
Some guys stopped filling their containers and just put their mouths right under the taps.
On the field, the streakers started running. Things were escalating.
We were standing propped up on the home run fence. The police would walk by and tap us with their sticks. We’d hop down and hop back up when they walked away.
We started waving for the people to move on down. Everyone in the bleachers started coming down to the fence.
In the ninth inning, I hopped the fence and ran up to Texas outfielder Jeff Burroughs. When I jumped, I was the only one on the field.
I came running up behind him. He never saw me coming. I grabbed the hat right off the top of his head. I had it in my hand, but I dropped it. It landed right by his foot.
He didn’t say a word. Our eyes met. I looked at him, and he looked at me. He kicked me right in the thigh. I had perfect spike marks in my thigh.
A few more people were piling onto the field at that point.
I wasn’t going to bend down to get the hat. I was in retreat mode. I wasn’t trying to hurt him. I was just trying to get a souvenir.
I ran back to the home run fence and hopped back over to rejoin the crowd.
My brother and another friend tried to get in the Rangers’ dugout to get souvenirs, too. The players started swinging bats. The fans got chased into the outfield. Then people opened the gates and started throwing gravel from the warning track at the players, who retreated back to their dugout.
Then everybody just charged the field. Everyone was on the field. It was out of control. The police were overwhelmed.
Alcohol and sports have been going hand-in-hand for years. They promote it. But it can cause things to get out of hand.
The players disappeared. They must have gone into their clubhouse. All over the stadium, so many people were drunk. Somebody threw second base into the stands. It didn’t seem dangerous to me at the time.
People were on the field for a long time. They announced the game was being forfeited, and it got even crazier.
It didn’t even enter our mind that they’d forfeit. We were all disappointed, but the Indians weren’t very good then, anyway. It’s not like it cost them a pennant or anything.
Nobody in my group was arrested, but we all got home separately. We didn’t watch the news or anything. We were not in much condition to watch TV.
We weren’t worried about getting in trouble once we got out of the stadium without being arrested. The field was filled with people.
I, uh, I hope the statute of limitations is up.