On June 4th, 1974, a baseball game between the Cleveland Indians and the Texas Rangers essentially proved that humankind has some pretty sad flaws in a rather hilarious way.
The Major League Baseball’s Cleveland Indians, attempting to draw in as many fans as possible, thought it would be a great idea to hold a promotion advertised as Ten Cent Beer Night against their game against the Texas Rangers in Cleveland, Ohio. Anyone would be able to purchase a twelve fluid ounce cup of 3.2% beer for a dime – which was a massive steal since the regular price as, at the time, sixty-five cents.
There were few limits: you would only be able to purchase six beers per purchase, but there would be no limit on the number of purchases made during the length of the game. One could grab six beers for sixty cents, walk two feet away from the stand, and come back to buy six more. As we all know, a baseball game usually lasts forever, and this consumerism could continue happening all night long.
Six and a half beers for the price of one is a hell of a deal.
25,134 fans flocked to the gates of Cleveland Stadium for the Tuesday night game – more than double the amount expected. Still freshly reminded of a brawl in a meeting at Arlington the week before, there was already massive tension between the Indian and the Ranger supporters; but no one stopped to think about how this tension might grow with unlimited nearly-free alcohol on stock.
The crowd seemed to ignore the actual game at hand, quickly becoming inebriated and getting worse by the hour. A woman flashed her breasts to the Indians near the on-deck circle, a naked man ran out to second base after a home run, and a father (along with his son) began mooning fans from the outfield. On several occasions, fans began drunkenly stumbling into the field to perform exhibitionist or unruly acts…and this was all towards the beginning of the game.
More and more fans entered the field. Players were struck by soaring hot dogs, spit, and empty gallon jugs. At one point, someone tossed lit firecrackers into the bullpen. You’d think that the game would be cancelled after so many problems, but we’re just getting started. In the bottom of the ninth, the game was tied 5-5. The crowd – who had started drinking at the very beginning and continued to drink for nine full innings – was ecstatic.
19-year-old Terry Yerkic began the riot that soon tore through the stadium like a tornado; remember, the drinking age was 18 back then. Shortly after the tie, he ran onto the field to steal the Texas Ranger Jeff Burroughs’ hat. Burroughs, having already dealt with several obstacles throughout the night, attempted to confront the fan. He, unfortunately, tripped in his attempt to get his hat back. The manager of his team, Billy Martin, thought that Burroughs had been sucker-punched by the 19-year-old fan. And…well…what’s the best thing a Major League manager can do when his outfielder is struck by a kid?
The Texas Rangers charged onto the field, wielding bats as weapons. A massive crowd of heavily intoxicated fans swarmed the field soon afterwords. Some fans slashed out knives, others hit each other with chains, and some whacked each other upside the head with stadium seats that they had torn out from underneath them. Literally hundreds of fans were rioting against the Rangers.
Cleveland manager Ken Aspromote ordered his players to take up bats of their own and charged into the field in a half-assed attempt to protect the opposite team from unruly fans. The Indians were forced to attack their own fans as they made their way to the center of the field. Rioters at this point didn’t care who they were fighting: it was both teams against the fans. Steel folding chairs were chucked across the field,with one of them striking relief pitcher Tom Hilgendorf’s head.
The teams retreated from the field, running into dugouts while protecting each other and picking up other players as they went. They watched in horror as the drunken nature of mankind took over the field. The literal bases were pulled up from the ground and never returned. Cups full of booze, medium-sized rocks, radio batteries, half-eaten hot dogs, and folding chairs began flying like a cloud of locusts over the heads of the rioters.
Nestor Chylak, the umpire chief, forfeited the game to the Texas Rangers after becoming victim to the rioters himself. His head was hit by a stadium seat and his hand was sliced open by a rock.
Meanwhile, the commentators continued to narrate the riot live on radio. Joe Tait and Herb Score, high up in a birds-eye viewpoint of the whole stadium, kept fans at home up to date the entire time. “Aw, this is absolute tragedy.” Score exclaimed, mentioning the inability to calm down or sedate the crowd. Eventually, the Cleveland Police Department restored order among the drunkard rioters.
NBC newscaster Tim Russert recalled his experience at the game later on. “I went with $2 in my pocket. You do the math.”
Mankind: we’ve made it to the moon, cured diseases, split atoms, and created a weapon of mass destruction that could destroy us all in eight minutes or less. But we can’t stop ourselves from drinking cheap beer.