The phrase, “a perfect storm,” is popular these days. It’s almost always used to describe a negative event; something that, due to a combination of several specific factors, spirals out of control, leaving a wake of destruction behind. Most folks use it sarcastically; an attempt at lightheartedness in the face of despair. They try to put a humorous spin on a moment that’s utterly chaotic, awful or, at the very least, stupid. Anything can be a, “perfect storm.” It’s become an afterthought. Just something people say to be cute.
There was nothing cute about what happened in Cleveland on June 4, 1974, however. The city’s fledgling baseball franchise was making a move. Not a player acquisition or trade. Not a relocation to a new stadium, one devoid of dog-sized rats and atmospheric hobo aromas. No, the Indians were making a business move.
In a lazy-dick attempt to increase ticket sales, Indian upper management decided to entice fans the old-fashioned way. With cheap booze.
“Ten Cent Beer Night,” was born.
The name alone conjured thoughts of full-ass disaster, but when you schedule it to coincide with an already testy game scenario, well, you’re simply tempting alcoholic fate.
Just ten days before the promotional event was to take place, the Indians had visited the Rangers in a testy and eventually violent 3-game series in Texas. After a hard slide by DH, Tom Grieve, broke up a double play for the Indians’ defense, tempers flared.
Eventually, benches cleared, punches were thrown, and a brawl ensued. Home fans showered the field with concessions, as any rational fan would, creating even more bad blood between the two teams.
A week and a half later, the Rangers and Indians met again. Tensions were high, of course, and in the days leading up to the contest, Cleveland media personalities hyped the game as another battle in a war that barely existed. Under normal circumstances, the rivalry would’ve fizzled and died on the field that night. Of course, it didn’t.
The cheap-beer-a-palooza (not trademarked) was a hit among the slurry of belching Tribe supporters. As the game progressed, nearly 25,000 drunkards became restless with Texas’s 5-1 lead. Fans rushed the field at various times, mooning the bleachers, flashing their jugs and even streaking to second base during Tom Grieve’s (remember him?) home run trot. It was everything you’d imagine from a completely sloshed Cleveland town hall meeting, let alone a baseball game.
When a young, stumbling fan rushed right field and tried to steal the Rangers’, Jeff Burroughs’ cap, all hell broke loose. Thinking Burroughs was being attacked, Ranger manager and perpetual asshole (RIP), Billy Martin, led his team onto the field, armed with baseball bats. A riot broke out. Chief Wahoo’s sloppy children took to their home field with weapons of their own, namely chunks of the stadium they’d ripped apart. Indians players took to the grass with weapons of their own, only to help their greatly outnumbered game opponents.
Baseball in Cleveland was exciting again. CLEVELAND WAS EXCITING!
It wasn’t the outcome the city wanted, but it was certainly the one they deserved. Police eventually took control of the stadium and the game was forfeited by the Indians. Sometimes winning means losing, you might say.
A perfect storm is never good. It mixes improbable ingredients until an unstoppable disaster is unleashed. Ten Cent Beer Night in Cleveland was certainly unstoppable, but not unavoidable. Businesses make stupid decisions all the time, but sometimes, the most ignorant ideas are bred from a pure disregard for the past. The Indians screwed the pooch with this promotion. It was an embarrassment to the team and, more importantly, the city.
Luckily for Cleveland, they were used to that kind of thing.