10-Cent Beer Night: June 4, 1974 in Cleveland

Back in 2004, Wayne Scanlan of the Ottawa Citizen took a look at 10-cent beer night, and quickly set the scene:

The Cleveland Indians of 1974 were a desperate franchise. Consistently dwelling in the cellar of the American League East Division, they were coming off a season with their lowest attendance since the Second World War. The average home gate was less than 8,000.

In a brazen attempt to stir interest, the Indians announced that, at certain games, fans could buy a 10-ounce cup of beer for 10 cents. The first of those night was to be the June 4 visit by the Texas Rangers, which was the first mistake. It was only a week earlier that the Indians and Rangers had engaged in a brawl, with Indians players getting doused in beer by fans in Texas.

Seeking cheap revenge, the locals turned out, 25,000 strong, with hate in their hearts and dimes in their pockets.

By the middle innings, with the Indians trailing, fans were running all over the field, interrupting play, hopelessly chased by outnumbered security staff.

Texas players were getting showered with hot dogs and beer. Rangers first baseman Mike Hargrove, who would later manage the Indians, was nearly hit with a gallon jug of Thunderbird wine. A father and son team ran onto the field and mooned Hargrove.

In 1991, Bill Sullivan of the Houston Chronicle picked it up from there:

It was June 4, 1974, and the suds were flowing freely at Municipal Stadium. By the fourth inning, a streaker had bolted across the field. More appeared in the sixth. By the ninth, the sodden gathering became even more aroused when the Tribe, trailing 5-3, scored twice to tie the game.

Finally, a fan got out of the seats and tried to make a souvenir of Rangers right fielder Jeff Burroughs’ cap. Burroughs, reacting quickly and decisively, leveled the intruder with a fist.

Then, the real fun started.

“I’ve got a picture in my office of 10 or 12 guys leading the charge into right field with bats in hand,” former Rangers catcher Rich Billings says. “It was a pretty bizarre scene, to say the least.”

Unable to restore order, umpire Nestor Chylak turned his attention to the more basic issue of getting out alive. With runners on first and third and two out, Chylak stopped the game – awarding the Rangers a 9-0 victory by forfeit.

Two hours later, a police escort got the visitors out of their clubhouse and back to the hotel. Squad cars remained at the hotel all night, assuring no further reprisals.

Some of the survivors remember the affair more fondly than others.

“Actually, I hit two home runs in that game,” says Grieve, who hit 65 in his 670 big-league games. “I was worried they’d get wiped out [they weren’t].”

For the 25th anniversary, in 1999, Tom Withers of the Associated Press added:

Fans fought with fans; with police; with the Rangers and the Indians, many of whom ran onto the field to protect their Texas counterparts. Umpire Nestor Chylak and Indians reliever Tom Hilgendorf were both struck in the head with chairs.

“It was like we were in a battle zone,” said umpire Joe Brinkman.

A crowd of 25,134 showed up that warm Tuesday night enticed by the chance to drink as many beers as they could handle for 10 cents apiece. It was estimated that more than 60,000 cups were quaffed.

Trouble had been brewing between the teams after Rangers second baseman Lenny Randle intentionally ran over Cleveland pitcher Milt Wilcox a week earlier. Rangers fans doused the Indians with beer afterward.

So when Texas arrived in Cleveland, Indians fans were ready and the cheap beer was additional fuel. When Martin delivered his lineup card before the game, he was booed. Never one to back down, he responded by tipping his cap and blowing kisses.
Current Indians manager Mike Hargrove, a rookie with the Rangers in 1974, said nothing prepared him for the violence he would later witness.

“I remember a father and son going out to center field and mooning everybody,” said Hargrove. “Streakers were running across the field and I remember one woman coming out and running over to kiss an umpire.”

[When the Cleveland fan got into it with Burroughs,] “that’s when Billy grabbed a bat,” said photographer Ron Kuntz. “I’ll always remember this, he grabbed a bat and said, ‘Let’s get ’em boys.’

“The Rangers started going after that guy and before you knew it, there were thousands of fans all over the field. I was scared. The only thing I can compare it to was when I was covering riots in Venezuela and there were guys with Uzis running around.”

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