The Cleveland Indians promotions department didn’t think this one through. June 4, 1974. The Indians held a Ten-Cent Beer Night promotion with unlimited purchases that unsurprising to no one went horribly wrong. Because so many fans got intoxicated, a riot broke out, and the game never finished. Here’s a look back at one of the craziest nights in MLB history.
Cleveland Indians brawl in Texas a week earlier
On May 29, 1974, the Texas Rangers hosted the Cleveland Indians. Following several earlier incidents in the game, the Rangers Lenny Randle put down a bunt and blasted Cleveland pitcher Milt Wilcox who was trying to field it near the first-base line. Both dugouts instantly emptied on to the field and an all-out brawl ensued.
The crowd started screaming in a frenzy. When the Indians returned to the dugout, they were greeted with boos and an assortment of food and drinks. One player had to be restrained from entering the stands. The Rangers won the contest 3-0. After the game, Rangers manager Billy Martin was asked if he was concerned for his team’s safety on the upcoming road trip to Ohio. The spontaneous Martin responded, “Naw, they won’t have enough fans there to worry about.”
Those comments were the spark to a tinder box full of dry Texas oak up on the Cuyahoga River banks. One sports radio talk host made incendiary comments toward the Texas Rangers. The Cleveland Plain-Dealer printed a cartoon showing Chief Wahoo holding a pair of boxing gloves with the caption, “Be ready for anything.”
Cleveland Indians fans don’t disappoint in opening acts
With over 25,000 fans in attendance—more than double regular attendance—and the unlimited number of ten-cent beers flowing, the “fireworks” started just a couple innings in. The real fireworks came innings later from the stands.
In the second inning, an overweight middle-aged woman scrambled on to the field, ran to the Cleveland Indians’ on-deck circle, and flashed her breasts to a roaring applause. She then tried to kiss the lead umpire before police intervened and escorted her out. Remember, it was just the second inning.
A couple of innings later, one man made his way on to the field, totally naked except for one black sock, and slid ungraciously into second base. That act was followed up the next inning when a father-and-son duo climbed down the outfield wall on to the field and proceeded to moon the Texas Rangers outfielders. The situation continued to devolve as the unfettered beer continued to flow.
Shortly after the mooning incident, the Rangers skipper dodged cups full of beer as he walked to the mound for a conference with his pitcher and catcher. On his return trip to the dugout, the always free-spirited Martin blew kisses to the crowd. Seconds later, fans set off fireworks in the Rangers bullpen. Things were getting interesting.
A crazy riot breaks out
Following the fireworks in the bullpen, the Cleveland Indians public address announcer asked fans to refrain from throwing any more objects on to the field. To a bunch of drunks, that was just an invitation to throw more. And they happily obliged.
The game was repeatedly interrupted by fans in various states of undress running on to the field and objects raining down from the stands. Rangers first baseman Mike Hargrove said he was the target of 20 pounds of hot dogs and a gallon jug of Thunderbird wine.
After fans threw cherry bombs into the Rangers dugout in the eighth, one fan took it to the next level in the ninth. After the Indians had tied up the game 5-5—yes, they were still trying to play the game—one Cleveland fan ran on to the field and tried to steal right fielder Jeff Burroughs’ cap. That didn’t go over well as Burroughs tripped. From the Rangers’ dugout, Martin saw Burroughs take a tumble, and all the Rangers hurriedly exited the dugout, many with bats in hand.
With the Texas Rangers outnumbered and surrounded by intoxicated and angry fans, Cleveland Indians manager Ken Aspromonte ordered his players on to the field with bats to help the Rangers. Numerous players from both teams got into fights with fans and were hit by flying debris as they tried to retreat back to their respective dugouts.
Eventually, both teams made it back to their clubhouses, locked the doors, and the game was forfeited to the Rangers while fans rioted on the field for another 20 minutes. The Cleveland Police Department arrived and regained control arresting nine people. Amazingly, the Indians had another Beer Night promotion a month later. Fans were limited to two cups per person and there were no incidents.