Lucey: Recalling 10-cent beer night in Cleveland, 40 years later

From SABR member Bill Lucey at Daily News Gems on June 4, 2014:

“Rinse your stein and get in line. Billy the Kid and his Texas gang are in town and it’s 10-cent beer night at the ballpark.’’

So wrote Cleveland Press beat writer Jim Braham in his run up to the Cleveland Indians’ showdown with the Texas Rangers, scheduled for June 4, 1974, exactly 40 years ago.

What seems so reckless and irresponsible today in the 21st century, in 1974 — well before there was Mothers against Drunk Drivers (MADD), strong appeals for designated drivers and other drink responsibly slogans popping up like toasters, having a 10 cent beer night wasn’t as crazy as it sounded.

It certainly wasn’t unprecedented.

When the Indians’ Executive Vice President Ted Bonda pressed his board to think of ways to increase sagging attendance, the suggestion of a 10 cent beer night, similar to the one the Texas Rangers successfully held was quickly embraced with plans to hold four 10 cent beer nights during 1974, including June 4th. The others were July 18, August 20th and another date yet to be announced in September.

But on this warm June evening with a full moon hanging over Cleveland Municipal Stadium, bizarre behavior from inebriated fans quickly erupted into a full-blown riot with an understaffed police security ill-equipped to handle the mob violence which ensued.

The evening began innocently enough, as 23,134 fans filed through the turnstiles with a good number of them clearing a path to the beer truck set up right behind the home run fence, looking much like a U-Haul truck with kegs inside and spigots coming out the side. For nothing more than a shiny dime, customers were served a 12-ounce cup of 3.2 Stroh’s beer with a limit of six per customer. By the time the dreadful evening ended, about 65,000 cups were consumed.

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Originally published: June 4, 2014. Last Updated: June 4, 2014.