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Happy 40th Birthday Ten Cent Beer Night!

Jun 4, 2014, 9:46 AM EDT

Ten Cent Beer Night

I memorialize this every year because I am a sucker for well-intentioned ideas that turn into utter disasters and the recognition that, oftentimes, we simply can’t have nice things. And really, what is better intentioned and what is a nicer thing than giving people fatigued by Watergate and economic stagnation a night of cheap beer?

But we note it again today, the 40th anniversary of Ten Cent Beer Night in Cleveland. The Indians’ promotion that gave unhappy people unlimited quantities of nearly-free alcohol which, amazingly, turned into utter chaos. Paul Jackson’s 2008 story remains the gold standard on the topic, giving us the background of how it went down and why Cleveland in 1974 was the perfect time and place for that to turn into the mess it became.

As I noted last year, I am less shocked by the riot itself than I am about the conditions which led up to it. The accepted notion that, heck, people are going to get drunk and rowdy at the ballpark in large numbers and that people throwing bottles onto the field — before the riot started, mind you — was just the cost of doing business to get, like, half a million people to come see your games over the course of the season. Now the least bit of bad fan behavior is newsworthy. And the notion that you have to accept such ridiculousness in order to get a small number of people through the turnstiles is positively foreign.

Maybe the beer is too expensive today. Maybe there are too many distractions and family-friendly promotions that relegate the game to an afterthought at times. I often think that’s the case anyway. But I’d willingly take today’s excesses over those of the bad old days of the 1970s.

  1. largebill - Jun 4, 2014 at 9:56 AM

    I suppose it is all about perspective. As a Cleveland native it was one of the highlights of my youth.

    • dnc6 - Jun 4, 2014 at 12:49 PM

      Clevelanders (of which I am one) complain like mad that everyone talks down about the city, but then talking glowingly about events like this. Which way do you want it? Do we want to be respected or to be known as the drunk a-holes?

      Jackson’s article makes a one-line mention of fans who did some pre-gaming. This bit deserves a lot more attention than Jackson gave it. Fans showed up plenty drunk to begin with, but they were itching for a bit more to release their frustration. Beloved Cleveland radio host Pete Franklin riled up the fanbase all week by saying they (not just the team) needed to get even for a on-field scuffle recently in Texas. The Cleveland newspaper, The Plain Dealer, printed a picture of Chief Wahoo in boxing gloves, captioned “be ready for anything”.

      This wasn’t a spontaneous drunken outburst. This was fairly well-planned and incredibly disgusting. I have no idea why so many Clevelanders look upon such an embarrassing night with such pride. Well, maybe I do. The non-Clevelanders opinion of the town is probably the accurate one.

    • jfk69 - Jun 4, 2014 at 4:59 PM

      Harry M Stevens swore that would not happen in NY. I would have watered the beer down even more and charge two bits.

  2. jfk69 - Jun 4, 2014 at 9:59 AM

    and a sad farewell to Disco Sucks nite as well.
    I am hoping for a Disney nite where the rodent called Mickey is trashed as parents come to their senses and realize that pint sized rat has been cleaning out their pockets for years in the name of family entertainment.

    • sophiethegreatdane - Jun 4, 2014 at 11:16 AM

      I love the story of Disco Sucks night. I simply can’t imagine that a professional baseball team thought that blowing up a giant pile of records in their own outfield was such a great idea that they simply had to make it a promotion. Explosives, flying shards of sharp records, baseball, drunks, and a corporate sponsor. It’s a great combination.

      • gloccamorra - Jun 4, 2014 at 11:51 PM

        That’s what made the 1970s so special. That and The Flying Nun, The Brady Bunch, Family Feud, Hee Haw, and leisure suits.

  3. rbj1 - Jun 4, 2014 at 10:00 AM

    That’s a big 10-4, good buddy. And watch out for Smokey.

  4. yahmule - Jun 4, 2014 at 10:08 AM

    You know it’s a crazy promotion when half the crowd winds up with a BAC higher than Ranger manager Billy Martin.

  5. tellyspop - Jun 4, 2014 at 10:49 AM

    I wish be could have another 10 cent beer night as I believe folks today would act a lot more sensibly than back in the day.

    • scorpiox1960 - Jun 4, 2014 at 11:09 AM

      I’m not so sure about that. People are more sophisticated nowadays.

  6. hcf95688 - Jun 4, 2014 at 11:01 AM

    I’m 51 years old and I loved the 70s.

    • yahmule - Jun 4, 2014 at 12:16 PM

      It was a great time to grow up.

    • raysfan1 - Jun 4, 2014 at 1:43 PM

      I’m the same age, and I agree.

      As for when people bring up stuff like Watergate (as if bad things don’t happen in every decade), I reply by quoting Lynyrd Skynyd: Now Watergate does not bother me…
      Does your conscience bother you?

  7. campcouch - Jun 4, 2014 at 11:18 AM

    ah the 70s. My dear mother let my afro grow and dressed me in butterfly collars. Six years of my life I thankfully don’t recall vividly…except my grandfather cursing at the TV at those dag-blasted Indians!

  8. DelawarePhilliesFan - Jun 4, 2014 at 11:20 AM

    A young Tim Russert was at that game – his famous quote “I brought 2 dollars to the game. You do the math”

  9. happytwinsfan - Jun 4, 2014 at 11:51 AM

    Ah, the adventuring spirit of a simpler time.

    “Let’s get 25,000 people together in one place, make em all drunk and see what happens”

  10. granadafan - Jun 4, 2014 at 12:50 PM

    The good old days!

  11. bobwheel - Jun 4, 2014 at 1:09 PM

    With inflation, it would now be 47 cent beer night if held today.

  12. Brian Murphy - Jun 4, 2014 at 1:15 PM

    The beer at Dodger Stadium costs 10 cents (times 140).

  13. mazblast - Jun 4, 2014 at 2:34 PM

    A few of my college classmates who are from the Cleveland area have repeatedly claimed they were there. I keep reminding them that we were in Finals Week at the time, and that may have been dead drunk, but they weren’t in Cleveland.

    Why they think it would be such a badge of distinction to have been there is a mystery, but these guys never were the brightest lights in the chandelier.

    One thing that’s rarely if ever mentioned–This huge promotion still drew only 25,000 to a cavernous stadium that seated over 70,000. I remember going to a game there in 1977, with about 9,000 in attendance, thinking, “I’m not sure I’ve ever seen so many empty seats in my life.”

    • gloccamorra - Jun 4, 2014 at 11:56 PM

      If you were a parent with kids, would you have taken them to the game? How many said, “I’ll wait for ten cent hot dog night.”?

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