The idea behind the promotion was to offer as many 8-ounce (237 mL) cups of beer as the fans could drink for just 10¢ each, thus increasing ticket sales. Ultimately, the game was forfeited to Texas on the orders of umpire crew chief Nestor Chylak because of the crowd's uncontrollable rowdiness, and because the game could not be resumed in a timely manner.
The game had a special significance for both teams, as there had been a bench-clearing brawl in a Rangers/Indians game one week earlier at Arlington Stadium in Texas, during a "cheap beer night" there.
In Texas, the trouble had started in the bottom of the fourth inning with a walk to the Rangers' Tom Grieve, followed by a Lenny Randle single. The next batter hit a double play ball to Indians third baseman John Lowenstein; he stepped on the third base bag to retire Grieve and threw the ball to second base, but Randle disrupted the play with a hard slide into second baseman Jack Brohamer.
The Indians retaliated in the bottom of the eighth when pitcher Milt Wilcox threw behind Randle's head. Randle eventually laid down a bunt. When Wilcox attempted to field it and tag Randle out, Randle hit him with a forearm. Indians first baseman John Ellis responded by punching Randle, and both benches emptied for a brawl. As Rangers players and coaches emerged from the dugout, they were struck by food and beer hurled by fans. As the intoxicated crowd began to storm the field, WJW-TV, Cleveland's then CBS affiliate, suspended their live telecast of the game.
Six days later, the Ten Cent Beer Night promotion enticed 25,134 fans to come to Municipal Stadium for the Rangers/Indians game. The past season's average attendance had been 8,000.
Early in the game, the Rangers took a 5-1 lead. Meanwhile, throughout the contest, the crowd in attendance, which was already heavily inebriated, grew more and more unruly. A woman ran out to the Indians' on-deck circle and flashed her breasts, and a naked man sprinted to second base as Grieve hit his second home run of the game. A father and son pair ran onto the outfield and mooned the fans in the bleachers one inning later. The ugliness escalated when Cleveland's Leron Lee hit a line drive into the stomach of Rangers pitcher Ferguson Jenkins, after which Jenkins dropped to the ground. The fans in the upper deck of Municipal Stadium cheered, then chanted "Hit 'em again! Hit 'em again! Harder! Harder!"
As the game progressed, more fans ran onto the field and caused problems. Ranger Mike Hargrove (who would manage the Indians and lead them to the World Series 21 years later) was pelted with hot dogs and spit, and at one point was nearly struck with an empty gallon jug of Thunderbird.
The Rangers later argued a call in which Lee was called safe in a close play at third base, spiking Jenkins with his cleats in the process and forcing him to leave the game. The Rangers' angry response to this call enraged Cleveland fans, who again began throwing objects onto the field.
In the bottom of the ninth, the Indians managed to rally and tie the game at five runs apiece. However, with a crowd that had been consuming as much beer as it could for nine innings, the situation finally came to a head.
In the ninth inning, a fan attempted to steal Texas outfielder Jeff Burroughs' cap. Confronting the fan, Burroughs tripped, and Texas manager Billy Martin, thinking that Burroughs had been attacked, charged onto the field, his players right behind, some wielding bats. A large number of intoxicated fans – some armed with knives, chains, and portions of stadium seats that they had torn apart – surged onto the field, and others hurled bottles from the stands. WJW producer Tony Lolli then suspended the station's live telecast of the game. Realizing that the Rangers' lives might be in danger, Ken Aspromonte, the Indians' manager, ordered his players to grab bats and help the Rangers. Rioters began throwing steel folding chairs, and Cleveland relief pitcher Tom Hilgendorf was hit in the head by one of them. Hargrove, involved in a fistfight with a rioter, had to fight another on his way back to the Texas dugout.
Among the Indians players suddenly running for their lives was Rusty Torres, who was on second base at the time, representing the winning run. In his career, Torres wound up seeing three big-league baseball riots close up; he was with the New York Yankees at the Senators' final game in Washington in 1971 and would be with the Chicago White Sox during the infamous Disco Demolition Night in 1979.
The bases were pulled up and stolen (never to be returned) and many rioters threw a vast array of objects including cups, rocks, bottles, batteries from radios, hot dogs, popcorn containers, and folding chairs. As a result, umpire crew chief Nestor Chylak, realizing that order would not be restored in a timely fashion, forfeited the game to Texas. He too was a victim of the rioters as one struck him with part of a stadium seat, cutting his head. His hand was also cut by a thrown rock. He later called the fans "uncontrollable beasts" and stated that he'd never seen anything like what had happened, "except in a zoo".
Later that season, the team's promotion of three additional beer nights was changed from unlimited amounts to a limit of four cups per person. American League president Lee McPhail commented, "There was no question that beer played a part in the riot."
In other locations
In 1976, the Milwaukee Brewers held a Ten Cent Beer Night; there was no disruption to the game, but incidents of disorderly behavior in the stands led the Brewers to limit quantities of discounted beer when the promotion was repeated the following year.
Such promotions were banned in the 1963 through 1984 incarnation of the Central Hockey League after a Ten Cent Beer Night during the 1977–78 season caused a bench-clearing brawl and a riot.
- Smiley, Bobby (July 30, 2004). "Another Mistake By The Lake". http://www.artmuck.com/archive/2004/07/another_mistake.html. Retrieved 2006-08-11.
- Jackson, Paul (June 4, 2008). "Remembering Ten Cent Beer Night". http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/page2/story?page=beernight/080604&sportCat=mlb. Retrieved 2008-06-08.
- Johnson, Scot (June 6, 2006). "This Week in Baseball History: Ten Cent Beer Night". http://coffeyvillewhirlwind.wordpress.com/2006/06/06/this-week-in-baseball-history-ten-cent-beer-night/. Retrieved 2006-08-11.
- "Alcohol puts a damper on fun and games". USA Today. 2003-04-17. http://www.usatoday.com/sports/columnist/oconnor/2003-04-17-ian_x.htm. Retrieved 2010-05-25.
- Box Score and play-by-play at Retrosheet
- USA Today Article
- Other Article
- "The night beer and violence bubbled over in Cleveland"