Many baseball clubs offered beer for a nickel or quarter in the early ‘70s -- without much trouble.
But by June 4, 1974, the Indians were in the midst of a 30-year slump. A couple weeks before, a bench-clearing brawl had broken out when the Indians visited Texas on the Rangers’ 10-Cent Beer Night. In the days that followed, sports talker Pete Franklin stoked Clevelanders’ frustration and set up the June 4 game as a grudge match.
Sportscaster Dan Coughlin – then an Indians beat writer for the Plain Dealer – was one of the 25,000 people in the cavernous Cleveland Municipal Stadium that night.
“There were a lot of strangers coming into the game that night. And the significance of that is, back then the Indians usually drew about 7,000 people, and you knew them all!”
“A lot of them arrived drunk," adds Coughlin. "They headed right to the concession stands. There was no limit. Whatever you could carry.”
"We didn't draw many fans back then," said Tom Grieve, then a Rangers outfielder and now a TV color man. "But at the end of the game, in the right-field seats, there were at least 1,000 University of Texas at Arlington kids. They had stocked up on beer in the ninth inning, and virtually every one of them had two large beers in front of them. We went in, took a shower, got to our cars, and they were still in the stands."
“Every inning there was something. A father-and-son combination: naked. They dashed out and both slid into second base. Now imagine, sliding, naked. You could get a heck of a rash. Then about the middle of the game, they started throwing firecrackers.”
Eventually a riot broke out in the stadium and people were attacking even the press members who were at the ballgame.
That was it for the umpires. Both teams were called into the dugout for their own safety. Venerable announcer Herb Score tried to calm the crowd over the PA.
American League Lee MacPhail added that “there was no question that beer played a part in the riot.”
Fortunately, my father never ran on the field. He just saw it all unfold.
There’s no doubt it gave Cleveland a “black eye,” and we all know the city has had plenty of those.