On This Day: Cleveland Indians Host Infamous Ten-Cent Beer Night in 1974 Leading to Sheer Chaos

by Josh Lanier
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On June 4, 1974, the Cleveland Indians offered fans beer for 10 cents a cup. In a game against the Texas Rangers — a team Cleveland fans hated — loaded and boozed-up bozos streaked the field, threw things at players, and started a full-on riot.

Some backstory: The 1974 Indians stunk. They were not a good team. So, the team created 10 cent beer night to draw in fans. But they picked the wrong game for that. That’s because six days earlier the team had played the Rangers in Texas, and a bench-clearing brawl broke out after several players were beaned. If upset and vindictive fans were the powder keg, almost-free beer was the match.

Though the stadium had set a six-beer limit, there was no real way to enforce that rule.

Things got off to a bad start as the Rangers took an early lead. Drunk fans broke out into fights in the stands, but things quickly spilled onto the field. In the fifth inning, a woman rushed the on-deck circle, flashed her breasts, and tried to kiss the umpire. A naked man ran onto the field and tried to steal second base. A man and his son mooned the opposing dugout.

Then things turned dark. Drunk fans started throwing things at Rangers players. That included beer, batteries, golf balls, and some fans even fired off fireworks at the opposing team’s dugout. Someone threw a glass bottle of Thunderbird liquor at Mike Hargrove and missed his head by inches.

But the game marched on. And the Indians rallied. Fans roared as they tied the score at 5 in the bottom of the ninth. But that’s when things went from bad to worse, even for Cleveland, a city whose river has caught on fire at least a dozen times.

Players Fight Back During 10 Cent Beer Night

According to ESPN, a fan rushed the field and tried to steal Rangers outfielder Jeff Burroughs’ hat. He failed but managed to knock it off of his head. Rangers manager Billy Martin didn’t see what happened, but from his vantage point, it looked as if his outfielder had just been attacked. Martin ran out onto the field, his players at his heels — some wielding baseball bats.

But boozed-up Indians fans took this as a challenge. They also rushed the field. And as the Rangers reached the outfield, they found themselves hemmed in by some 200 drunk fans. Some had chains, others wielded knives and clubs fashioned from pieces of stadium seats they’d ripped up.

The Indians manager called on his players to go out there and protect the Rangers. Then all hell broke loose. There were fistfights between fans and players. Fans heaved whatever they could find onto the field, and debris and projectiles rained down on the athletes and agitators alike.

A Cleveland Police riot squad broke up the fight. Umpire Nestor Chylak, who was bleeding after he being hit by a rock and a piece of a stadium seat, made Cleveland forfeit the game to the Rangers.

In the end, only nine people were arrested in the melee, NBC Sports said.

What’s worse is the Indians held another 10 cent beer night a month later. This time, however, they strictly enforced a two-beer limit and had a stronger police presence. No riot broke out.

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