By James G. Robinson
Mike Hargrove remembers his first game in Cleveland well.
The Indians graciously gave away their beer. Their fans gave away the
10-Cent Beer Night was the Indians' most
desperate stunt in the club's most
desperate era. Cleveland was mired in the
AL East cellar for half a decade despite the
best efforts of ace hurler Gaylord Perry,
who won 24 games and the Cy Young
Award in 1972. Stagnant attendance at
Municipal Stadium (their turnout in 1973
had been the second-lowest since World
War II) prompted the announcement that at
selected games stadium vendors would
offer a 10-ounce cup of Strohs for just 10
Cleveland's first (and last) "10-Cent Beer Night" was the first game of a
three-game series against the Texas Rangers, who had held "cheap beer
nights" of their own at Arlington Stadium the previous season without
incident. Even though the Rangers had suffered through two of the worst
seasons in baseball history since moving from Washington to Arlington, star
turns by right fielder Jeff Burroughs (AL MVP) and Ferguson Jenkins (25-12,
2.83) and the emergence of Hargrove (AL Rookie of the Year) would help the
surprising Rangers finish the 1974 season second in the AL West with an
An incident a week earlier in Arlington brought some testosterone-laden
intrigue to the "Beer Night" matchup. It all began with a hard slide into
Indians second baseman Jack Brohamer by the
Rangers' Lenny Randle;
four innings later Indians hurler Milt Wilcox retaliated with a fastball behind
Randle's head. Instead of charging the mound, Randle bunted the next pitch
up the first base line. As Wilcox charged the ball, he was greeted by a hard
forearm shove from Randle, who then barreled into Cleveland's hulking first
baseman John Ellis.
As the obligatory brawl ensued, more than a few Indians found themselves
doused with beer gleefully hurled from the stands. Rangers shortstop
Toby Harrah remarked that the normally docile Ranger fans were becoming "more
and more like the ones in Venezuela," who frequently chased referees out of
It certainly seemed like a good percentage of the Indians fans attending
"10-Cent Beer Night" were looking for a measure of revenge. For a team that
had averaged less than 8,000 fans a game the previous season, the
announced attendance of over 25,000 was an impressive turnout. But many
of the fans were already tipsy when they showed up and things turned ugly
early. Especially ominous were the sounds of small explosions from the
stands, heard from the press box as early as the first inning.
After the Rangers took an early lead, the alcohol-fueled frenzy that had
pushed fans through the turnstiles began to push them onto the field. In the
second inning, a large woman jumped into the Indians' on-deck circle and
lifted her shirt; in the fourth, a naked man slid into second as Rangers
outfielder Tom Grieve circled the bases with his second homer of the game;
and in the fifth, a father-and-son team welcomed Hargrove to Cleveland by
leaping into the infield and mooning the crowd. From the seventh inning
onwards, a steady stream of interlopers greeted Burroughs in right field.
Some even stopped to shake his hand.
The stadium simmered until the Tribe came to bat in the bottom of the ninth,
down 5-3. With one out, an Ed Crosby single scored George Hendrick; two
singles later, a bases-loaded sacrifice fly to center by John Lowenstein
plated Crosby to tie the game. But slugger Leron Lee never had a chance to
drive in the game-winner (Rusty Torres) from third. As the Cleveland fans
pelted the field with golf balls, rocks and batteries, someone took the
opportunity to swipe Burroughs' glove. Burroughs chased the fan back to the
stands and in response, people began swarming into the outfield,
surrounding the Rangers' star outfielder and ending any hope for an Indians
Dodging more than a few flying chairs, Texas manager Billy Martin grabbed
a bat and led his team on a rescue mission to right field. "The bat showed
up later," Hargrove recalled, "and it was broken." Even the Indians were
helping to fight off their own fans. Umpire Nestor Chylak, hit by both a chair
and a rock, quickly forfeited the game to Texas, officially ending the Indians'
comeback. "They were just uncontrollable beasts," said Chylak later. "I've
never seen anything like it except in a zoo." Nine fans were arrested for their
part in the melee.
Fort Worth Star-Telegram beat writer Mike Shropshire asked Rangers
outfielder Cesar Tovar if the Cleveland fans were acting more like
Venezuelan fans than the Arlington fans had. "These people are different,
very different. Got no respect for the police," the Caracas native replied. "Of
course, they'd shoot the people who tried that at home."
Ironically, the game was the first forfeit in the major leagues since the
Rangers (then the Washington Senators) last game at RFK Stadium, when
a horde of souvenir-hungry fans took the field and refused to leave.
How desperate was the Indians front office to fill the Municipal Stadium
seats? Incredibly, the team had no plans to call off the remaining 10-Cent
Beer Nights until AL President Lee MacPhail intervened with the
understatement of the year: "There was no question that beer played a great
part in the affair."