The Wildest Night in Baseball History


Evan Hugge '23, Editor

Ah, Cleveland. The city whose river is so polluted that it has caught fire at least a dozen times. The city that has given us Superman, the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame, and the most successful professional football team in recent memory. Most importantly, however, Cleveland was, on June 4, 1974, the site of one of organized sports’ greatest triumphs. This singular event was special not because of what happened on the field–the game was a 5-5 tie between two mediocre baseball teams–but because of the absolute insanity that unfolded in the stands that day. Ten. Cent. Beer. Night.

Ask anyone except the Qatari government, and they’ll tell you that nothing goes together as well as sports and alcohol. With this in mind, the Cleveland Indians organization decided to celebrate their inevitable mid-table finish in the 1974 MLB season by holding a promotion few could resist. Any fan who showed up to the June 4 home game against the Texas Rangers with a few bucks in their pocket would be able to purchase a cup of Stroh’s beer for only 10 cents (about $0.55 today). It was a flawless plan, drawing fans to the stadium and encouraging them to spend their hard-earned cash in its concession stands. Never mind that the Indians and Rangers had been involved in a bench-clearing brawl the week before, a scuffle which had almost ended with the Indians catcher fighting the jeering Rangers fans. And never mind that there was no limit on the number of beers one could purchase, essentially ensuring an endless flow of alcohol for anyone willing to fork over a few dollars. Nothing could go wrong.

Texas took an early 5-1 lead. The agitated and increasingly inebriated crowd reacted poorly, firing fireworks at the Rangers dugout and throwing hotdogs and gallon jugs of Thunderbird at the Rangers first baseman. Finally, in the bottom of the ninth inning, a situation that had reached its tipping point finally snapped, when a streaker accidentally knocked down a Rangers player. The Rangers rushed out of their dugout with bats to defend their teammate, and they were met by fans with knives, chains, and pieces of stadium seating they had ripped out of the ground. Eventually, the Indians players rushed out themselves to defend their opponents against their own fans. At some point, a player was hit with a folding chair. The game ended in a forfeit. 5-5. Texas wins.

All four bases were stolen that day, and not one of them was ever returned. Only nine fans were ever arrested, and all were charged with disorderly conduct. Most of the beer-fueled rioters were let off scot-free and allowed to return home, many with pieces of the stadium tucked under their shirts. Since then, Ten Cent Beer Night has ascended to its rightful place in baseball lore. It has survived as a warning of what is possible when our baser human nature is unleashed upon civilized society, a cautionary tale of the pitfalls of indulgence and drunkenness. Often, when I think of this day, I am reminded of a quote from the great William Golding: “What are we? Humans? Or animals? Or savages?”