It was 40 years ago today that the Cleveland Indians hosted one of the more infamous promotions in Major League Baseball history.
On June 4, 1974, the Indians hosted “10-cent Beer Night,” which probably seemed like a good idea when it was likely concocted after an extended session of drinking moonshine and smoking hash. Who could have guessed that beer at a dime a pop would result in a full-scale riot?
The Cleveland Plain-Dealer caught up Dan Coughlin, a retired sportswriter, who relayed his memories of the evening.
“Q. Looking back how would you sum up Ten-Cent Beer Night?
A. There were 25,134 fans.
60,000 Genesee beers at 10 cents each.
7 emergency room injuries.
2 bare moons.
2 bouncing breasts.
1 sportswriter punched in the jaw.”
Coughlin was the sportswriter.
As Coughlin noted, the Indians had previously had a five-cent beer night in 1971, and the whole thing went more smoothly than one might imagine. Three years later, the game was scheduled in the wake of the Texas Rangers’ own 10-cent beer night, when fans had beer and food tossed at them. In advance of the Cleveland episode, Rangers manager Billy Martin noted that Cleveland didn’t have enough fans to worry about the same thing happening.
“Sports radio host Pete Franklin spent an entire week on the radio whipping Cleveland fans into a frenzy over the Billy Martin insult,” Coughlin noted. “The place was full of college kids home from school for the summer. A lot of people showed up already drunk before the game even started. Did I mention there was a full moon that night?”
As for how he got punched: “I'd had a few beers and was leaving the stadium. I had my reporter's notebook with me. A dozen high school kids were standing on top of the Rangers dugout, yelling for them to come out and fight. I asked them what they thought they were doing. I told them the Rangers weren't even in the stadium anymore. That's when a kid came out of the crowd and socked me. It didn't phase me. I could take a punch back then. That's when I decided to get out of there.”
Coughlin also revealed that the late Tim Russert, of “Meet the Press” fame, was at the game. When asked how many beers he had, he noted that he had two dollars with him. You do the math,” he said.