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How a Major League Baseball Game Turned Into the “Ten Cent Beer Night” Riot

Our American Stories / Lee Habeeb
The Truth Network Radio
May 23, 2024 3:03 am

How a Major League Baseball Game Turned Into the “Ten Cent Beer Night” Riot

Our American Stories / Lee Habeeb

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May 23, 2024 3:03 am

On this episode of Our American Stories, the June 4, 1974 night game between the Texas Rangers and the Cleveland Indians was one for the record books. To say there was a "buzz" in the crowd," would be an understatement. Here to tell the story is the History Guy.

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18 plus terms and condition supply. This is our American stories and we tell stories about everything here on this show. Our next story comes to us from a man who is simply known as the history guy.

His videos are watched by hundreds of thousands of people of all ages on YouTube. The history guy is also heard here at our American stories. The June 4th 1974 night game between the Texas Rangers and the Cleveland Indians was one for the record books.

Trouble was a Bruin, the bleachers were loaded and there was a distinct buzz in the air. Here's the history guy with that story of the 10 cent beer night riot. 1974 was a depressing news year in the United States. President Richard Nixon was embroiled in the Watergate scandal which would eventually force him to resign in November, the first US president to do so. The United States economy was in a deep recession, the result of double digit inflation and the ongoing energy crisis.

Patricia Hearst, the granddaughter of publishing magnate William Randolph Hearst was kidnapped in February and by April had claimed that she had joined her captors cause leading to nightly news stories. And on June 4th, in the event that perhaps best defined the trying times of the day, beer was too cheap in Cleveland, Ohio. It is history that deserves to be remembered. It was Tuesday June 4th and the Texas Rangers were playing a night game at Cleveland Stadium, the first of a three game series.

When configured for baseball, the stadium seeded 74,400 fans, making it the largest in professional baseball in 1974. But Cleveland was a struggling city. Noted for its river pollution, the Cuyahoga River through the city was famous for literally catching fire.

One such fire in 1969 had caught the attention of the nation via Time Magazine, prompting the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency. The Cleveland area had been a flashpoint for anti-Vietnam War sentiment after shootings by the National Guard at nearby Kent State University in 1970. The city was in financial difficulty, crime was on the rise.

In 1962 there had been 59 murders in Cleveland, in 1972 there were 333. The city had a difficult reputation and people were leaving in droves. The city lost roughly 177,000 inhabitants between 1970 and 1980. And the Cleveland Indians simply weren't very good. They finished at the bottom of the American League East in 1973 and weren't doing much better in 1974.

Commentator Paul Jackson of ESPN said of them, the 74 Indians were a smorgasbord of mediocre and forgettable talent, playing in an open-air mausoleum. It had become difficult to fill the massive 74,400 seat stadium. On May 13th, a mere 4,234 had showed up on a chilly night for a game against Boston. On average, 85% of the stadium's tickets went unsold. But the game against Texas on the muggy night June 4th attracted a respectable 25,134 crowd, twice what was expected.

The reason? Cheap beer. The club was running a promotion, 12 fluid ounce cups of Stroh's 3.2% beer for just 10 cents each. There was a limit of 6 beers per purchase, but no limit on the number of purchases made during the game. Bud Tucker, a columnist for the Independent Press Telegram of Long Beach, California, quipped, as a Frenchman is inspired by fine wine or a Russian by classic vodka, so does a Clevelander react to 10 cent beer. The late Tim Russert, known for being the longtime moderator of the show Meet the Press, was 24 at the time and attended the game. In a statement that perhaps defined much of the crowd that night, he said, I had $2 in my pocket.

You do the math. Perhaps there was more going on that night than cheap beer. It was particularly hot and muggy. The June date caught the college age crowd just as they were coming home for summer, and as Anthony Kastrovitz of MLB.com noted in 2014, it was a full moon that night. In fact, witnesses note that much of the crowd seemed to have not waited for the cheap beer, and many seemed to have arrived already drunk or high. And for some reason, they also showed up with their pockets stuffed with firecrackers. The crowd started throwing them before the game even started, and they continued throughout. The rowdiness may have had something to do with the team's last meeting a week earlier on May 29th in Arlington, which had had a bench emptying brawl during the eighth inning of what would be a Rangers 3-0 victory. Rangers fans had thrown beer and food at the Indians' team as they were returning to the dugout. The Indians were furious. Catcher Dave Duncan had to be restrained to keep him from going into the stands to brawl with the crowd. Indian second baseman Jay Brohamer, who had been at the bottom of the pile, promised revenge.

Rangers manager Billy Martin added to the fuel. After the game, a Cleveland reporter asked him if he was afraid of fans retaliating in Cleveland. He responded, nah, they don't have enough fans to worry about. Cleveland media kept the city riled over the course of the next week.

Brohamer was quoted as saying that he had cooled down and wasn't looking for a fight. Instead, he hoped to get revenge by winning all three games of the upcoming series. The Cleveland fans, on the other hand, might have been making plans of their own. Texas quickly cooked the lead in the second inning after a home run by outfielder Tom Greve. But a buzz was in the air, or rather, in the crowd. Theater the second inning, a woman hopped the fence, ran over to the Indians on deck circle, ripped off her shirt, baring her breast to the raucous approval of the crowd, and then tried to kiss the umpire. Amazingly, it wasn't the weirdest thing that would happen that night, nor the only act of exhibitionism. The fun was not all good-natured. Not only was the crowd throwing firecrackers and keeping the grounds crew busy throwing garbage onto the field, but when Rangers pitcher Fergie Jenkins got hit in the stomach with a line drive, the crowd started chanting, hit him again. Meanwhile, the beer kept flowing. Unable to keep up, the vendors reportedly gave up trying to check IDs and started filling up whatever container was handed to them. This has been a night of wasted stupidity. 19-year-old fan Terry Yurkick recalled, I had a big dog and suds mug, maybe 32 ounces.

Looked like a mini keg. Another witness said that, as the crowd, which he described as notably younger and longer-haired than usual, grew progressively more drunk, there were some antics every half-inning or so. Young fans ran into the field and dodged security. When Greve hit a second home run in the fourth, extending the Rangers lead to 5-1, a naked man ran into the field and slid into second base. Now there's another group of morons running around in the outfield.

In the fifth inning, a father-son team jumped onto the field and boomed the crowd. Another streaker ran across the field carrying his clothes with him, but still wearing his left sock. As he approached the fence, he threw his clothes over, planning his escape. The crowd could see what he could not.

A Cleveland police officer was on the other side of the fence, catching both the clothes and the offender. The game had to be halted in the sixth, as the crowd was throwing firecrackers into the bullpen. Umpire Nestor Shylak cleared the bullpen, but was trying to let play continue. Fans were no longer just throwing beer at firecrackers, but also rocks, batteries, and any part of the stadium that wasn't bolted down. A group of fans started trying to tug the padding off the left field wall, drawing the grounds crew away from picking up the growing pile of trash that was landing on the field. Despite the antics, the game continued, and Cleveland managed to tie the game at 5-all in the bottom of the ninth, with 2 out and the winning run on second. But then 19-year-old Terry Yurkik, the fan with the dogs and suds mug, decided that he wanted a souvenir.

It's not a good decision. He jumped the fence, ran up behind Texas outfielder Jeff Burrows, and grabbed his hat. There's some controversy regarding what happened next. According to Yurkik, Burrows kicked it. But because of the slope of the diamond from the Rangers' dugout, all Billy Martin could see was Burrows' legs, and it looked like he'd been knocked down. More fans were climbing onto the field, and Martin thought, Jeff was out there all by himself. I saw knives and other things, we just couldn't let our teammate get beat up. He ordered his team onto the field, carrying bats to protect Burrows.

It was not a good decision. Seeing the Rangers leave the dugout sparked the already riled and inebriated mob. Fans stormed the field, greatly outnumbering the players. Now it's a full-scale riot. There has to be 200 people and more coming on the field.

Martin recalled, now I know how the people of the Alamo felt. The crowd was carrying knives, chains, clubs made from stadium seats. Stadium security was overwhelmed, although it's hard to see what they could have done in any case.

And no one had considered asking for a greater police presence. Seeing the melee and Rangers players being injured, Asper Monte ordered the Indians onto the field. Hargrove has got some kid on the ground and he is really administering the beating. Well of course, they're filling him up and hitting him from behind is what happened. The two teams who have been fighting each other so recently made common cause against the mob. Now this is absolute tragedy. I have never seen anything as disgusting as this.

I haven't either. Outnumbered, they fought their way back to the dugouts and retreated into the locker rooms behind locked doors. Shylak, bleeding from a cut on his head from a thrown bottle, called the game as soon as the players made it inside.

He said he didn't do it earlier for fear it would spark retaliation against the players. The game was called a forfeit, going into the record books as a 9-0 loss for the Indians. Fans kept rioting, stealing everything they could take, including literally stealing the stadium's bases.

So really, the organist played take me out to the ball game. Director of stadium operations Dan Zerbe ordered the lights shut off and the Cleveland police arrived in restored order. They turned the lights out, everybody's gone except for 15 teenagers standing on top of the Rangers dugout, chanting for the Rangers to come out and fight. And so I went up there and asked them, what do you want trying to prove?

Because the Rangers are gone. So some kid behind another one reaches out and punches me right in the jaw. He didn't even stagger me, he hit like a girl. Despite the apparent violence, there were no serious injuries and less than a dozen arrests.

Area hospitals reported seven people treated and released. Ten cent beer night perhaps summed up well in a dismal decade for Cleveland and their baseball team. The prospects for both would eventually improve, but not really until the 1990s. And you've been listening to the history guy tell, well, just a great American story. Not a good one, but boy, a great one.

And my goodness, I love what Tim Russert, the former host of Meet the Press said. I had $2 in my pocket. You do the math. The story of the 10 cent beer night riot in Cleveland, here on Our American Stories. From BBC Radio 4, Britain's biggest paranormal podcast is going on a road trip. I thought in that moment, oh my God, we've summoned something from this board. This is Uncanny USA.

He says somebody's in the house and I screamed. Listen to Uncanny USA wherever you get your BBC podcasts, if you dare. It's time for today's Luckyland Horoscope with Victoria Cash. Life's gotten mundane, so shake up the daily routine and be adventurous with a trip to Luckyland. You know what they say, your chance to win starts with a spin. So go to luckylandslots.com to play over 100 social casino style games for free, for your chance to redeem some serious prizes. Get lucky today at luckylandslots.com.

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Whisper: medium.en / 2024-05-23 04:35:23 / 2024-05-23 04:41:21 / 6

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