Updated Thu, Jun 5, 2014 4:28 pm
Many baseball clubs offered beer for a nickel or quarter in the early ‘70s, without much trouble. By June 4, 1974, the Indians were in the midst of a 30-year slump. A couple weeks before, a bench-clearing brawl had broken out when the Indians visited Texas on the Rangers’ 10-Cent Beer Night. In the days that followed, sports talker Pete Franklin stoked Clevelanders’ frustration and set up the June 4 game as a grudge match.
Sportscaster Dan Coughlin – then an Indians beat writer for the Plain Dealer – was one of the 25,000 people in the cavernous Cleveland Municipal Stadium that night.
“There were a lot of strangers coming into the game that night. And the significance of that is, back then the Indians usually drew about 7,000 people, and you knew them all!”
Coughlin thinks many of them were college kids ready to cut loose for the summer.
“A lot of them arrived drunk. They headed right to the concession stands. There was no limit. Whatever you could carry.”
And soon, the nationwide fad of streaking – which had enveloped college campuses, The Tonight Show and even the Academy Awards – hit Cleveland.
“Every inning there was something. A father-and-son combination: naked. They dashed out and both slid into second base. Now imagine, sliding, naked. (laughs). You could get a heck of a rash. Then about the middle of the game, they started throwing firecrackers.”
That was it for the umpires. Both teams were called into the dugout for their own safety. Venerable announcer Herb Score tried to calm the crowd over the PA. Nothing worked. A fan stole one of the Rangers’ caps, and that was it for Rangers’ Manager Billy Martin.
“So Billy grabbed a bat and said, ‘Boys let’s go get ‘em!’ Now the Indians were in a position where they had to defend other baseball players. It was like the movie ‘300.’”
Eventually, fans stole all the bases and the Indians had to forfeit. But that wasn’t the end of Ten-Cent Beer Night. Another one was scheduled for later that season and went off without incident. For Dan Coughlin, June 4 was just a perfect storm.
“We had Pete Franklin. We had Billy Martin. We had a full moon and we had the kids home from college!”