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50 years ago, 10-cent beers helped turn a Rangers-Indians game into a bloody riot – NBC 5 Dallas-Fort Worth

The beer flowed and some blood and bruises followed. In between we played some baseball.

On a warm spring evening along Lake Erie fifty years ago, a well-intentioned promotion meant to attract fans to the perpetually lousy Cleveland Indians turned ugly and caused a booze-fueled riot that now stands as one of the most infamous events in history. American sports history.

The 10 cent beer evening celebrates its 50th anniversary on Tuesday.

Cheers. Farmers.

A game that started with a handful of fans drunk on cheap beer and running across the outfield grass — some of them naked — collapsed into chaos.

During a terrifying ninth inning, Texas manager Billy Martin, never one to shy away from a fight, turned to his players in the dugout and told them to grab bats before leading an attack on the Municipal Stadium field and causing chaos .

Looking back on June 4, 1974, it’s hard to imagine anyone thinking it would be a good idea to sell beer for just a dime. But it was a different world then, perhaps not innocent but certainly naive.

By the time the Rangers escaped to their clubhouse with a victory via forfeit after surviving hundreds of fans storming the field as the Indians rallied, it became clear this was a big mistake.

“It was kind of in keeping with the times,” said former Cleveland manager Mike Hargrove, a 24-year-old rookie first baseman with the Rangers. “They had Disco Demolition Night in Chicago, and to me it was almost a sign of what would happen fifty years later, with everything that’s happening in the world now.”

Even before the first keg was tapped or 10 ounces of beer were poured, there was already a simmering tension between the Rangers and the Indians. A week earlier, the teams had a brawl in Texas, where Rangers fans pelted Indians players with debris.

After the skirmish, Martin lit a proverbial match when asked if he feared retaliation during an upcoming trip to Cleveland.

“They don’t have enough fans there to worry about,” he joked.

The comment did not go over well in Cleveland, where civic pride runs deeper than the Cuyahoga River and passionate fans are not averse to having a drink or two while watching their professional sports teams.

In the week leading up to 10-cent Beer Night, local radio host Pete Franklin fanned the flames by taking revenge on the Rangers. Martin was booed when he presented the lineup card.

Hargrove sensed trouble long before he was pelted with dozens of hot dogs thrown from the stands. He narrowly avoided being hit by a wine bottle.

“Around the second inning, fans started running back and forth across the outfield, from the bullpen in left field to the bullpen in right field,” Hargrove told The Associated Press in a phone interview last week. “It started with a few people doing it, and then it was five, then 10, and then it was a whole group.”

From his seat in the upper deck, Jack Barno, who went to the game with friends from high school, could see things were escalating in a bad way.

“When people were running across the field and the police were chasing them, they were laughing, ‘You can’t catch me,’” the 67-year-old Westlake, Ohio, resident recalled. ‘There were a handful of officers on the other side with batons. And when they came over that fence, they met them with a few blows to the head and dragged them away.”

Other problems percolated around the giant ballpark.

With long lines requiring too long waits for refills, unruly fans, some of whom were college students just home for summer vacation, chased away the concession workers manning the beer carts lined up behind the center field wall. The beer was now free.

Stadium security was outnumbered and overwhelmed by the 25,134 spectators, the second largest of the season.

Still, it was mostly good-natured fun: Morganna, the famous ‘kissing bandit’ of the 1970s, ran onto the field and tried to kiss referee Nestor Chylak. A father and son calm the crowd.

Then came the ninth and a scene from a low-budget horror movie.

After trailing 5-3, the Indians scored twice to tie the score and had runners up when a fan scaled the outfield wall, sprinted toward Rangers right fielder Jeff Burroughs and tried to steal the player’s cap.

In the dugout, Martin shouted for his players to follow him. Hargrove moved to the right to assist Burroughs, who was surrounded at the time. The Indians rushed out of their dugout to help the Rangers.

“A great, big, drunk guy took Jeff’s hat and I was one of the first to get there,” Hargrove said. “I tackled him and knocked him down, and it took three officers to cuff him. Luckily he was on the ground. I left – or else.”

The rest is a blur.

“I don’t remember anything about the game other than we were in foul trouble that inning,” Hargrove said. “They had runners on and it looked like they were getting ready to score and go ahead, and then suddenly all hell broke loose.”

While players escaped major injury, Chylak’s head was split open by a thrown chair as fighting broke out across the field.

Even half a century later, Hargrove can remember his emotions from the unforgettable night.

“I don’t remember being scared,” he said. “I don’t remember feeling threatened. I didn’t feel that way when it was going on until we got to the clubhouse and looked back at what had happened and what could have continued.

“Then I got a little shaky.”

While the night dealt another blow to the city’s already battered image, Clevelanders mostly shrugged their shoulders. Today the ugly event is commemorated with retro T-shirts marking the night: beer, blood and baseball mixed.

The rest of the country was outraged.

A month later the Indians held another beer evening.

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