Ten Cent Beer Night: The True Story First Hand
A lifelong Cleveland Indians fan tells-all about his insane experience in the stands during infamous Ten Cent Beer Night, on June 4th 1974.
On this date in 1974, one of the most unforgettable incidents in baseball history occurred at old Municipal Stadium in Cleveland, Ohio. In a regular season game between the Cleveland Indians and the visiting Texas Rangers, an episode of chaos erupted in the stands due to a beer promotion gone bad – Ten Cent Beer Night. Today we share an interview with a true Cleveland Indians fan who in fact attended the infamous Ten Cent Beer Night, Christopher Meier. Ten Cent Beer Night is an occasion that has fallen into baseball lore, and created results that live in the annals of baseball infamy, and comedy.
Mr. Meier shares his experience from 43 years ago this evening, and what follows is his direct recollection of the game from the stands, both hilarious and shameful to baseball. A testament that could only come from a long dedicated and enduring Cleveland sports fan. It is a hilarious look back into an occasion that baseball and its fans have never forgotten, and now remember fondly after the benefit of many years. If you are a Cleveland sports fan, you cannot help but feel the words spring from the page.
TGNR Paul K. DiCostanzo: We are joined by Christopher Meier, a life long Cleveland Indians fan, Browns fan, and sometimes Cav’s fan; a true Cleveland native if there ever was one. When Ian Hunter first sang “Cleveland Rocks,” though Hunter didn’t know it, he was singing about Chris. We’re discussing his first hand experience attending the June 4th, 1974 match up between the visiting Texas Rangers, and home Cleveland Indians at the old Municipal “Mistake on the Lake” Stadium. This night fell into Major League Baseball legend as Ten Cent Beer Night.
Like many legendary moments in sports, there are so many more people who claim to have attended Ten Cent Beer Night then were actually present. Chris was in the stands. He shares his experience all those years ago in this infamous episode of baseball debauchery, as well the the heartfelt perspective of a real Cleveland sports fan. Thank you for being here Chris, thank you for talking with us.
Christopher Meier: You’re welcome.
Ten Cent Beer Night – Setting the Scene
CM: It was a warm-like summer night. We decided to go down to the game with my friend Charlie, and two other guys just to check it out.
TGNR PKD: You have been to countless sporting events in your life, and in this case, why did you choose to go to Municipal Stadium that night?
CM: Well, it was Ten Cent Beer Night! We would probably go to about 10 games a year. We figured we just do down there and see what it was all about. We liked beer, so we decided to go.
When we got there, we saw that there was three or four temporary concession stands set up for the cheap beer, and they were mobbed. Hundreds of people, not even a line or anything, just a mob scene. I think they had a limit like you could buy four of these paper or plastic cups of these draft beers.
So after trying to stand in line for a few minutes, we decided to hell with this, its not even worth fighting over. So we hiked to the upper deck in left field before the game started, and bought a couple of regular beers from the regular beer vendors. We sat down, and just started watching the game. We didn’t expect anything weird or something, people just having a few beers and watching the game. That is all we were expecting.
TGNR PKD: Though despite that, that’s not what end up happening. You said you were in the upper deck in left field. Was it pretty much your own section that night?
CM: Yeah, yeah. Like it usually was. We would sit up there a lot, because we could sit up there and smoke, and no one would say anything. So we would often sit up there.
It was 1974, it was different in those days. I remember going to another game, Dennis Eckersley’s no-hitter, and we sat in box seats, upper deck between home and third. We bought a cooler full of Piña Colada. One of those yellow Igloo cylindrical coolers you find at construction sites. Those five gallon type of things. So we filled it up with all the ingredients for Piña Colada and ice before we went to the game.
When we went down to the game with it, they were just happy to see us! ‘Come on in, man! What’s in there? Piña Colada? Cool! Enjoy the game!’ We sat there for the whole no-hitter, and the cooler had its own seat.
TGNR PKD: Talk about different days!
CM: Just sitting there drinking Piña Colada’s. Boy, did we just get so drunk, and it was so exciting. He won the thing something like… 1-0.
Though things were different in those years, they were just happy to sell you a ticket. You could have come in there with half a liquor store on your back and they wouldn’t have cared.
TGNR PKD: So you and your friends decided to check out Ten Cent Beer Night. You’re all sitting in the upper deck, and you’re doing your thing. At what point do you recall things starting to get just a little bit… weird?
CM: Probably around the third or fourth inning. A couple of fights in the stands, and then a couple of streakers going through the outfield. It was in the days when streaking was a big thing. So, after about the fourth inning I would say there was an incident just about every half inning.
There was this one guy streaking, he jumped right out of the stands in right field. He ran across to the left field fence, and he had his clothes in a bundle under his arm. He tossed his clothes over the fence, and then jumped up and climbed over the wall. Right there was a Cleveland cop on the other side of the fence who caught the guys clothes. The guy didn’t know what was waiting on the other side of the fence, so he just jumped over.
So they hauled him away…
The crowd was loving it. Every time someone went out streaking, they just went nuts. Screaming and yelling, while players in the outfield were trying to tackle them. It was comical.
TGNR PKD: Its one of those situations, whether it be Eckersley’s no-hitter or Ten Cent Beer Night, where no one could buy a ticket and know they would become a part of history. Its one of those great qualities of baseball where just anything can happen on any given day, and sometimes it does. It’s the beauty of the sport.
At what point do you remember it going from comedy to debauchery?
CM: Well what ended the game was people started throwing stuff at the Texas Rangers right fielder out of the stands. The rest of the Texas players basically said ‘that’s it!’ Then all the players in the Texas dugout grabbed bats and ran out to right field from the third base dugout to defend themselves from these people.
At this point, all the lights in the stadium just went out. Then a guy comes on over the stadium PA, and says ‘Game over, Indians forfeit.’ We were like, ‘d***, man.’ Its the ninth-inning, or maybe it was the eighth inning…
TGNR PKD: This is all going on around you, and its a scene that couldn’t have been put in a movie. As it was happening, do you remember what was going through your mind? This is the point that most people consider the riot. Billy Martin was leading that charge with the players right behind! Pretty much a scene that is the break down of all order possible.
CM: I mean it was funny. Great entertainment and funny up until that point. Then you’re like, ‘Jeez.’ They used to have this stuff called 3.2% beer that they were selling that night. You would never expect that so many people would get that toasted. They must have just been pounding them as fast as they could. We weren’t sitting that close to the people that were drinking them to be able to watch that. It must have been something to just watch them.
So after about the fourth inning things just started happening. Streakers, little fights in the stands, stuff like that.
I remember in the seventh or eight inning there was some woman sitting in the front row of the box seats between home and first. She was wearing a black dress like she was at a cocktail party. She climbed over the railing onto the field, and stumbles out to home plate and gave the Umpire a big hug and a kiss.
Then the cops came, dragged her away… It was stuff like that which just kept happening.
It was nothing that was really horrible until the ninth inning. It was stupid and dumb. But you know I was stupid and dumb too, so I was laughing up to the end. It was really funny. It was amazing! We were just amazed people were that drunk, I can remember that. We drank maybe two beers a piece that night, yeah it was chaos down on the first floor.
Where Ten Cent Beer Night Stands in the memory of Cleveland Sports Fans
TGNR PKD: You have been a Cleveland sports fan for so long, and you have seen so much. In the way the Eckersley’s no-hitter is a legendary moment in baseball history, how does it make you feel that you were at Ten Cent Beer Night? Even if it wasn’t baseball’s best face.
CM: Y’know, I’m glad that I saw it. I wouldn’t believe most of it if I hadn’t seen it. They show film clips and stuff once and a while, I wish I could remember more.
TGNR PKD: Where does this rank in your memory of Cleveland sports? For better or worse?
CM: Oh… its not that high up. There are so many bad one’s that are worse.
I think the worst was the last Brown’s game before they moved. Fan’s brought socket wrenches to remove seats. It got to the fourth quarter, and I wasn’t even at that game. I was watching it on TV. Though you could just hear this screeching. That sound when you’re unbolting a bolt that has been bolted for 50 years. That metal on metal screeching sound. That was coming from all over the place. People were taking the seats out to take them home.
That was just awful… I am convinced that was the final Browns game. Whoever these guys are now are just impostors. The Browns are history, they left town… These guys now are just destroying my memories of a legendary team.
TGNR PKD: For everything that comes with being an Indians fan, or a Cleveland sports fan, what’s your best memory from the old stadium? Putting aside the no-hitter.
CM: Oh… there is nothing that stands out in particular. I mean you went down there to have a few beers, and enjoy the game. Even if you knew they were going to lose.
I was really happy when they started building a new stadium for baseball. The old stadium sucked. It wasn’t even properly laid out for baseball or football. It was cold, wet, windy, and the plumbing didn’t always work. It was a throwback to try to get the Olympics in the 30’s.
TGNR PKD: What was your first memory of The Jake?
CM: Did I go to a game in that first season back in 94′?……
I don’t remember exactly when it was. I just remember walking into the place and it was brand new. It was clean, and sparkling, and nice! I mean it was so different with concessions stands that had good food. The old stadium… it was just… blech!
The new stadium just had this amazing variety of food you could eat! The old place there was hot dogs, or some grizzly hamburgers, and nacho’s with this strange yellow liquid stuff.
I mean I loved going to the old stadium. I had been there, what? A couple hundred times? It just got embarrassing, especially toward the end. Baseball, Browns games, concerts, but the place wasn’t good for any of those things. Even football. You could get seats at the 50 yard line, but you were pretty far away from the field because of its circular shape.
TGNR PKD: If you could choose one place to sit at the old stadium, where would it be?
CM: If I could choose one set of seats, I would get box seats, upper deck. Right there behind home plate, between the dugouts. Though you could sit pretty much wherever you wanted most of the time.
I mean it! It was something like 75,000 seats, and they would get 9-10,000 people a night. You could pay a few extra bucks and get box seats. Some of the seats were alright or pretty good, but the picks were slim. Though the place was a dump, it was an embarrassment. Everyone was so glad when it was over.
What I do remember was when they were taking it down, they couldn’t just blow it up. There was so much concrete and stuff they had to take it down piece by piece. They were using torches to remove the steel, and it created all these sparks. The good seats were made of plastic, and the cheap ones were made of wood. So these sparks made the seats catch on fire! So there was this plastic fire.
I just remember seeing that on the news. It’s like, ‘Common… Just end it already! Man… don’t do that… Its just insulting…’ What can I say?
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TGNR PKD: So you get to the mid 90’s, and the old stadium is gone. The Indians have a new ballpark, they’re a really good team, selling out every night. It was like the whole city just had a rejuvenation. What do you remember about that?
CM: Well the Indians had John Hart as their General Manager, and he really liked offense. He just stacked that lineup, it was like the most potent lineup I’d ever seen. You had Manny Ramirez as a rookie or second year player batting seventh all year long.
It was fun! No one was used to having a dominating team like that! They had pretty good pitchers, Dennis Martinez and Orel Hershiser. They were getting older, but were still pretty good. Lot of ninth inning come back wins, just night after night. You never felt like they were gonna lose. Just kicking everyone’s butt, and scoring 8, 9, 10 runs a game. It was shocking.
TGNR PKD: With losing the Browns around the same time, how do you feel the Indians success helped you cope with losing the truly beloved team?
CM: I mean, it helped a bit. They were really two separate things. When the Browns left, it was just the worst thing ever. Even with the Indians making it to the World Series that year, it was unthinkable. It was like the impossible thing happening, no one could even conceive it would happen.
Modell said he didn’t have a choice. He did have a choice. He could have sold the team. (expletive).
TGNR PKD: From only a true Cleveland sports fan could your words today come. Thank you, Chris. Few could have put it better.
CM: You got it, man. Anytime.
Write to Paul K. DiCostanzo at firstname.lastname@example.org