The Cleveland Indians’ June 4th, 1974 Ten-Cent Beer Night promotion was a smashing success—if you’re strictly speaking about its ability to fill Cleveland Stadium. Everything else about the night lives in infamy.
The week before, the Tribe had taken on the Texas Rangers at Arlington Stadium during the Rangers’ Ten-Cent Beer Night, and a bench-clearing brawl in the bottom of the eighth caused Rangers fans to launch beer and food at the Tribe. When Rangers’ manager Billy Martin was questioned about going to Cleveland the following week and facing retribution, he remarked, Cleveland didn’t have “enough fans there to worry about” it. Mr. Martin had a rude awakening when he was greeted by more than 25,000 fans who were in the middle of consuming over 60,000 Genesee beers.
Early in the game Leron Lee drilled Rangers pitcher Ferguson Jenkins in the stomach with a line drive, igniting the tanked crowd who cheered, “Hit him again! Hit him again! Harder!” With the Rangers up 5-1, the crowd was unrelenting and by the ninth inning—after the Tribe had tied the game at 5-5—a full-blown riot erupted. Fans stormed the field, pulled up the bases and threw everything from batteries to cherry bombs at the Rangers. In an act of MLB solidarity, the Indians team grabbed bats to protect the Rangers while the Cleveland Police Department called in the riot squad.