The Most Disastrous Promotions in Baseball History

June 19, 2019

If you hit up a Major League Baseball game this year, be thankful if you get a free hat or bobblehead…and that it doesn’t descend into abject chaos.

Ten Cent Beer Night

It’s remarkable that anyone in the Cleveland Indians organization thought that it would be a good idea to let fans buy as much beer as they wanted for just a dime per 12 ounce cup, but the team was so bad in the ‘70s, that the June 4, 1974 promotion produced a rare, full Cleveland Stadium. The fans were already hostile toward the visiting Texas Rangers, as just a week earlier the Rangers and Indians had engaged in a bench-clearing brawl in the Lone Star state. In other words, thousands of angry fans got extremely drunk. A lot of those fans ran onto the field to riot, ripping out seats and parts of the field in the melee. Umpires had to cancel the game, and the Indians lost in a forfeit.

Free Cushion Night

On April 18, 1987, Busch Stadium handed out free St. Louis Cardinals seat cushions as fans filed in for a game against the Los Angeles Dodgers. With a free, relatively safe projectile in hand, thousands of spectators engaged in an impromptu cushion-throwing contest. Umpires had to pause play several times so the grounds crew could remove a few more dozen cushions from the field. Those fans who hadn’t tossed their cushion by the bottom of the ninth inning send them skyward when the Cardinals won on a game-ending home run.

Ball Night

Baseball teams frequently hand out souvenir balls emblazoned with the name of the franchise, but they usually distribute them when fans are walking out of the stadium, not in. That’s probably a result of what happened in Dodger Stadium in August 1995. For three games in a row, Dodgers fans got free balls, and for three games in a row, hundreds of those balls wound up on the field. The onslaught got so bad that early in the ninth inning, the umpires had to forfeit the game in favor of the visiting St. Louis Cardinals.

Disco Demolition Night

By 1979, you either loved disco or you hated disco. The fans who attended Disco Demolition Night, a Chicago White Sox promotion at Comiskey Park on July 12, 1979, were definitely not fans of the good-time party music. Organized by a local radio DJ, admission cost 98 cents if spectators brought a disco record, which were supposed go into crates and get demolished in a ceremony between two games of a double header. Instead, 50,000 rowdy fans filled Comiskey, and the crates quickly filled. Spectators kept their records and tossed them like Frisbees. That would be bad enough, until the actual demolition. The explosives used left a hole in the outfield grass, and sharp record shards scattered like shrapnel. That was the cue around 6,000 fans needed to riot and storm the field. (The second game was canceled.)