Originally created 06/04/99

10-cent beers, blood remembered 25 years later



CLEVELAND -- Billy Martin began the night blowing kisses to Indians fans. A few hours later, armed with a bat, he was running from them.

Beer and blood flowed 25 years ago Friday when Cleveland fans, many drunk on 10-cent beer, turned a seemingly harmless promotion into a night of violence that left players, fans and umpires bloodied.

Memories of "10-cent Beer Night" at Cleveland Stadium still shake Jim Fregosi.

"There were a lot of punches thrown," said the Toronto manager, who was playing first base for the Martin's Texas Rangers that night. "A lot of people got hurt. Players got hit with chairs over their heads. It was nasty."

Fans fought with fans; with police; with the Rangers and the Indians, many of whom ran onto the field to protect their Texas counterparts. Umpire Nestor Chylak and Indians reliever Tom Hilgendorf were both struck in the head with chairs.

"It was like we were in a battle zone," said umpire Joe Brinkman.

A crowd of 25,134 showed up that warm Tuesday night enticed by the chance to drink as many beers as they could handle for 10 cents a piece. And by the end of the night, it was estimated that over 60,000 cups were quaffed.

Trouble had been brewing between the teams after Rangers second baseman Lenny Randle intentionally ran over Cleveland pitcher Milt Wilcox a week earlier. Rangers fans doused the Indians with beer afterward.

So when Texas arrived in Cleveland, Indians fans were ready and the cheap beer was additional fuel. When Martin delivered his lineup card before the game, he was booed. Never one to back down, he responded by tipping his cap and blowing kisses.

Current Indians manager Mike Hargrove, a rookie with the Rangers in 1974, said nothing prepared him for the violence he would later witness.

"I remember a father and son going out to center field and mooning everybody," said Hargrove. "Streakers were running across the field and I remember one woman coming out and running over to kiss an umpire."

By the sixth inning with the Rangers leading 5-1, the crowd had gotten drunker, rowdier and bolder.

Groups of fans began running onto the field. Initially, they dashed out between innings, then between outs and finally between pitches. Some stopped to shake hands with players before being escorted off the field by a badly outnumbered security force.

As the Indians rallied to within 5-3 in the sixth, fireworks and other projectiles were being launched toward the Texas dugout.

"I remember getting spit on a lot and having a lot of hot dogs thrown at me," said Hargrove, who has a photograph of the infamous night hanging in his Jacobs Field office. "Somebody threw a gallon jug of Thunderbird wine at me."

Sensing things were getting worse in the seventh, the Rangers pitchers vacated their bullpen and headed to the relative safety of the dugout.

Then came the ninth, and mayhem.

Cleveland scored two runs to tie it 5-5. More fans poured on the field in celebration and one threw a punch at Texas right fielder Jeff Burroughs.

Burroughs punched back, and in an instant, he was surrounded by a dozen fans.

"That's when Billy grabbed a bat," said photographer Ron Kuntz. "I'll always remember this, he grabbed a bat and said, 'Let's get 'em boys.'

"The Rangers started going after that guy and before you knew it, there were thousands of fans all over the field. I was scared. The only thing I can compare it to was when I was covering riots in Venezuela and there were guys with Uzis running around."

Once he knew all the players had escaped the field, Chylak gave the Rangers the 9-0 forfeit, one of only four forfeits in the last 25 years.

While wiping away blood, Chylak told the Lorain Journal, "We went as far as we could go, but you can't pull back uncontrollable beasts. The last time I saw animals like that was in the zoo."

Grieve, now a broadcaster for the Rangers, said when he heard the game had been forfeited he was relieved for his safety and that the two homers he hit were safely in the books.

"I was afraid they wouldn't count. Fortunately, they did. I didn't hit many so I needed those two," said Grieve, who hit 65 in a nine-year career.

Like Hargrove, Brinkman still has a picture.

"I remember holding on to a guy who had been kicked in the head. I'm holding him and blood is running down his face," Brinkman said. "I think there were about 10,000 people on the field at one time. It was scary."