Five Ballpark Promotions That Went Wrong

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I may be a die-hard Cleveland Indians fan, but that doesn't mean I'll go to the ballpark just for the games. I often choose what tickets I buy based on the promotions. So far this season I've bought tickets to fireworks night, half-price college ID night and dollar dog night. While I always enjoy my free flashlight or bobblehead, there have been some fan promotions that didn't go so well. Here's a look at five that failed:

Cleveland Municipal Stadium, 1974

The Promotion: 10-Cent Beer Night. To bring fans to see the miserable Cleveland Indians, management decided to sell 10-ounce cups of beer for only 10 cents at a game against the Texas Rangers.

What went wrong: Management forgot one small detail: drunk people get restless. More than 25,000 fans showed up for the event, most of them already tipsy at the gate. Among the more tame incidents was a woman who flashed the crowd from the on-deck circle, a father-son team mooning the players (good bonding experience, I guess) and fans jumping on the field to meet shake hands with the outfielders. Then, in the bottom of the ninth, the Indians tied the game, but never got a chance to win. Fans started throwing batteries, golf balls, cups and rocks onto the field and one even took the glove of the Rangers right fielder. As the player rushed into the stands to get his glove back, fans starting swarming the field to stop him and threw chairs to block his way.

The Outcome: The Indians were forced to forfeit the game and nine fans were arrested. The AL president forced the franchise to abandon the promotion idea after understating "There was no question that beer played a great part in the affair."

Cash drop night, All-you-can-eat seat night, and more bad ideas after the break.

disco demolition.jpgComiskey Park, 1979

The Promotion: Disco Demolition Night. White Sox fans were encouraged to bring old disco records to the park in exchange for a reduced admission price of 98 cents. The records were to be destroyed in between the two games of a doubleheader against the Detroit Tigers.

What went wrong: Believe it or not, a lot of people wanted to see disco records destroyed. 50,000 people showed up at the gates and many who were turned away at the gate tried to climb the walls of the stadium to get in. The crowd, who were reportedly heavily under the influence, soon realized that records could double as Frisbees, which naturally led to fans throwing firecrackers and drinks. When the demolition moment came, the explosion was bigger than expected and ended up ripping a hole in the outfield grass. Thousands of fans ran onto the field to join the mayhem, burning banners and throwing objects. The batting cages were even destroyed in the riot.

The outcome: The Tigers refused to take the field, forcing the White Sox to forfeit the game. The quick patch job on the outfield left the grass uneven and players complained about it for the rest of the season.

Dodger Stadium, 1995

The Promotion: Ball Night. Fans entering the game were given a souvenir baseball.

What went wrong: Turns out baseballs are pretty convenient things to throw. In the seventh inning, fans threw balls at an opposing outfielder when he bobbled a play. The real drama happened in the bottom of the ninth, though. Dodger Raul Mondesi and manager Tommy Lasorda were ejected for arguing a strikeout call, inspiring about 200 fans to throw their promotional balls onto the field. The umps urged the Cardinals to stay on the field, but finally decided to end the game after more fans decided to contribute their gifts to the game.

The Outcome: The Dodgers were forced to forfeit the game, the first forfeit in the National League in 41 years.

helicopter.jpgFifth Third Ballpark, 2006

The Promotion: Cash Drop. The West Michigan Whitecaps, Detroit's class-A affiliate, had a helicopter drop $1,000 in various bills from a helicopter after a game.

What went wrong: People love money more than they love other people. Two children were injured scrambling for the cash. A girl received a bloody lip being pushed to the ground, while a seven-year-old boy was bruised when he got trampled in the fray.

The Outcome: The boy was taken to the hospital, but released after treatment. The team management summed up the incident by reminding everyone that they had signed waivers.

Dodger Stadium, 2007

The Promotions: All-you-can-eat seats. Undoing the work of Shaq and Cookie Monster, the Dodgers decided to promote obesity by opening up a section of all-you-can-eat seats. Although beer, ice cream and candy are still for sale, most food is just given away. Ticket prices range from $20-$40.

What went wrong: Not everybody can handle an open buffet of hot dogs and nachos. One Slate reporter wrote about his experience in the seats, which predictably ended in vomit. I can only imagine that countless other fans have had their evenings end in a similar way.

The Outcome: Despite the upchucking, the seats remain open and usually draw between 2,000 and 4,000 fans a night. In fact, the Dodgers have declared the promotion a success and have reached the second-highest attendance in baseball. Other stadiums have contacted the Dodgers about copying the idea.

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July 24, 2007 - 3:25am
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