Base-Brawls: Now the Fans Do It Too

Baseball fans these days seem determined to do more than root, root, root for the home team, and most of the things they are doing are ugly. In Los Angeles, New York and San Francisco, fans have hurled insults, obscenities and sometimes bottles at Cincinnati Reds’ outfielder Pete Rose for his cocky style of play. In Cincinnati, bleacherites poured beer on Houston outfielder Bob Watson as he lay stunned after running into the left field fence. In Chicago, Cub right fielder José Cardenal complained that a couple of fans were shouting vile threats to him in his native Spanish. But the most flagrant example of crowds turning into mobs came in a two-city chain reaction that began with a player fight between the Cleveland Indians and Texas Rangers in Texas. It started when the Rangers’ Lenny Randle, angry at some close pitches, bunted down the first base line and threw an elbow at Cleveland pitcher Milt Wilcox when he moved over to field the ball. That emptied the benches in a typical infield brawl—a lot of scuffling and pushing but little damage, except to the players’ reputations as mature grownups. But when the Texas fans decided to show their support by dumping debris into the Indians’ dugout, irate Cleveland players nearly stormed into the box seats. More lamentably, the incident gave Indian fans an excuse to escalate the fighting a few days later when the Rangers played at Cleveland (following page).

A game called on account of beer

The spectacle at Cleveland’s Municipal Stadium was not caused solely by an excess of zeal on the part of fans. An insane promotional gimmick known as Ten Cent Beer Night was also to blame. Some 26,000 people showed up, drank 65,000 glasses of the stuff and then a few of them set out to make trouble. In the ninth inning a half-dozen men ran onto the field and attacked Texas outfielder Jeff Burroughs. Players from both benches wielding bats went to fend off the attackers, who were armed with knives and chairs. The game was declared a forfeit—the fourth in the history of the American League—and the winning Rangers retreated to their dugout (below) while an unruly crowd showered them with 10-cent beer.

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