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Mudville: June 23, 2024 6:45 pm PDT

Forfeits and Beer

Billy Martin saw and accomplished many things in his career as a player and manager. World Series championships, dust he kicked to cover home plate to show his displeasure at an umpire’s call, fights galore, countless empty liquor bottles; but it wasn’t until June 4, 1974, he saw something that prompted him to say, “It’s the closest I’ve ever seen anybody come to getting killed in my more than 25 years in baseball.”

On that night, his Texas Rangers were playing Cleveland at Municipal Stadium. Trailing 5-2 in the ninth inning, the visiting team scored three runs to tie the game and had the winning run on second base when the game was stopped.

Cleveland fans came onto the field attacking Texas players. Martin and third base umpire Nestor Chylak saw fans with knives. People threw firecrackers into the Rangers dugout. Cleveland Manager Ken Aspromonte told his players in his dugout to go onto the field and save as many lives as they could.

What prompted this melee?

Two things:

Six days earlier, the Indians and the Rangers at Texas’ stadium had been involved in a widely-publicized bench-clearing brawl.

The trouble began in the bottom of the fourth inning when Texas’ Lenny Randle attempted to break up a double play by sliding hard into second base.

In the bottom of the eighth when Randle bunted, and pitcher Milt Wilcox fielded the ball and tagged Randle out, Randle hit him with his forearm and Indians first baseman John Ellis punched Randle, starting a bench-clearing fight.

When Indians players and coaches returned to their dugout, they were pelted with food and beer.

The game was not suspended or forfeited, no players from either team were ejected, and the Rangers won 3–0.

After the game, a Cleveland Press reporter asked Martin, “Are you going to take your armor to Cleveland?

“Naw, they won’t have enough fans there to worry about,” replied Martin.

In its June 4, 1974 edition, The Cleveland Plain Dealer published a cartoon showing Cleveland’s mascot Chief Wahoo with a pair of boxing gloves: “Be ready for anything,” read the caption.

The other reason for the near-riot: it was 10-cent beer night. All cups were only a dime, and fans took advantage.

Tim Russert, the late host of NBC’s Meet the Press, was at the game. He was a law student in Cleveland, and took $2 with him to the ballpark. “You do the math,” he said later.

The Indians, thinking there could be a rowdy crowd, doubled security. more than 25,000 fans showed up, about twice as many as were expected.

By the sixth inning, attendance had thinned, as parents with children departed. One account said some fans openly smoked marijuana.

Several incidents led up to the crescendo: in the sixth, a woman ran onto the field and tried to kiss Chylak. He was not amused. Fans threw firecrackers and other items onto the field, among other objects. A streaker ran on the field and eluded security and police officers by jumping over the center field fence. The Rangers bullpen members left the field because of firecrackers and smoke bombs being tossed at them.

In the ninth, Texas was trailing 5-2, but scored three runs to tie the game and had the go-ahead run on second base, when three fans jumped onto the field and surrounded Texas outfielder Jeff Burroughs.

“They tried to take his hat, and then tried to take his glove away from him and, and so he just started defending himself.” Rangers catcher Jim Sundberg said in a recent interview.

People in the stands saw Burroughs and the three scuffling and ran onto the field.

“Then our dugout completely cleared and went to right field. And the Cleveland Indians players came out, too,” said Sundberg. “If it wasn’t (for) them helping us, we would have really gotten hurt, I believe. No doubt about that.”

Burroughs came out of the brawl with a conspicuously swollen left fist.

“I popped somebody a pretty good one, a great one, in fact,” Burroughs told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

Sundberg said, “I never really got scared until I saw all those people piling out the stands. Len Randle had us all grab a bat and stand in a tight circle in the dugout.”

After the game, Martin told the Star-Telegram, “’I’ve never seen people act so stupid,” still appearing shocked and bewildered by it all.”

“It’s a sad day when drunks can run on the field and make a team win or lose,” said Martin. “And to think, Cleveland had just tied the game and a bunch of idiots blew it for them.”

The Rangers and umpires pointed out the efforts by Cleveland players to protect the opponents.

“Those Cleveland guys showed me something,” said relief pitcher Dan Stanhouse after the game. “Without them there might not be as many of us standing up right now.”

Cleveland shortstop Frank Duffy said in a recent interview, “I remember pulling (Texas shortstop) Toby Harrah out of a pile up. He was getting piled on by these fans. I pulled him out by a leg and got him out to safety.”

“Somebody threw something out of the upper deck, I think,” recalled Duffy.  “Yeah, that’s a big stadium with that upper deck.”

It was reported Chylak and Indians pitcher Tom Hilgendorf were struck by seats pulled out of the mounts. Hilgendorf was seen with a bloody towel around his head. Chylak suffered a cut on his hand when he was hit by a rock.

“The last time I saw animals like that was in the zoo,” Chylak said in a newspaper article. “I saw two knives out there, two of my colleagues almost got killed. They almost killed four of us, but we’re expendable…. we’re umpires.” Chylak said he picked up two plastic containers that once held beer. Between the cups was an empty beer bottle.

Second base umpire Nick Bremigan had his cap stolen, and the three infield bases were pilfered.

Once Chylak, the umpire crew chief, saw all players safely inside their dressing rooms, he ruled a forfeit, giving the game to Texas.

Duffy said when the Rangers left their locker room for the team bus, Cleveland players accompanied them to make sure they were not assaulted. The Texas players were told to return to the team hotel and stay there. Sundberg isn’t sure who ordered that, but thinks it might have been Martin or the team’s traveling secretary.

Additional Cleveland police arrived on the scene. Nine people were arrested.

A drunken fan runs on the field during a game between the Texas Rangers and Cleveland Indians on June 4, 1974 at Cleveland Municipal Stadium in Cleveland, Ohio. Texas was awarded a win by forfeit 5-5 when the game was called by the umpires, due to fans storming the field during 10 cent beer night. (Photo by: Paul Tepley Collection/Diamond Images/Getty Images)

Greg Baeppler was riding in his patrol car with his partner, Greg Kunz, “minding my own business,” when over the radio he thought he heard there was a riot happening at the ballpark. A voice then asked anyone nearby to go there.

“We said we’ll run down there,” said Baeppler, who retired from the police force as a commander.

“And the only way I can describe this to you is if you remember the Godzilla movies in Japan,” said Baepplier. “Thousands of people running out of the ballpark. We pulled up and it we both looked at (it). What is going on, and we’re both young guys and we’re in a specialized unit. So, we go running against the crowd. People were just in a panic running out of there. Once we got in, got in the stands looked down where we can see the (fighting) was almost over on the field. Most of the players were coming back in, there was people on both dugouts and there were a few isolated fights at that point.

“Billy Martin had for the most part gotten his people in, and that’s all we saw. We did not see the start of it. I’m gonna say 200 to 300 people on the field. Which is crazy. And I never saw the umpires at that point,” said Baeppler.  “There were only a few Texas uniforms visible, and there was some Cleveland guys out, but that was it.

“I will tell you a sidelight,” continued Baeppler.  “All of a sudden, within 10, 15 minutes, we had 60, 70, 80 policemen there, and some of them came equipped with their riot gear. One of the guys, I will never forget this, he had never been on the major league field before (and) he ran the bases. He went to home plate and then ran the bases!

“In 31 years on the job, it was one of the most fascinating nights you could ever experience, just the whole deal of seeing those people come running out of there. You would have thought there was a nuclear attack in there. It was something I’ll never forget.”

Things returned to normal the next day, when Cleveland defeated Texas 9-3 (Duffy hit his fifth home run of the season). But the Cleveland players did discuss the game afterwards.

“We’ve been talking about it all the time in the locker room, showers and stuff,” said Duffy. “So it’s not like we went out for a drink and suddenly we start talking about it again and it was just kind of the subject at hand all along.”

Sundberg said, “We’ve talked about it for quite a while. We’re still talking about it. It was something that really hadn’t happened like that before. I think the reports said there were like 5,000 people on the field, and so it was a monumental moment.”

Pitcher Tom Hilgendorf #40 of the Clevleand Indians is helped off the field after suffering an injury during the game against the Texas Rangers on June 4, 1974 at Cleveland Municipal Stadium in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by: Paul Tepley Collection/Diamond Images/Getty Images)

Being too lazy to look up stats and info about forfeited games, I went to Retrosheet and accounts of found forfeits. One of its founders, D.W.Smith, referred me to a Retrosheet policy regarding the use of its items:

“The information used here was obtained free of charge from and is copyrighted by Retrosheet.  Interested parties may contact Retrosheet at 20 Sunset Rd. Newark, DE 19711.”

Courtesy of Retrosheet.org, here are details about forfeited games in the past century.

06/13/1924 – New York at Detroit – AL – Babe Ruth led off the 9th inning of a game at Navin Field with the Yankees leading 10-6. A young left-handed Tiger pitcher, Bert Cole, was on the mound. Ruth had to duck out of the way twice from pitches near his head before fouling out to the first baseman Lu Blue. The next batter, Bob Meusel, was plunked in the ribs with the first pitch. He dropped his bat, walked to the mound and took a swing at the pitcher, but missed. Umpires Billy Evans and Red Ormsby grabbed Meusel and pulled him away. About that time Ruth charged from the dugout swinging his fists and claiming that the pitcher was throwing at the Yankees. Players poured onto the field and shoving and pushing ensued. After a few minutes, peace seemed to be restored and players started to return to their positions. However, Meusel and Ruth took a detour on the way back to their dugout and headed to the Tiger bench and started fighting again. The fans could no longer control themselves and streamed onto the field. Police quickly surrounded the dugout and escorted the players to safety. Fist fights between fans and policemen and among the fans broke out all over the field. It took over a half hour to clear the field but by that time the umpires had already called the game for New York. – New York Times, 06/14/1924, pg 8, Los Angeles Times; 06/14/1924, p B1, Washington Post; 06/14/1924 p S1 (Yankees)

04/26/1925 – Cleveland at Chicago – AL – Because of the large crowd at Comiskey Park, fans were allowed to stand behind roped off areas in right and left fields. Cleveland was leading 7 to 2 in the bottom of the 9th inning with two out when Willie Kamm hit a soft grounder to the shortstop who threw a perfect ball to first. First baseman Ray Knode caught the ball two feet in front of the bag and tried to find the bag with his foot. However, after several attempts, he could not find it and the batter was called safe by umpire Billy Evans. The fans, thinking the play resulted in the final out of the game, rushed the field. The field could not be cleared and the chief umpire, Pants Rowland, had no choice but to call the game in favor of Cleveland. – Chicago Daily Tribune, 04/27/1925, p17 (Indians)

06/06/1937 – St. Louis at Philadelphia – NL – The first game of this doubleheader had been delayed 88 minutes by rain thus delaying the start of the second game. The games had to be completed by 7 PM due to a Philadelphia law. The Cardinals were leading 8-2 in the top of the fourth inning of game two when the Phillies started stalling. They made unnecessary pitching changes, holding mound conferences and asking for different baseballs. Eventually Bill Klem forfeited the game to the Redbirds. All players statistics were wiped out due to the fact that the game failed to go the required five innings. Manager Jimmie Wilson was fined $100 later by Ford Frick for his stalling tactics. Joe Medwick of St. Louis lost a home run which would have been his tenth of the season. Medwick still won the Triple Crown even though he tied for the home run title with Mel Ott with 31. – New York Time; 06/07/1937; p 27 (Philllies)

08/15/1941 – Boston at Washington – AL – The game was called in the 8th inning after a 40 minute rain delay by umpire George Pipgras. The Senators were leading at the time 6-3. Boston manager Joe Cronin protested the game claiming that the field was not playable because it was not covered by canvas. On 08/27, AL president Will Harridge upheld the Boston protest and awarded them the victory. He said that Washington violated rules by not having a grounds crew available to cover the field. The Cleveland club then proteste d the Harridge decision claiming the decision was unfair to them in their pennant race with Boston. Washington Post, 08/16/1941, p 12 (Red Sox) New York Times, 08/28/1941, p 25 (forfeit) New York Times, 08/28/1941, p 20 (forfeit)

09/26/1942 – Boston at New York – NL – In the second game of a doubleheader with the score 5-2 in favor of the Giants, hundreds of children swarmed on to the field after the final out of the 8th inning. The children were the guests of the Giants as part of a promotion. They had brought scrap metal to the game for the war effort. The field could not be cleared and umpire Ziggy Sears called the game for the visitors. – Washington Post; 09/27/1942, p SP4 (Boston Braves)

08/21/1949 – New York at Philadelphia – NL – A pop bottle barrage with one out in the top of the ninth inning of the second game of a doubleheader resulted in a forfeit win for the visiting team. New York was ahead 3-2 when umpire George Barr ruled that Richie Ashburn had missed a diving catch of a ball off the bat of Joe Lafata, scoring Willard Marshall with the fourth run. The players objected, but when the call was not reversed the fans got involved. The barrage continued despite pleas over the load speaker system. Umpire Lee Ballanfant was grazed by a bottle and Al Barlick was struck by a tomato. After waiting more than 15 minutes Barlick called the game for the Giants. – New York Times; 08/22/1949, p 1 (forfeit)

07/18/1954 – Philadelphia at St. Louis – NL – Because of the delaying tactics of the St. Louis Cardinals in the fifth inning, umpire Babe Pinelli forfeited the second game of the doubleheader to the Philadelphia Phillies. At the time the Phillies were leading 8-1 with one man on base and two outs. A few minutes earlier players from both teams had swarmed onto the field where several punches and wrestling matches broke out. Redbirds catcher Sal Yvars and Philles batter Earl Torgeson started the brawl and were both ejected. Managers Terry Moore and Eddie Stanky also tangled. Moore had previously been fired as a Cardinal coach by Stanky. Moore came out of his dugout after Yvars but Stanky tackled Moore. With darkness approaching and the game not yet official, Eddie Stanky brought in three new pitchers in the inning. As the game was not official, no statistics counted for the players, and the Cards Joe Frazier had a lost home run. The first game had been delayed 78 minutes by rain. – New York Times; 07/19/1954, p 22 (Phillies)

09/30/1971 – New York at Washington – AL – The last American League game played in Washington ended in a forfeit win for the New York Yankees. The Senators were leading 7-5 with two out in the ninth inning when souvenir hunters stormed onto the field. The field could not be cleared and the umpire had no choice except to call the game. The fans had been unruly most of the night due to the fact that the club was moving to Texas for the 1972 season and some had run onto the field in the eighth inning delaying the game. – New York Times; 10/01/1971, p 49 (Yankees)

09/15/1977 – Baltimore at Toronto – AL – The Orioles were behind 4-0 in the bottom of the fifth inning when manager Earl Weaver asked umpire Marty Springstead to have a tarpaulin that was covering the Toronto bull pen area removed. The game was being played in a light rain and Weaver felt that the tarpaulin posed an injury risk to his left fielder. The umpire refused and Weaver pulled his team from the field. Springstead waited 15 minutes for the team to retake the field before declaring the forfeit. – New York Times; 09/16/1977 , p 93 (Orioles)

07/12/1979 – Detroit at Chicago – AL – In the most ill-fated promotion in baseball history, thousands of fans overran the Comiskey Park playing field during “Disco Demolition Night” between games of a doubleheader and caused the Chicago White Sox to forfeit the second game after losing to Detroit 4-1 in the first. Umpire Dave Phillips declared the field unplayable after an hour and 1 6 minute delay and postponed the game. Later American League President Lee MacPhail ruled the game a forfeit win for the Tigers. – New York Times; 07/13/1979; p A16, Washington Post; 07/14/1979; p C2 (Tigers)

08/10/1995 – St. Louis at Los Angeles – NL – Baseballs were distributed to fans as they entered Dodger Stadium. The game was delayed in the 7th inning when some fans started throwing their souvenir baseballs onto the field. In the bottom of the 9th with St. Louis leading 2-1, the first batter, Raul Mondesi, was called out on strikes. He started to complain to umpire Jim Quick and was ejected. Dodger manager Tommy Lasorda was ejected as well. The fans became upset and started throwing the balls onto the field again. The umpires brought the Cardinal team in from the field while the grounds crew cleared the field. When play resumed, the fans again bombarded the field and the umpires forfeited the game in favor of St. Louis. New York Times, 08/11/1995, p B9 (Dodgers)

Jon Caroulis has been writing about baseball for more than 20 years. Many of his articles have been about "unusual" events or players. He is a graduate of Temple University.

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