Thursday, April 21, 2011

And we need a t-shirt for this, WHY?

Yesterday I was walking through the Summit Mall with my wife and our son. As we were going past the Cleveland Indians gift shop, I noticed a rack with some t-shirts. On the shirts were an illustration of the old Cleveland Municipal Stadium. Over the illustration were the words "Ten Cent Beer Night, June 4, 1974."

Quick summary: The Indians played the Texas Rangers in front of about 25 thousand fans, most of whom were getting quickly inebriated. The game ended in a riot on the field and the game was declared a forfeit in the Ranger's favor. For an accurate description of the night's activities, click on the Wikipedia link given below.

Now why do I need a t-shirt to commemorate a low spot in the region's history? Since I got laid off from my last job, I have been within Cleveland City limits about 4 times, only 2 of those for my own business. But being a life long, except for 1 year, northeast Ohio resident, I think I can find something else to put on a t-shirt to show my pride in the area. Even being a Cleveland Indians fan, I could find something, possibly commemorating Len Barker's perfect game, May 15, 1981. Cliff note: I wasn't there, but I saw every pitch on TV that night.

But the memory of beer night and the surrounding controversy will stick in my mind for a lifetime. Much has been written about it, and Wikipedia has an accurate entry as well. One of the memories I would like to address concerns recently retired Cleveland Cavaliers announcer, Joe Tait. In 1974 Joe Tait and the late Herb Score were the radio announcers for the Indians. During the post mortem of the "Beer night fiasco," legendary Plain Dealer sports columnist, the late Hal Lebovitz gave a portion of the blame for the fan's behavior to Tait, writing, "Joe Tait, who is going to get a National Basketball Association referee killed some night with his highly charged criticisms, didn't help on the Indians play by play broadcasts with his repeated huckstering 'Come on out to Beer Night, and let's stick it in Billy Martin's Ear.'"

Joe called Hal about that and pointed out that he only made the comment because Martin, the Texas Ranger manager had said the game would be no problem since nobody came to games in Cleveland. Joe also pointed out that the morning of the game the PD had a drawing of an Indian wearing boxing gloves. Hal had already taken responsibility for the Plain Dealer's role in the game, and stated that that illustration shouldn't have been run. Cliff note: The descriptions used in the Hal Lebovitz-Joe Tait story can be found on page 104 of the book "The Best of Hal Lebovitz."

Those of us who grew up with the announcing of Joe Tait know that he was the real deal in regards of being a human being. I was at a Cavaliers game in 1975, I went by myself to this game and went down to the announce table where Joe was gracious enough to give me a few minutes of his time along with some pointers as I was trying to get into broadcasting at the time. I went away feeling good, not only because I got some good advice, but because one of my heroes took the time to talk to me. Ten Cent Beer Night was, no doubt, a low point in his career, but I am sure that Tait took the measures not to repeat the actions of June 4, 1974, and to make good for any mistakes he made that night. And I'm also sure that Joe would be disgusted to see the t-shirt commemorating that night at the front of the Cleveland Indians Gift shop.

And in case you're wondering, I was not in attendance for beer night either. I was at home listening to the late innings on my transistor radio.

6 comments:

Tim Lones said...

You are dead on about Joe Tait..I have to mention this..If you are in the area, and have not seen the Fox Sports Ohio Special "Have a Good Night Everybody!" about Joe..You must see it, and It IS worth keeping..Its done very well..A fitting tribute to Joe and his career..They are repeating it several times the rest of April at least..

74WIXYgrad said...

Thanks for the reminder, Tim. I see that it's going to be rebroadcast tonight at 9 on Fox Sports Ohio, along with at 3 tomorrow afternoon. And I will put a tape in my VCR and set it to record one of those times.

Not only that, but I'm sure with the 30th anniversary of Len Barker's perfect game coming up next month, Sports Time Ohio will be replaying the WUAB broadcast of the game with Joe Tait and Bruce Drennan doing the play by play. So set your recorders for that as well...

Ben said...

I could see some place like Spencer's Gifts with a ten cent beer night shirt, all tongue in cheek. But for the official Tribe shop to be peddling that thing makes no sense at all. Besides, they have an actual team in 2011 that, so far, looks like they could move some merch!

YEKIMI said...

I do remember Johnny Carson doing a joke about what happened at the game on The Tonight Show. If I remember correctly, he held up a "Souvenir" of the game...a Cleveland ballcap with a pistol attached to the top.

YEKIMI said...

By the way, there is even a song about it: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7dh2g0TUKgc

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