On June 4, 1974 the Cleveland Indians forfeited a game when their “ten cent beer night” got badly out of hand at old Municipal Stadium. Just over three years later they seized an opportunity to try it again with an increased price and a more secure process, along with a nationally known beer drinker with his own personalized beer brand to headline the festivities.
When the Indians entertained the Detroit Tigers on Friday June 17, 1977 the brother of President Jimmy Carter was the centerpiece of “Billy Carter Beer Night.” A good old southern boy, the 40-year-old owned a gas station in the family hometown of Plains, Georgia. He loved his beer and disdained many social norms to become a national celebrity for whom “Billy Beer” was named.
21,452 fans turned out on a gorgeous night with each adult receiving four beer tickets allowing a small draft to be purchased for a quarter. Stipulations listed on the ticket revealed why this evening would not include a forfeited game.
I attended with my brother and we were in our seats when our attention was called to a special ceremony near Cleveland’s on-deck circle. Billy Carter tossed a can of “Billy Beer” from his front row seat to catcher Ray Fosse who returned the now shaken can to Billy who popped it open and chugged it as suds streamed down his face. The announcer proclaimed the traditional call of “play ball” and the Indians took the field.
The game was enjoyable for those like us who watched it rather than standing in a beer line. My brother went to the restroom in the seventh inning and I was surprised to see him bring back two beers. “The line is gone,” he reported. When the 5-5 tie went to extra innings I returned for two more. We’d both spent 50 cents.
In the bottom of the 12th inning slugger Andre Thornton hit a blast to the left field upper deck for an 8-5 Tribe victory. Quite a night on the shores of Lake Erie.
Next week: An unscheduled trip to Pittsburgh in a Volkswagen Beetle.
Sports Extra appears each Friday. Ross’s first SDN byline appeared in 1975 when he interviewed hockey legend Gordie Howe. His columns have earned Ohio Associated Press Division II awards each of the last three years.