Some marketing ideas make sense in the Boardroom but don’t play out well in real life. Such an idea was attempted in Cleveland in 1974.

The Cleveland Indians played in Municipal Stadium for many years. It was a gigantic stadium with a seating capacity of almost 75,000 people. In 1974, their average attendance was 8,000. With about 65,000 empty seats every night, the Indians’ brainstormed on ideas to bring in a bigger crowd. Their answer was to have a 10 cent beer night. Fans could drink 8 ounce beers all night for 10 cents each.

It started out well enough as over 25,000 people showed up for the game against the Texas Rangers who were managed by the highly volatile Billy Martin. The fans drank huge amounts of beer and became more and more rowdy as the game progressed. Trailing 6-1 in the bottom of the ninth, Cleveland put together a heroic rally, tied the game and had the winning run on second base. Unfortunately, the excitement was too much for the drunken fans.

First, a drunk ran on the field trying to steal an outfielder’s hat. When the player tripped, Billy Martin ran onto the field to protect him. He was followed by his team, many of whom were carrying bats. That prompted drunken fans to pour out onto the fields with weapons of their own. They had knives, chains and parts of stadium seats that had been torn apart. Cleveland television cut away from live broadcasting. In self defense the Indian team ran out from their dugout wielding bats. Fights broke out everywhere. Fans threw metal seats onto the field. The bases were ripped out and actually stolen.

The head umpire, hand and head bleeding from wounds, called the game off. Police had to restore order. The Indians had to forfeit the game. Not surprisingly, future unlimited 10 cent beer nights were changed to a 4 drink maximum.

The next time you brainstorm a good basic question is – what will most likely happen if we do this “great idea”.