Top 10 Most Memorable Promotions in Major League History

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disco-backlash

It’s safe to say that promotional nights these days ain’t quite what they used to be. Back in Bill Veeck’s heyday, owners didn’t just think outside the box – they flat out blew it up, and sometimes literally.

So without further ado, The Sports Bank is proud to present the most memorable promotional nights in Major League history. These are the nights you wish you could’ve attended just to say that you were there, the nights that keep team PR Directors awake at night, the nights that live on forever and ever through because people can’t stop reliving the experience.

By Matt Lindner

10. Mullet Night – Chicago White Sox vs. Oakland A’s, July 30, 2010

Business in the front, party in the back, the Mullet is a true American original. In about a week and a half, the Pale Hose will be celebrating all things Mullet-related, complete with a fireworks show set to “Mullet-style” music. Ironically enough, the presenting sponsor that night? Hair styling chain Great Clips.

9. Car Freshener and Inflatable Air Guitar Giveaway Night – Marlins vs. Rockies, Sun Life Stadium August 2, 2008

There’s really no explanation behind this particular giveaway other than the team likely picked the two most random things they could possibly think of, paired them up and then gave them away. The obvious joke is that while the team on the field may have stunk, at least your ride home from the stadium wouldn’t but that year the Marlins were actually pretty good. The giveaway brought in nearly 6,000 more fans than the rest of that series.

8. ThunderSticks – Angels vs. Giants, Edison International Field of Anaheim, 2002 World Series

Nobody who tuned in to the 2002 Series will ever forget the sound of 50,000 fans banging their inflatable plastic ThunderSticks together, creating a wall of sound that echoed throughout the stadium and our homes alike. However if those sticks produce the same result for other teams that they did for the Angels, many other fans would be more than happy to tolerate the sound – the Angels went on to win that series in 7 games in, you guessed it, Anaheim.

7. Victor Martinez Bobblehead – Indians vs. Tigers, Progressive Field, August 1, 2009

Talk about rubbing the salt into Indians’ fans wounds. A day after trading their star catcher to the Red Sox in a deadline deal, the Indians went ahead with a plan to give away Victor Martinez bobblehead dolls to all fans in attendance. Making things worse – this wasn’t the only Martinez promotional giveaway at the ballpark that week. The team also gave away Martinez-autographed chest protector backpacks just a couple days later. Ouch.

6. Seat Cushions – Cardinals vs. Dodgers, Busch Stadium, April 18, 1987

The intent was to give fans a more comfortable experience to watch the game by sitting on a padded seat. However fans had a different idea. Many of the seat cushions given away at Busch Stadium that day wound up flying through the air and onto the field, forcing umpires to stop the game several times so groundskeepers could clear the field. This one had a happy ending though, as the Redbirds won on a walkoff home run, and those fans who still had cushions flung them skyward like happy college graduates.

dodgers

5. Baseballs – Dodgers vs. Cardinals, Dodger Stadium, August 10, 1995

It wasn’t the giveaway itself that was bad about this promotion so much as what fans did with it. In the bottom of the 9th, Dodgers OF Raul Mondesi got thrown out of the game for arguing balls and strikes with Jim Quick. Manager Tommy Lasorda came to his defense – and so too did the fans. The replica baseballs started raining from the stands and out onto the field, causing umpires to pull both teams from the field and award the Cardinals a forfeit victory, the first in nearly 20 years.

4. Vuvuzelas – Marlins vs. Rays, Sun Life Stadium, June 19, 2010

Seeking to boost the consistently sagging attendance at Sun Life Stadium, the team made an impromptu decision to give away the plastic horns that had become so controversial at the World Cup in South Africa to the first 15,000 fans. The result was a racket, a thunderous hum throughout the game that was. Making things worse? The game went into extra innings. Yikes.

3. Wet T-Shirt Night –Braves vs. Cubs, Fulton County Stadium, May 20, 1977

Yes, this actually happened – we double checked with the brains behind it, then Braves VP of Public Relations Bob Hope. It was part of the team’s College Night series of promotions, which featured mattress stacking competitions and new owner Ted Turner pushing a baseball down the baseline with his nose. More than 40 young co-eds signed up for this postgame contest, which featured nearly as many judges and a battle amongst members of the ground crew for the right to hose down the contestants. The winner? A preacher’s daughter of course. This is the South after all.

10 cent beer night cleveland

2. 10 Cent Beer Night – Indians vs. Rangers, Cleveland Municipal Stadium, June 4, 1974

Bad team + disgruntled fan base + cheap beer = a recipe for disaster. More than 25,000 fans showed up to take advantage for this one-and-done promotion. Fans could buy up to six cups of beer for ten cents at a time. Throughout the game, fans ran out onto the field, fights breaking out in the stands as people continued to get drunker and drunker. Everything came to a head in the 9th inning when a fan jumped out of the stands and stole the hat right off Texas OF Jeff Burroughs’ head, touching off a riot that would cause the umpires to force the Indians to forfeit the game.

disco demolition

1. Disco Demolition Night – White Sox vs. Tigers, Comiskey Park, July 12, 1979

In between games of a doubleheader, Chicago shock jock Steve Dahl officially ushered in the end of the Disco era. Dahl took to the field, blowing up a box of disco records collected from fans who were able to buy tickets for 98 cents each just for donating a record. A crowd estimated at 90,000+ showed up at the historic ballpark that night to watch Disco die, nearly double the stadium’s capacity. After Dahl blew up the records, fans stormed the field, starting fires in the outfield and destroying nearly everything in their path. TV announcer Harry Caray took to the public address system, urging fans in vain to get off the field so the teams could get ready for Game 2. But by that point it was too late – Disco was dead and so too was any chance of the game being played.

Matt Lindner is a contributor to ESPN.com and MLB.com

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