Friday night, the Philadelphia Phillies honored Chase Utley before their game. The ceremony was capped off when actor Rob McElhenney walked onto the field to receive the ceremonial first pitch from Utley. Ultimately, this exchange proved to be one of the most creative baseball promotions of the season.
McElhenney plays Mac in the sitcom, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, and Mac confesses his wish to have a catch with Utley in the 2009 episode, The World Series Defense. The team paid homage to this with the first pitch.
The New York Mets are doing something similar on July 5th. That night, they will host a promotion centering around Jerry Seinfeld reuniting with Keith Hernandez, who appeared in the famous show, Seinfeld.
Hernandez appeared in the two-part episode, The Boyfriend, which aired in February of 1992. The promotion is to honor the thirtieth anniversary of the airing of the show’s pilot.
Creative baseball promotions can be hard to come by. They do not need to be centered around a popular sitcom, but they need to be something more memorable than a simple giveaway. It should be something that fans will remember long after the game takes place, regardless of who wins and loses.
With that in mind, it is time to look back at the five most creative baseball promotions in MLB history.
Disco Demolition Night
Bill Veeck was responsible for creating some of the craziest yet creative baseball promotions in history. None are as famous as the night that forced his Chicago White Sox to forfeit the second game of a double header in 1979.
As the national opinion of music began to shift further away from disco, Veeck saw a great opportunity to attract more fans out to Comiskey Park. During the double header against the Detroit Tigers, the team sold 98-cent tickets and told fans to bring all of the disco records that they would like to get rid of.
As a result, the team attempted to blow up crates of the records in between the two games. The issue is that a lot of rambunctious fans showed up looking to celebrate the destruction of their vinyl, rather than watch baseball. Fans poured onto the field to riot after the records were destroyed with order unable to be restored.
The second game was cancelled, resulting in a White Sox forfeit.
10 Cent Beer Night
Veeck’s White Sox weren’t the only team to forfeit a game after a promotion led to on field riots. The same thing happened five years earlier in Cleveland. The Cleveland Indians did ten-cent beer night. Fans were allowed to purchase and consumer as much Stroh’s beer as possible. The promotion was that each eight-ounce drink was only ten cents a piece.
On several occasions, fans ran onto the field, some clothed and some not. Other fans attempted to shoot off fireworks near the dugouts, and stadium seats were ripped from the concrete. Ultimately, fans stormed the field and attacked the teams, who teamed up to fend off the belligerent crowd.
The on-field riots featured professional athletes wielding wooden bats fighting intoxicated fans possessing knives, chains, and the stolen stadium seats. The Indians had to forfeit the game, but the team still had three more ten-cent beer nights scheduled throughout the rest of the season. Because of the results of the inaugural night, the team promptly placed a restriction of four beers per person for the remaining ones.
When talking about creative baseball promotions, Eddie Gaedel has to be mentioned because of just how bizarre the promotion is. The three-foot-seven-inch Gaedel is the shortest player ever to appear in a baseball game, and it is all thanks to one of Bill Veeck’s first crazy promotions.
When Veeck was owner of the St. Louis Browns, he was looking for a way to draw more fans. Veeck turned to the 26-year-old midget because he wanted to show the fans something they would never see again. In between games of a double header, Veeck orchestrated a celebration of the 50th anniversary of American League, and Gaedel pop out of a seven-foot tall cake. As the second started, Frank Saucier stepped to the plate to lead off, but he was called back for a pinch hitter.
Out of the dugout came Gaedel, sporting a jersey with the number 1/8. He approached the plate and took four balls, high, from pitcher Duane Pillette. Just like that, Veeck gave the home crowd the opportunity to watch history because to this day, Eddie Gaedel remains the shortest player in MLB history.
Reggie Jackson‘s five-year stint in New York certainly elevated his stardom. His personality shined through the media. He won two World Series titles and capped off the 1977 series with three home runs on three pitches off three different pitchers in Game Six. This all culminated with the infamous Reggie Bar in 1978.
This candy bar was composed of peanuts dipped in caramel within a chocolate shell. The New York Yankees honored this feat by handing out free samples at their 1978 home opener. While this appears to be an innocent giveaway, it turned into one of the more memorable promotions in baseball history.
Jackson homered during the game, and was greeted by fans throwing their uneaten candy bars onto the field.
Turn Ahead The Clock Night
The Seattle Mariners wanted to be unique in 1998 and they succeeded. The team unveiled their vision of the future when they took on the Kansas City Royals. The idea was intended to be different because of the trend to have ‘turn the clock BACK’ themed nights.
To get things started, James Doohan, who played Scottie in Star Trek, arrived in a DeLorean and threw out the first pitch. In addition, each team wore ‘futuristic’ uniforms. These jerseys, with creative input from Ken Griffey Jr., featured no sleeves but were not tucked in. These were just some of the many ways that the Kingdome was transformed into the stadium of the future that night.
The promotion proved to be so memorable that it was brought back in 2018 for the 20th anniversary.
Promotions can help fill the seats of games that may not be too appealing, but if the promotion can be done as creatively and uniquely as those mentioned above, then they can prove to be remembered for years or even decades to come.
Main Photo: Embed from Getty Images