For years, baseball owners have tried filling their ballpark seats with wacky and wild promotions. In addition to increasing revenue, promotions are meant to give the fans a memorable experience.
But it doesn’t always work out that way.
You can’t talk about baseball promotions without mentioning Bill Veeck. Inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1991, Veeck was a franchise owner as well as a promoter.
Veeck, who in 1951 gave 3-foot-7 Eddie Gaedel an at-bat for the St. Louis Browns, is known for the infamous 1979 promotion Disco Demolition Night, where the White Sox and the city of Chicago wanted to be the first to put an end to disco. Fans that brought disco records were admitted at a discount, but the event didn’t go as planned.
With a double header, the plan was to destroy a pile of disco records in between games. The demolition of the records created a hole in the outfield, and then thousands of fans rushed the field. Needless to say, the second scheduled game had been canceled.
Minor League baseball teams don’t have the talent you’ll find in the majors, so promoters sometimes try really hard to bring people in. Usually the games are fun outings for the entire family, with most promotions landing fair. Sometimes, however, they can land into foul territory.
1. Mocking of Tim Tebow
In June, the Charleston RiverDogs, a Class Single-A minor league team from Charleston, South Carolina, affiliated with the New York Yankees, played against the Columbia Fireflies, a Class A minor league team from Columbia, South Carolina, affiliated with the New York Mets.
This would have been a normal minor league baseball game, if not for the celebrity playing for the Fireflies — Heisman Trophy winner and former NFL quarterback Tim Tebow. His Christian faith was the focus of some stunts by the home team. Every time Tebow was at bat, the “Hallelujah Chorus” played through the stadium.
FILE – Former NFL quarterback Tim Tebow warms up before baseball practice for the Arizona Fall League, Monday, Oct. 10, 2016, in Scottsdale, Ariz. (Rick Scuteri, Associated Press)
The RiverDogs’ mascot also wore John 3:16 eyeblack, similar to what Tebow did during his college football days at Florida. The mascot was also “Tebowing,” the term coined for when Tebow takes a knee to pray.
The team later issued an apology.
2. Ogden Raptors ‘Hourglass Appreciation Night’
Also in June, the Ogden Raptors, a minor league team in the Pioneer League, affiliated with the Los Angeles Dodgers organization, came under fire by national media for a press release announcing “Hourglass Appreciation Night.” A cartoon image of three women in bikinis was included. The team later said the press release was “unauthorized” and the promotion never happened.
3. Orem Owlz ‘Caucasian Heritage Night’
In 2015, the Orem Owlz, a Pioneer League team affiliated with the Los Angeles Angels, planned a “Caucasian Heritage Night.” As you can guess, members of the public were appalled, and the event was canceled.
4. ‘Mike Tyson Ear Night’
Back in 1997, Class A advanced minor league baseball team the Fort Myers Miracles, affiliated with the Minnesota Twins, hosted a “Mike Tyson Ear Night.” Fans in attendance were given plastic ears, a reference to Mike Tyson’s boxing match with Evander Holyfield, in which Tyson bit off part of Holyfield’s ear — though it had nothing to do with baseball.
FILE – Heavyweight champion Mike Tyson, right, speak at a news conference while advisor Donald Trump looks in New York, Tuesday, July 27, 1988 after announcing a settlement between Tyson and his manager, Bill Cayton. Tyson, who had sued to break his contract with Cayton, reached an ou-of-court settlement under which Cayton will remain his manager until Feb. 11, 1992. (Richard Drew, Associated Press)
5. ‘Toilet Seat Cushion Night’
Back in 2007, the Hudson Valley Renegades, a minor league Class A short season team located in Fishkill, New York, affiliated with the Tampa Bay Rays, hosted a “Toilet Seat Cushion Night.” Those in attendance were given toilet seats as they walked through the gates.
6. ‘Awful Night’
More than once, the Altoona Curve, a minor league Double-A affiliate of the Pittsburgh Pirates, located in Altoona, Pennsylvania, has hosted “Awful Night.” The purpose of this promotion was to give fans a dreadful experience at the ballpark. In the past, such spectacles have included fans receiving sporks (only sporks) as they entered through the gates, PA announcers mispronouncing the names of the players on purpose, and horrendous music coming from the speakers.
1. ‘SagerStrong Night’
On July 21, the Daytona Tortugas, a Class-A advanced minor league team from Daytona Beach, Florida, affiliated with the Cincinnati Reds, hosted a “SagerStrong Night” in memory of reporter Craig Sager, who died from acute myeloid leukemia in December.
FILE – Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert (27) and other Jazz players wear colorful jerseys in honor of Craig Sager as they are introduced before NBA basketball against Dallas in Salt Lake City on Friday, Dec. 16, 2016. (Ravell Call, Deseret News)
Sager is remembered for wearing colorful suits during his interviews with NBA players. At the 2016 ESPYs, Sager won the Jimmy V Perseverance Award for his battle with cancer. The Tortugas decided to honor his legacy by having the team wear jerseys inspired from the suit he wore at the ESPYs, and the jerseys were auctioned off after the game for the SagerStrong Foundation. NBA veteran Vince Carter threw out the ceremonial first pitch.
2. ‘George Costanza Night’
Having previously held a promotion that ended up in foul territory in 1997, the Fort Myers Miracle hosted another promotional night that landed fair in 2003. The team had a “George Costanza Night,” based on an episode from “Seinfeld” in which Costanza decided to do everything opposite for the day to find good luck.
The Miracle tried out Costanza’s approach with opposite day by paying customers to park their cars, having the men use the women’s restrooms and vice versa, wearing road uniforms, starting the game in the ninth inning and ending in the first inning, and having the players ask the fans for autographs.
3. ‘Bellies & Baseball: A Salute to Pregnancy’
In 2009, the Brooklyn Cyclones, a minor league Class A short season team located in Brooklyn, New York, affiliated with the New York Mets, hosted a “Bellies & Baseball: A Salute to Pregnancy” promotional game. Festivities included with admission were Lamaze on the lawn, a craving station with common foods pregnant women crave, and a pregnancy pitch. Also, any woman who gave birth at the ballpark that day had the chance to win season Cyclones tickets for life — but we’re not sure if anyone won that prize.
4. ‘Harry Potter Night’
“Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone”
In 2007, the final Harry Potter book was released. To celebrate, the Connecticut Defenders, a minor league team based in Norwich, Connecticut, and a Double-A affiliate of the San Francisco Giants, held a “Harry Potter Night.” Parents and their children were inspired to don wizarding clothing, and magical activities and games were a part of the celebration. Clips from the Harry Potter movies were shown on the big screen following the game, and a Harry Potter trivia game was available to play. When the clock struck midnight, the fans who had ordered their copies of the last installment received the book.