| Beer and Baseball
by Dave Metrillo
Beer and baseball are a match made in heaven. In the early days of the sport a number of the
league’s teams were owned by beer barIons. Jacob Ruppert, whose eponymous family brewery
stretched over a large swath of New York’s Upper East Side and a four-term Congressman,
bought the Yankees in 1915 and was the man who engineered the acquisition of star slugger
Babe Ruth from his Boston rivals—in addition to winning seven World Series titles and building
The St. Louis Cardinals were owned by Anheuser-Busch and the Toronto Blue Jays and the
Baltimore Orioles also had ties to large beer brands. That’s not to mention the Milwaukee
Brewers who, of course, honor the city’s beer industry, including the team’s mascot Bernie
Beer and baseball were not always considered partners though. When the National League
was formed in 1876 alcohol was prohibited from being sold and consumed on baseball grounds.
The rival American Association League saw the NL’s beer ban as an opportunity. Not only was
alcohol allowed at A.A. games, but many of the teams were sponsored or owed by distillers or
brewers. The NL scoffed at the upstart league, referring to it as the Beer and Whiskey League.
One of the more successful teams at leveraging this marketing strategy was the St. Louis
Brown Stockings. Owner Christian Friedrich Wilhelm Von Der Ahe was also a local bar owner.
He installed a beer garden at the Brown’s stadium, Sportsman’s Park, forever connecting beer
with St. Louis baseball, becoming wealthy in the process and proving that beer was a
successful addition to baseballs marketing strategy
When the American Association folded in 1891 several of the teams were absorbed by the
National League which rescinded its ban on alcohol, connecting beer with baseball ever since
(with the exception of the Prohibition era, of course!)
In those days of old, it was not at all unusual for ballplayers to work in saloons during the off-
season. The more affluent (e.g., John McGraw) opened their own establishments. In some
cases, it was possible to go to work for a brewery. When Roger Maris retired from the
Cardinals, Gussie Busch got him a Budweiser distributorship in Central Florida. Tommy
Henrich, in-between coaching stints, was the head man at Red Top Brewing in Cincinnati from
In the second decade of the 20th century, however, beer-related employment was increasingly
rare for ballplayers. A number of states had taken the pledge before the 18th Amendment
Prohibition) was passed in 1919. One suspects that during Prohibition, serious drinkers were
delighted to catch on with Canadian minor league teams. One also wonders about how many
ballplayers spent their off seasons in the employ of bootleggers.
Just as the National League eventually saw the marketing potential of beer many modern teams
have seen the potential of selling craft beer at their ballpark.If you are an Atlanta Braves fan you
have beer to thank, at least in part, for the team moving to Atlanta. Until 1962 the Milwaukee
Braves allowed fans to bring their own unopened beer containers to the ballpark. The bad PR that
sprang up when the team cracked down on this practice, along with some lousy teams in the ‘50s,
led to the eventual move to Atlanta.
Of all the play-by-play announcers in baseball history, perhaps none is more linked with beer than
Harry Caray, who was legendary not just for promoting beer (in addition to Falstaff, he promoted
Griesiedieck and Budweiser for the Cardinals and Old Style for the Cubs) but also for consuming it.
One of the great moments in American baseball/beer history occurred after the 1969 season when
wherein he announced his resignation from the Cardinals.
Perhaps the most famous incident involving baseball and beer happened in Cleveland on June 4,
1974, The idea was simple: Get people to buy tickets to the Rangers/Indians game at Cleveland
Stadium with the promise of 10¢ beers. At no point did anyone stop the initial planning session and
ask, "So what happens when there's a crowd of 40,000 completely hammered people in our
Among the more tame incidents was a woman who flashed the crowd from the on-deck circle, a
father-son team mooning the players, and fans jumping on the field to meet the outfielders. Then, in
the bottom of the ninth, the Indians tied the game, but never got a chance to win. Fans started
throwing batteries, golf balls, cups, and rocks onto the field. The drunk-fest involved more
streakers, base stealers (literally), and fans who stormed the field and attacked the opposing team.
Cleveland players had to wield bats to come to the aid of the Rangers players. Texas was awarded
The American League president forced the franchise to abandon the promotion idea and added this
great understatement: “There was no question that beer played a great part in the affair.”
Oh, if you're interested in going to the stadium with the best beer today a recent study gathered the
beer menus from all 30 MLB stadiums, then used Beer Advocate's rankings to compare them, also
giving weight to beer made within the team's home state and the uniqueness of that beer within
MLB. Because, you know, it's cooler if no other team serves it. The Seattle Mariners scored the
No. 1 overall ranking because they have the most unique beers and the most local beers The
Cincinnati Reds finished second overall, but first in quality, meaning the Reds serve the best beers in
baseball. The rest of the top five: The Cleveland Indians, Pittsburgh Pirates and Baltimore Orioles
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