Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Bizarre Promotions

Some teams will do just about anything to lure fans to the ballpark--especially when attendance is sagging. Desperate times call for desperate measures. Here are two of the most peculiar promotions ever hatched:

The Boston Braves averaged less the 4,000 paying customers per game in a season that saw them go through two managers and finish 25 games below .500. June 22 was "State of Maine Day" at Braves Field with a prize being awarded to the first Boston player who hit a homer. Had outfielder Sid Gordon known what the prize was, he would have thought twice before smashing a 2-run clout over the left field wall in the nightcap of this doubleheader. The Braves lost both games of the twinbill to the Cardinals by the same score--7-2. When representatives from "The Pine Tree State" showed up at the Boston clubhouse to present Gordon with a 100-pound live bear cub, it didn't brighten his day any.

More peculiar yet was the outrageous scheme cooked up by Mike Veeck, son of legendary executive Bill and owner of the Class A Charleston River Dogs of the South Atlantic League. Growing up around the game's preeminent showman, Mike learned a thing or two about piquing the curiosity of fans. Veeck created quite a stir when he announced that the team would hold a drawing for a free vasectomy on Father's day.  Unfortunately, he was forced to scrap the idea when Catholic Bishop David Thompson (a season ticket holder) lodged a formal complaint. That didn't stop Veeck from dreaming up other zany promotions such as hiring mimes to perform instant replays, locking fans out of the stadium in order to set the record for lowest attendance and using pigs to deliver balls to umpires. 

 Veeck is perhaps best known as the mind behind the ill-fated Disco Demolition Night that caused a riot at Comiskey Park in 1979. You can read about this event in my upcoming book Baseball's Most Notorious Personalities: A Gallery of Rogues, which will be released on April 16th. Advance copies can be ordered on Amazon and Barnes & Noble at a dramatically discounted rate.

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