They just don’t forfeit games like they used to, now do they? Yes, I’m guilty of being nostalgic for baseball in the seventies, when ballpark security was less stringent and ballpark promotions were a bit more, shall we say, wacko. Last week, I presented the first part of my interview with former Yankee Rusty Torres, who has been called the "Forrest Gump of baseball forfeits." (Rusty has a few other claims to fame; he’s a member of the Stickball Hall of Fame, was traded for both Bobby Bonds and Frank Robinson, and serves as the president and founder of the charitable organization, Winning Beyond Winning.)
During the 1970s, the speedy, switch-hitting outfielder played in three forfeits, including the final game in the history of the Washington Senators, a game that featured Yankee throwbacks like Thurman Munson, Bobby Murcer, and Horace Clarke. This week, Torres discusses his recollections of the other two forfeited games, one at Municipal Stadium in Cleveland and the other at old Comiskey Park in Chicago.
None of us got hurt [in Washington], not like Ten-Cent Beer night in Cleveland. That one I remember real well. That was in 1973, or 1974 [The game occurred on June 4, 1974.] Now here’s the irony. The Texas Rangers against the Cleveland Indians. You get it, Rangers and Indians, Cowboys and Indians? First we go to Texas, Lenny Randle is almost hit with a pitch. Lenny Randle next time up drags a bunt, which is the old trick. You don’t retaliate by jumping out and starting a fight, you do it the way they did it. Milt Wilcox is coming over [to field the bunt], Lenny comes up with the elbow to the neck. We rumble. And the Texas Rangers fans started throwing beer on us, they started screaming at us. We couldn’t get out of the park, they’re going berserk. I’m still almost a rookie, not playing regularly, I’m on the bench, I feel like a rookie still. OK that’s over with. Now we go back home. I start looking at the newspapers, reading about the home stand, and I see that Texas is coming in about seven days [for a rematch]. I’m looking at the newspapers and I see a picture of a cowboy with guns drawn and a picture of an Indian with a bow and arrow.
I’m not sure exactly, but I blame Bob Short for the one in Washington. I blame the press for this one between the Rangers and the Indians. So they decided to make it Ten-Cent Beer Night in Cleveland [on June 4]. I show up at the stadium early, like I always do. People are out at the stadium already at five o’clock and they’re having ten-cent beers, man. Forget about it. Ninth inning, ninth inning, same thing again. I was on base again at that point [after entering as a pinch-hitter]. The fans then come in and storm the field. To be honest with you, Washington, that was a black eye for baseball. This one was two black eyes for baseball.
And then, of course, Disco Demolition Night, that was unbelievable. You want to hear a little bit about that one? I had a little stint with the Texas Rangers in the minor leagues and then they traded me to Chicago. Now we go to Chicago and they come up with this idea of Disco Demolition. They tell the people to come to the stadium [Comiskey Park] and bring all their disco records because they want to blow them up. For whoever doesn’t like disco. You know what, a lot of people didn’t like disco because that stadium was packed. I played that game—I started in right field that day. So I’m in right field. The first inning, somebody slings a .78 record—you remember those .78 records—it goes right by my head and sticks in the ground. It was always humid there, so that record sticks in the ground. So they announce [over the public address], "Please do not throw records onto the field." You know, they’ll have their fun in between games [when the demolition of records was actually scheduled to take place]. The people calm down, they have their beers. So we play the first game, finish the first game, and then we go inside [the clubhouses]. We’re sitting inside drinking some soda, and then all of a sudden we hear this explosion. It rocked the stadium, right. We jump up. I go outside, and the stadium was full of smoke. When the smoke started clearing, you see about 20,000 people out on the field. But that’s not all of it. The police then come, they come out on horses. It was just unbelievable. Bill Veeck was the creator of that.
Not his best idea.
That was quite an experience. We couldn’t play the second game, of course, because it was forfeited. When everything cleared and the people are getting off the field, we see that they had made a crater in center field that you would not believe. So they interviewed the guy [in charge of the explosion]. The police ask him, "What the heck did you do?" He says, "I used too much dynamite. I used too much gunpowder." It was unbelievable.
Those events [the three forfeits] are not something I would recommend. I don’t think it will happen again. You don’t feed a hungry crowd that way, you don’t advertise [a rivalry] in the newspaper that way because the people will take to it.
And not only that, in Cleveland, we had a guy beating a drum in center field. So that only added to it!
Rusty Torres is the founder and president of Winning Beyond Winning, a charitable non-profit organization dedicated to the career development and education of young athletes. Bruce Markusen, author of MLB.com’s Cooperstown Confidential, can be reached at