Top 10 minor league promotions

There are many ways baseball teams try to lure fans to the ballparks. They give away bobbleheads, offer package deals for families, or, the most recent trend, feature an all-you-can-eat section. But not all the ideas to drive attendance work as expected.

One thing most baseball fans enjoy is a cold beer on a hot summer. So, 35 years ago, the Cleveland Indians tried to capitalize on this thirst by offering the promotion, “Nickel Beer Night.” Clearly they didn’t think that one through. While they did draw a crowd of over 25,000 people, at just five-cents-a-beer, it didn’t take long for the fans to become unruly. The Indians eventually had to forfeit the game once the empty bottles began to rain down on the field.

Lately we have seen the minor league teams become the innovators of the best and most unique promotions. In fact, it took a minor league team to be able to pull off Nickel Beer Night without a single arrest. This past Saturday, the Lake County Captains, a single A affiliate of the Indians, celebrated the 35th anniversary of that infamous night by having their own Nickel Beer Night. But beer was only five cents for an hour before the start of the game, the cups were only 5 ounces, and fans were limited to just two drinks each.

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In Pictures: Top 10 minor league promotions

Nickel Beer Night is just the tip of the iceberg for the crazy promotions minor league teams pull off every year, with events ranging from Ted Williams Popsicle Night to a liposuction giveaway to a game that nobody attended.

Ted Williams died in 2002 and was cryogenically frozen, despite much controversy and fighting within the family shortly thereafter. So, naturally, the best way to honor his memory was with a Popsicle Night, which is just what the Bisbee Copper Kings did on June 3, 2003.

The Arizona team based in the Independent League gave popsicles to the first 500 fans that entered the game. Surely not how The Splendid Splinter would want to be honored, but chances are the fans enjoyed the cool treat during the hot summer.

But if a popsicle has too many calories, then maybe it is time for a visit to the Mahoning Valley Scrappers (class A affiliate of the Cleveland Indians) for their give away: Free liposuction!

That’s right; on July 8, five finalists were invited down to the field where one lucky lady was awarded liposuction from Valley Surgical Arts. To make things even better, this giveaway also happened to occur on an “All You Can Eat” Wednesday, so the winner could put away hot dogs and Cracker Jacks with no worries throughout the game.

All these promotions have the same common goal: pack the stands. Well, all except one. How about setting the record for fewest fans in attendance at a professional baseball game? That’s exactly what the Charleston RiverDogs (class A South Atlantic League affiliate of the New York Yankees) did in 2002, when they held “Nobody Night,” with fans intentionally locked out of the game until the fifth inning, when it became official.

Barred from entering, hundreds of fans spent the first half of the game peering over the outfield fence, or enjoyed themselves at a party outside the park, hosted by the RiverDogs, with cheap food and beer. The regular contests that normally took place between innings continued, with employees and players participating instead of fans, and all the runs were scored while the stands sat empty.

For one night at least, the players on the RiverDogs got to know what it’s like to be a Major Leaguer – assuming they play for the Florida Marlins, of course.

The top five:

1. Auctioned at-bat: Slideshow
2. Silent nights: Slideshow
3. Awful night: Slideshow
4. Nobody night: Slideshow
5. Liposuction giveaway: Slideshow
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In Pictures: Top 10 minor league promotions


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Updated Thursday, Aug 6, 2009