The Weirdest MLB Stadium Events

From Racing Sausages to the Freeze to promotion nights gone wrong.

When attending a baseball game, the action is the main reason we go. But aside from baseball, we want to be entertained. So clubs come up with a variety of ways to keep fans engaged, whether it is between innings or a whole different style of ball. Then there are the promos that go sideways. Here are a few of the weird things that go on at ballparks.

 

Famous Racing Sausages

 

What started out as a simple virtual race on the scoreboard of an aging stadium in the early 1990s is now a phenomenon that has been copied (sometimes poorly) by clubs around MLB and the minors. We are talking about the Famous Racing Sausages. The Milwaukee Brewers transitioned the daily scoreboard race into an appearance by the original three sausages — Bratwurst, Polish and Italian — on select Sundays. The race started on the scoreboard and finished with the Racing Sausages bursting out of the left-field corner and breaking the tape near the home dugout.

In the final season at the old County Stadium in 2000, the Racing Sausages became an everyday thing and were now four after the addition of Hot Dog in the mid-1990s. They were so popular that not only did fans want to make guest appearances inside the costumes, but players and broadcast personalities did, too. And not just from the home team.

The competitors increased to five with the full-time addition of Chorizo in 2007. Now on Sundays, there are the mini Racing Sausages that race, with kids in smaller costumes getting tagged in by the bigger sausages and running the rest of the course.

Other teams have taken the idea of the Famous Racing Sausages and put their own twist on it. The Washington Nationals have the racing presidents, while the Pittsburgh Pirates have pierogies.

There was one notorious moment involving the Brewers’ sausages. In 2003, Pirates first baseman Randall Simon whacked the Italian with a bat as it passed the visiting dugout. He was suspended for three games and fined by the sheriff’s department for disorderly conduct.

 

The Freeze

 

This is that event to shut your drunk friends up. You know, the one who says, “I can do that” when you know they obviously can’t. We’re talking about The Freeze, the guy who dresses in a track bodysuit, wears ski goggles, and races fans on the warning track at Atlanta Braves games.

The Freeze, known in real life as Nigel Talton, is challenged by a fan to run from the left-field foul line around the warning track in the outfield to the right-field foul line. The key to this is the fan gets a monster head start, with The Freeze often not starting until the challenger gets to straightaway left. What seems like an insurmountable advantage is methodically cut down by The Freeze. After all, Talton is a former college track at Iowa Wesleyan and then Shorter in Georgia. He had Olympic aspirations, but his personal best was 10.47 seconds in the 100 meters (seventh place at the 2022 U.S. track championships was 9.98 seconds).

Talton had been working on the grounds crew for the Braves since 2012 when he stepped in and participated in the team’s stolen base challenge late in the 2016 season. That is where a fan runs from one foul line to grab a base in center field and run back. To win, the fan has to do it in 20 seconds. Talton did it in about 13 seconds. That is when the team approached him about The Freeze idea, which became reality in the 2017 season.

The races are fantastic. Fans have various reactions to their seemingly big lead and suddenly being passed by The Freeze.

 

Savannah Bananas

 

They have worn kilts while playing baseball. Batters are often escorted to the plate by the team band. There is dancing between pitches. Players empty the dugout and go to the stands and high-five fans after scoring.

Welcome to Banana Ball.

That is what the Savannah Bananas call their brand of baseball. The team, located in Georgia, launched in February 2016 and quickly trended on Twitter and had segments done on national television. Originally part of the Coastal Plain League — a summer college league — the Bananas had 35 players drafted and won three Pettit Cup Championships as winner of the league playoffs.

In 2022, the Bananas left the CPL and had two teams that traveled the country to show off its brand of ball. A few former MLB players, including Bill “Spaceman” Lee, have played with the Bananas.

Some of the creative rules are:

 The team that scores the most runs in an inning gets one point, except for the ninth inning where every run scored is a point. If a team has five points and the lead at the end of any inning, that team wins.

 Games have a 2-hour time limit.

 Foul balls caught by fans are outs.

Instead of walks, there are sprints. After a fourth ball is thrown, the batter can sprint around the bases. The ball must be touched by every fielder other than the pitcher and catcher before the batter can be attempted to be put out.

 No bunting. Any player who bunts is automatically ejected.

If you want fun, Banana Ball is what you are seeking.

 

Disco Demolition Night

 

There have been plenty of ballpark promos that didn’t go the way the team thought they would, but nothing like what happened at Disco Demolition Night. It happened on July 12, 1978, at Comiskey Park, the home of the Chicago White Sox. The White Sox at that time were owned by Bill Veeck, who was known for outlandish promotions.

Disco, as you might imagine, was a controversial form of music in the late 1970s and the point of this event was to blow up a bunch of disco records — the vinyl kind — between games of a doubleheader between the White Sox and Detroit Tigers. A crowd of 47,495 filled Comiskey, many just there to watch the spectacle that was to take place after the first game. After all, the White Sox were averaging around 15,000 fans per game. It helped that admission was just 98 cents, a promo price based on the local radio station WLUP (97.9 FM). Shock jock Steve Dahl was at the center of this night. He had been fired from a radio station the previous Christmas Eve as it shifted formats from rock to disco.

Many more people snuck into the stadium after the gates were closed and estimates have more than 50,000 people (as many as 55,000) at Comiskey. After the Tigers won the opening game 4-1 in which several players were dodging records and other debris thrown by the rowdy fans, the planned festivities took place. Dahl encouraged people to bring disco records to the stadium to be destroyed. With more people attending than expected, the containers quickly overflowed, so people took the records to their seats as they watched the first game.

Dahl was dressed in military fatigues and a helmet and took the field in a Jeep. The crate of records was put in center field and detonated by explosives. The explosion triggered fans to pour out of the stands and rip up the turf. Fans battled the overwhelmed police at the game. The umpires eventually ruled that the second game could not be played, with American League president Lee McPhail ruling the next day that the White Sox had to forfeit that game. Police made 39 arrests for disorderly conduct.

“It just got out of hand,” Veeck said in a great understatement.

 

10-Cent Beer Night

 

Call this one the perfect storm coming together on one night. The Cleveland Indians held a promo on June 4, 1974, where fans could purchase cups of beer for 10 cents (they normally cost 65 cents at the time). Each purchase was limited to six beers, but there was no limit as to how many times a person could make a purchase. There is also some good background about what the good folks of Cleveland were going through at the time, which was a likely contributor.

The other part of this equation was what had happened previously between the Indians and the Texas Rangers just six days earlier in Arlington, Texas. That is when a benches-clearing brawl happened after the Indians’ Lenny Randle slid hard into second baseman Jack Brohamer trying to break up a double play. Retaliation took place in the eighth inning when Indians pitcher Milt Wilcox threw between Randle’s legs. There were legit punches thrown. As the brawl ended, Rangers fans then pelted Indians players with food and other items. No players were ejected.

Now back in Cleveland. The Tuesday night game drew 25,134 fans, more than twice the number expected. Things started going wrong early. Fans had brought firecrackers to the game and were setting them off in the stands. In the second inning, a woman jumped onto the field and went to the Indians’ on-deck circle, where she promptly bared her breasts to the crowd before trying to kiss an umpire. Streakers were plentiful. Rangers manager Billy Martin, after making a mound visit, was the target of angry fans, who threw beer at him and then sent fireworks into the Texas bullpen.

At one point, the public address announcer asked fans not to throw things onto the field. So what did the drunk fans do? They immediately threw a bunch of stuff onto the field.

How does this story get stranger? The Indians trailed 5-1 early on, but were rallying in the bottom of the ninth. They tied the game and had the winning run on second base. A fan ran onto the field and grabbed the hat of outfielder Jeff Burroughs, who would go on to win the AL MVP that year. The Rangers had enough and, led by a bat-wielding Martin, emptied the dugout and chased after the fan to protect Burroughs. Fans, armed with an assortment of weapons (knives, chains, etc.), jumped out of the stands and started attacking the Rangers’ players. In the Indians dugout, manager Ken Aspromonte ordered his players to grab bats and defend the Texas players against his team’s own fans.

Fans stole bases from the field and forced the teams to retreat to their clubhouses, locking the door that led to the field. The rioting fans continued for about 20 minutes. Realizing there was no way the game could be resumed, the umpires forfeited the game in Texas’ favor. Nine fans were arrested.

The Indians held another 10-cent beer night the next month, with 41,848 fans attending. No major incidents were reported.

 

Photo by David J. Griffin/Icon Sportswire | Adapted by Doug Carlin (@Bdougals on Twitter)

Steve Drumwright

Steve Drumwright is a lifelong baseball fan who retired as a player before he had the chance to be cut from the freshman team in high school. He recovered to become a sportswriter and have a successful journalism career at newspapers in Wisconsin and California. Follow him on Twitter @DrummerWrites.

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