Hoffman's Houston
no beer, no ballgame

Ken Hoffman relives the horror of a beer-free Major League Baseball game

Ken Hoffman relives the horror of a beer-free pro baseball game

Ken Hoffman Cleveland Indians delay game
What's a baseball game without a cold brew? Photo by Ken Hoffman

I've never missed Minute Maid Park more than last weekend, when I sort of attended an Indians’ baseball game at Progressive Field in Cleveland. I was in The Land for my nephew Wilson Young’s graduation from St. Ignatius High School, home of the fightin’ Wildcats. Oliver Luck, CEO of Vince McMahon’s second coming of the XFL football league and father of Houston Texans’ nemesis Andrew Luck, went to St. Ignatius.

A few of us decided to sneak in an Indians game during graduation weekend. We arrived at downtown’s Progressive Field around 3:30 pm for the scheduled 4 pm start. The big scoreboard had a message: “Today’s first pitch is delayed. Stay tuned for more details.” Delayed for what? It was cloudy, okay, but no rain was falling. But a few bands of precipitation were in the forecast, so the Indians decided to wait for the rain to pass before starting the game. Making plans based on a weather forecast … gee, you can’t go wrong with that.

I grabbed a brisket sandwich on the main concourse — no comparison to the Jackson Street BBQ stand at Minute Maid Park, and prepared to sit out the “rain” delay. Five o’clock, no rain. Six o’clock, still no baseball. At last a message appeared on the scoreboard: “First pitch at 6:55 pm.”

Where's the brew?
Around 8 pm, heading into the fourth inning, we had enough. As we left, stadium workers asked if we wanted our hands stamped, so we could re-enter the ballpark, like at Chuck E. Cheese’s. Wilson’s dad explained, that’s so people can leave, have a few beers at a neighborhood bar, and return to the stadium for the rest of the game. I asked him, “Why do people have to leave to drink beer?” He said, “they stopped selling beer in the stadium an hour ago.” Huh? That would have been the first inning.

Here’s a tricky deal about baseball in Cleveland and other cities where the ballpark doesn’t have a roof. What happens if a game is delayed for several hours, with fans just sittin’ and waitin’ and drinkin’ beer?  They’d be smashed even before the game started, like the two drunks behind us who kept screaming advice at Indians manager Terry Francona. They never stopped. It got old, and very annoying, fast.

Yes, there are beer policies
Here’s the beer policy in Cleveland. The stadium will sell beer until the last out of the seventh inning, or three hours after the originally scheduled start time, whichever comes first. Since the game started at 6:55 pm, essentially the game was played without any beer sold.

For some people, baseball ain’t baseball without a cold beer. Several years ago, my buddy Reg “Third Degree” Burns and I went to a Yankees game in The Bronx. We bought bleacher tickets from a scalper outside the ball park. When we got to our seats, we discovered that our section of the bleachers was a “family zone” with no alcohol allowed. I didn’t see Third Degree again until the subway ride back to Manhattan.

I asked Mat Drain, the Duke of Dollar Dogs for Aramark, which runs all the concession stands at Minute Maid Park, what’s the policy on beer sales at Astros games?

“I’m lucky, we don’t have to worry about rain delays and postponements because of the roof. We sell beer until the last out of the seventh inning in most areas of the stadium. We sell beer until the game is over on the club level,” Drain said.

St. Ignatius graduation had two highlights: the ceremony was held at Public Hall in Cleveland, where the Beatles performed on September 15, 1964. The opening acts were: the Bill Black Combo, the Exciters, Clarence “Frogman” Henry, and Jackie DeShannon. Tickets were $4.50 to $6.50. It was a wooly show as fans rushed the stage during “All My Loving,” forcing the Beatles to lay down their instruments and run for cover backstage.

During the 10-minute work stoppage, John Lennon told a local deejay, “This has never happened to us before. We have never had a show stopped. These policemen are a bunch of amateurs.”

The other bright spot was the valedictorian’s speech. He urged students to keep their eye on the ball and not let small obstacles get in the way of chasing big dreams. The valedictorian: “As my father’s favorite musician, Bruce Springsteen, said: ‘You can’t start a fire worrying about your little world falling apart.’”

That’s some pretty lofty wisdom, way more useful than what I laid on students when I was the commencement speaker at Sharpstown High and Waltrip High graduation.

I told the students, “In the future, when you go out for dinner with friends, and everybody is going to split the bill … you order the lobster.” I’m pretty certain that the Boss never addressed bill-splitting in one of his songs.

One last thing if you’re attending a graduation. The principal likely will ask, “When we call the students' names to come forward for their diploma, please do not applaud for any individual student. At the end we can have one big round of applause for all the students.”

So do not holler when your student’s name is called. It’s rude and unfair to the next student whose name may not be heard over your inane “Way to go, Jimmy! Woo hoo!” But mostly, you look like a jackass and you’re really embarrassing your child.