My grandmother, in the midst of enjoying a cold brew at home a few years back, was in her early 90s when she took a big sip and delivered this unforgettable line: ?When it?s hot outside and you?re really thirsty, there?s only two things you want: beer ? and beer.?
Beer and beer. Two please. Double fisted. That?s how everyone leaves the cashier tonight at Cashman Field. Because at each 51s home game on Thursday nights, two bucks gets you two beers. And that?s really the only way to look at it, because it might technically be ?Dollar Beer Night,? but nobody stands in line to order just one.
Tonight I am in a bigger-than-average crowd of 5,559 as the 51s play the Reno Aces. Even with the kegs being ready when the gates opened at 6 p.m., most fans are late making their way into the stadium for the 7:05 start, as ticket lines are usually longer on Thursday nights than they are for other home games.
?It?s really the only night of the week where our demographic [age] drops a bit,? 51s general manager Chuck Johnson says. ?Instead of being from 18 to 54, we get a strong 21-to-30 age group. And it?s walk-up traffic; it?s not an advanced-sale business. The people who come out, come out day of game, and they come with four or five friends.?
The 51s are well-equipped to give fans what they?ve come for, with two beer stands down each line on the concourse and dollar beers available at the regular concession stands. Plus, the cups fill up at high speed, thanks to magnetic bottom-loading dispensers.
?We decided that opening it up would be better for business?and for the fan experience,? Johnson says. ?If the fans are coming out for Dollar Beer Night, let?s not have them waiting in line for 2? innings.?
Of course, no one comes to Dollar Beer Night to see a pitching duel. Zeros on the scoreboard mean quick innings. Lots of hits and runs mean longer innings. And longer innings mean more time for dollar beers, with service lasting until the first pitch of the eighth inning. There?s plenty for both 51s fans and beer drinkers to celebrate tonight, as Las Vegas takes an 8-0 lead after two innings, and extends it to 11-0 in the fourth.
The 51s are just one of a few minor league teams that still have a regular dollar-beer promotion. And with a pretty good track record, too. Definitely nothing coming anywhere close to the infamous Ten Cent Beer Night in Cleveland 39 years ago, when the Indians were forced to forfeit their game against the Texas Rangers after inebriated fans, many of whom showed up to the game hammered, stormed the field in the ninth inning. This followed several incidents throughout the contest, including firecrackers being thrown into the Texas bullpen, a bottle of Thunderbird just missing Rangers first baseman Mike Hargrove?s head as he took the field, and a naked man running on the field and sliding into second base.
Tonight, for better or worse, the fans at Cashman Field are well-behaved as they watch the 51s cruise to an 11-1 win. All is calm, almost as if it weren?t Dollar Beer Night at all. But then, with the game lacking drama in the bottom of the eighth, a group of young male Brits sitting down the first-base line captures the remaining crowd?s attention by beginning to stack empty beer cups. Other fans bring their cups over, helping to build a stack that reaches more than 7 feet tall. As one of the wig-wearing Brits attempts to balance the stack with one hand, the crowd roars with delight when the tower of plastic finally topples over.
Call it family-friendly entertainment, Las Vegas style. And speaking of family, there are five more Dollar Beer Nights at Cashman this season, two coming up this month. My grandmother is 97 now, and still lives in Henderson?and she still likes the same two things when she?s thirsty and it?s hot outside.
I think I?ll see what she?s doing next Thursday.