Down on the farm ...
For truly creative promotions, check out the minor leagues
Posted: Friday July 30, 2004 3:02PM; Updated: Friday July 30, 2004 3:02PM
By Gennaro Filice, SI.com
Bobbleheads and theme nights have become a nice additional incentive to fans of Major League Baseball, but promotions and giveaways have always played a much bigger role in the minor leagues.
Mike Veeck -- part owner of the Saint Paul Saints, Fort Myers Miracle, Hudson Valley Renegades, Sioux Falls Canaries, Charleston Riverdogs and consultant to the Brockton Rox -- has become a poster boy for the outlandish approach to promotions utilized by many minor league franchises.
Following in the footsteps of his father, Hall of Famer Bill Veeck, Mike has gained as much scorn as praise for his eccentric marketing techniques. But Veeck could care less what others, especially so-called baseball purists, think.
"Purists in any form are annoying," Veeck said. "I'm not a believer in the Church of Baseball. It's the great egalitarian church. It's all of ours. The game is the focal point, but if you can make the frosting a little sweeter, why not?"
Over the years, many imaginative minor league promotions have drawn national attention and massive success. Here is a list of the top 10 (five of which were carried out by Mike Veeck's teams) in recent memory:
1. Nobody Night, July 8, 2002
Designed to set the record for professional baseball's lowest attendance (zero), fans were locked out of this Charleston Riverdogs vs. Columbus RedStixx game until the fifth inning, when the game become official.
2. Awful Night, July 14, 2003
Attempting to produce the worst atmosphere ever at a baseball game, the Altoona Curve had music by William Shatner and Milli Vanilli, a gate giveaway of a 12-inch square of bubble wrap, pregame autograph sessions with non-celebrities, batting averages listed as "failed averages" (a .300 hitter had a .700 average) and a special presentation to the 1962 Mets -- baseball's worst team ever.
3. Silent Night, July 14, 2003
The Charleston Riverdogs went for another record against the Capital City Bombers when they tried to play the quietest game ever. For the first five innings, there was no talking. Fans wore duct tape over their mouths and held placards that read "YEAH!," "BOO!" and "HEY BEER MAN!" Also, ushers were replaced by librarians and golf marshals held up "Quiet Please" signs.
4. Pre-planned Funeral Night, Aug. 16, 2003
The Hagerstown Suns gave away a full pre-paid funeral valued at $6,500 to one (un)lucky fan. The package included embalming, a casket and funeral home use, as well as a death certificate. Two-thousand fans entered the contest.
5. Auctioned At-Bat, May 14, 2004
The St. Paul Saints sold off an at-bat on eBay, drawing a winning bid of $5,601. The winner, Los Angeles resident Marc Turndorf, popped out in his auctioned at-bat. But the Saints manager liked Turndorf so much, he had him start the next game. Unfortunately, Turndorf went 0-for-4.
6. Richard Nixon Bobblehead Night, June 17, 2004
The Nashua Pride decided to commemorate the 32nd anniversary of the Watergate break-in by giving out 1,000 Nixon bobbleheads. Anyone named Woodward or Bernstein got in free, and there was 18 1/2 minutes of silence recognizing the gap in the Watergate tape.
7. Ted Williams Popsicle Night, June 3, 2003
When Williams' body was cryogenically frozen, the Bisbee-Douglas Copper Kings gave popsicles to the first 500 fans.
8. Corky Night, June 5, 2003
After Sammy Sosa's corked bat incident last season, the Fort Myers Miracle gave out sheets of cork to the first 505 (the same number of home runs Sosa had in his career at that point) fans. The Miracle also gave free entrance to anyone whose name included Corky, Sammy or Sosa.
9. Who Wants to Be a Turkish Millionaire?, 2002
The Nashua Pride used to give away a million Turkish lira (worth about $1.16) every night to fans who could answer questions of varying difficulty.
10. George Costanza Night, Aug. 2003
The Fort Worth Miracle's tribute to the Seinfeld character commemorated Costanza's innate ability to do things opposite of the norm. Fans were paid to park and the scoreboard ran backwards from the ninth inning to the first.