NO BEER, NO BALLGAME

Ken Hoffman relives the horror of a beer-free MLB game

Photo by Ken Hoffman

This article originally appeared on CultureMap.

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 ball park, 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.

Continue reading on CultureMap to learn about the Astros' policy on beer sales and some tips from Ken Hoffman on how to behave at a graduation.

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Altuve's homer starting the scoring for Houston on Friday night. Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images
After a solid showing to take the three of the four-game series in Arlington against the Rangers to start the week, the Astros returned home for three against the Diamondbacks in a weekend series. They would have a slow start to the opener but would ultimately come away victorious.

Final Score (10 innings): Astros 4, Diamondbacks 3

Astros' Record: 87-60, first in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Ryne Stanek (3-4)

Losing Pitcher: Tyler Clippard (1-1)

Bielak makes the impromptu start

With Luis Garcia having to move his start ahead by a day on Thursday instead of Friday with Framber Valdez's finger cut, Brandon Bielak made a start for Houston in the opener against Arizona. He didn't go as deep as he probably would have wanted and certainly ventured out of his comfort zone with traffic on the bases.

He loaded the bases in the top of the first, allowing a single and two walks, but was able to strand all three to keep it a scoreless game. He rebounded with a 1-2-3 second, but he dealt with a threat again in the third as back-to-back singles pressured him to start the inning. He would get back-to-back strikeouts, but that's as far as he would go as Houston moved on to Blake Taylor. Taylor got the final out of the third on one pitch, then erased a two-out double in the top of the fourth.

Altuve breaks up the no-no with a go-ahead homer

Brooks Raley took over in the top of the fifth, but in his three batters, he faced allowed a single while getting two outs before Cristian Javier took over to end the frame. Javier allowed the first run of the game in the top of the sixth, a leadoff solo homer to Kole Calhoun to put the Diamondbacks in front 1-0 before he finished the inning.

Madison Bumgarner didn't allow a single hit to the Astros through the first five and two-thirds innings. He allowed a one-out walk in the bottom of the sixth, which proved costly as Jose Altuve would get the first knock of the game for Houston, a two-run go-ahead homer. Phil Maton was the next reliever for the Astros in the top of the seventh, maintaining the new one-run lead by erasing a leadoff single.

Astros get the win in extras

The Diamondbacks tied it up in the top of the eighth against Kendall Graveman, getting a leadoff single followed by a walk, then later an RBI single to knot things up 2-2. Houston stranded a runner in the bottom of the eighth, then brought in Ryan Pressly, who tossed a 1-2-3 top of the ninth to keep the game tied.

Despite getting the winning run in scoring position with a leadoff ground-rule double by Jason Castro to start the bottom of the ninth, they would strand it as the game went to extras. Arizona scored their free runner in the top of the tenth, getting a sac fly to move it to third then going in front on an RBI single.

The Astros matched that and more in the bottom of the inning, moving their runner to third on a lineout to start the frame, followed by an intentional walk to Yordan Alvarez. Jake Meyers tied the game with an RBI single, then after another walk to load the bases, Chas McCormick was hit by a pitch to bring in the winning run, moving the Astros closer to clinching their playoff berth.

Up Next: The middle game of this three-game set will have a start time of 6:10 PM Central on Saturday. Tyler Gilbert (2-2, 3.15 ERA) is expected to make a start for Arizona, while Lance McCullers Jr. (12-4, 3.12 ERA) will be on the mound for Houston.

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