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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Houston couldn't keep up

Astros fall to Blue Jays as Toronto gets homer-happy

Houston's bats couldn't keep up with Toronto's Saturday night. Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

With an offensive clinic in the opener on Friday night, which helped them handily defeat the Blue Jays, the Astros returned to Minute Maid Park Saturday with a chance to secure another series. Toronto had other plans, though, reversing roles with Houston by getting big home runs to even the series.

Final Score: Blue Jays 8, Astros 4

Astros' Record: 17-16, third in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Steven Matz (5-2)

Losing Pitcher: Cristian Javier (3-1)

Toronto flips the script and turns on their offense against Javier

Toronto flipped the script from the night before early in this middle game of the series, dealing damage to Cristian Javier, who so far in 2021 had been able to limit his amount of earned runs. After retiring the first four batters he faced, a one-out walk in the top of the second set up the Blue Jays' first hit of the night, a two-run home run by Cavan Biggio, giving them a 2-0 lead over Houston.

After a leadoff home run made it a 3-0 score, Javier would deal with the fallout of more walks in the top of the third, issuing two to set up a two-out two-RBI double to give the Jays a commanding 5-0 advantage. Javier would battle back and complete five full innings, getting one out into the sixth before a walk would prompt Dusty Baker to make the call to the bullpen. His final line: 5.1 IP, 4 H, 5 ER, 4 BB, 8 K, 2 HR, 91 P.

Alvarez keeps mashing as Houston tries to claw back into it

Javier would exit with at least some runs on the board in support of him, with Yordan Alvarez hitting a two-run opposite-field homer in the bottom of the fourth to cut the lead to three runs. Alvarez accounted for another run in the next inning, coming through with an RBI-single to make it 5-3, which is where the game stood as Andre Scrubb would take over in the top of the sixth.

Scrubb finished that inning for Javier and returned for a 1-2-3 seventh to keep it a two-run game. Bryan Abreu was the next reliever, and he, too, was able to retire the Blue Jays in order in the top of the eighth. The Astros continued to chip away at Toronto's lead, getting another run in the bottom of the inning on an RBI by Yuli Gurriel to make it 5-4 heading to the ninth.

Toronto evens the series

Brooks Raley entered to try and keep it a one-run game with a clean inning, but instead, two runners would reach on a walk and error before Joe Smith would enter to try and strand them. Instead, a two-out home run put the game back out of reach at 8-4, with Houston coming up empty in the bottom of the inning, setting up a rubber match in the finale.

Up Next: This series's third and final game will be an afternoon start of 1:10 PM Central on Sunday. Zack Greinke (2-1, 3.76 ERA) will try to add more wins to his record for Houston, while Nate Pearson will be making his 2021 debut for Toronto.

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