Beer: Mother’s Milk of Sports
Only three of Major League Baseball’s stadiums are named after beer: Busch Stadium (St. Louis Cardinals), Coors Field (Colorado Rockies), and Miller Park (Milwaukee Brewers), however, the link between baseball and beer is unmistakable.
The connection between sports and beer is linked back to 1880s. During the 1800s, beer was drank primarily by immigrants who did not have access to clean water in the slums and became a symbol of social division. With fear that selling alcohol would attract the “wrong” crowd, the “proper” society banned the sale of alcohol at baseball games. This was much to the dismay of brewers who owned baseball clubs such as the Cincinnati Redstockings.
However, not everyone chose to follow the strict, “no beer” edict. Chris Von der Ahe, a saloon owner, noticed sales increased when the Browns were in town; so he decided to buy a share of the team and started selling his beer. By linking beer and baseball, something that the National League had banned, Von der Ahe hoped to revive the sport of baseball in St. Louis after rampant gambling and a deep recession put the game at stake. Although Von der Ahe knew little about the game of baseball, the St. Louis Browns quickly gained popularity and other teams began to notice his success. In November 1881, Von der Ahe joined with six other owners of independent clubs to form the American Association, AKA — the “Beer and Whiskey League”.
Basing a league around the sale of alcohol caused many problems. Not only did fans overindulge in the consumption of alcohol before, during and after games, so did players.
Curt Welch, a centerfielder for the St. Louis Browns in the mid-1880s, hid a pint of whiskey in the outfield grass, and he would take nips between batters. Pete Browning, the “Gladiator,” was normally drunk on and off the field. Nonetheless, he batted .341 for his career. Browning explained: “I can’t hit the ball until I hit the bottle (Huffington Post).”
While players have obviously learned to control themselves before games (we wont touch on the after games), the fans of baseball still love a good cold one, and ballparks recognize that. Opening Day at Busch stadium is a holiday itself. I would think of a catchy metaphor to use to compare it to something, but there’s just nothing even comparable to the iconic ceremony. Many traditions are linked to beer during one of the best days of the season. The Budweiser Clydesdales, one of the most popular symbols of the town’s brewery, make a lap around the stadium during the celebratory day while fans relax and enjoy a cold one. Workers from all around the big city call off work and are three Budweiser’s deep by noon, celebrating the greatest season of all, baseball season.
Through the Harris Poll, 78% of regular drinkers associate alcohol with the game of baseball while 70% of them choose beer as the first alcoholic drink that comes to mind. While enjoying a baseball game on television, 77% of “regular drinkers” enjoy a beverage compared to the 81% that enjoy a beverage while watching the game live.
And while beer is prevalent at all stadiums today, the cost varies depending where you go. If you want a nice cold, refreshing beverage while enjoying a game, expect to spend anywhere between $4 to almost $16. Even though, on average, two beers at a MLB stadium will cost you $11.89, for some reason, fans don’t mind paying the price.
Just as prices vary stadium to stadium, so does the selection of beer, ranging from craft to domestic, unique and common. It was found that “the average MLB team offers 50 beers from 25 different breweries somewhere in their stadium, with the Reds offering a whopping 130 options over the course of a season (SBNation).” Although each stadium offers a variety of selections, they all have their most popular choice that fans choose.
Don’t believe that beer plays such a major role in baseball? Just ask Wally the Beerman who serves cold beverages at the Minnesota Twins stadium: “I’ll tell you, when you go to a ballpark or any other sporting event the only thing that repeats is beer,” he says. “How many times do you go to a ballpark and buy two hot dogs? Or two Cokes? Beer repeats.”
Overtime, things change. Beloved players come and go, managers change, your team goes from being best to worst, but beer will always be there to help you make it through the hard times and celebrate the good times.