I recently started reading Dan Epstein’s 2014 book Stars and Strikes: Baseball and America in the Bicentennial Summer of ’76. I picked it up mainly because I figured the Reds wouldn’t be very good this year and I thought it would be nice to read about a season in which they won the whole shebang. One of the joys of fandom, unless you’re a Cleveland sports fan, is being able to claim past success in the face of current futility. It helps ease the pain.
One of the most interesting parts of the book for me has been reading about the various promotional tools teams used to try to drive fans to the ballpark that summer. Ted Turner, fresh off his purchase of the Atlanta Braves, knew he had a terrible team and tried a multitude of gimmicks to get people to the ballpark, including ostrich harness racing. Chicago White Sox owner and Hall of Famer Bill Veeck installed a public shower in Comiskey Park’s center field bleachers, brought back the team’s famous “exploding scoreboard,” and introduced the oft-derided short-pants uniforms. The 1976 White Sox are the first and only team to provide players with a shorts option for their uniforms.
The promotions worked. The White Sox, for instance, sold 165,000 more tickets in ’76 than in ’75, despite finishing last in their division.
In Cincinnati this weekend, the Reds are celebrating Star Wars by giving away a Star Wars/Reds themed poster on Friday, a Star Wars X-Wing Fighter Mr. Redlegs bobblehead on Saturday, and a Star Wars wall decal on Sunday. Despite the fact our Redlegs are playing the equally-woeful Brewers, attendance should be sizable for the weekend series. Promotions work.
The Star Wars promotions and the book got me thinking about what other things can the Reds do from here on out to increase fan attendance throughout what is turning into a nightmare season (from a wins/losses/injuries standpoint). I came up with a few.
Mud Bath Mondays: After every Monday home game, flood the infield and make the losing team run the bases. It would be humiliating, sure, but have you ever seen a trail runner wipe out going full speed? There’s something oddly satisfying watching grown men trip all over themselves in sloppy terrain. Maybe that’s just me…
Taco Tuesdays: For every scoreless inning put up by opposing pitchers, fans can get a $1 taco at their nearest concession stand. It’s the hungry fan’s ultimate dilemma: what’s more important, the Reds scoring runs or cheap tacos?
Wonka Wednesdays: Inspired by the classic children’s book Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, every Wednesday five lucky fans will find a golden ticket taped to the bottom of their seat. The golden ticket is redeemable for premium seats at a game in 2018, when the Reds hope to be playoff contenders once again.
Text-to-Manage Thursday: Every Thursday, fans throughout the ballpark will be able to text in managerial decisions to the dugout during innings six through eight. This is typically where things fall apart for the Reds anyway, and since Joe Six-Pack in section 503 thinks he can do it better than Bryan Price, why not give him a voice in the process? May give us all a new appreciation for the Reds’ coaching staff.
Friday Fight Nights: On select Fridays during the season, the game is halted in the fifth inning for an Anchorman-style melee out on the field between two sections. Foam weapons only.
Best Seats In The House: Instead of ending up on a couch somewhere along the first base line, four lucky fans get to switch seats with Dick Williams and crew for two innings each game.
LaRosa’s Bullpen Special: Forget the 11 strikeouts threshold. Free individual pizzas from LaRosa’s every time the Reds bullpen doesn’t give up a run. The beauty of this one is it feels like it could happen any night, but the way things are going LaRosa’s may not have to give out another pizza this year. Win-win.
While the Reds may not be open to suggestion, I am. Feel free to come up with ideas of your own in the comment section below. And, as always, Go Reds.