BARLEY, HOPS AND BASEBALL

The game's party culture has a long history

Mets game and Keith Hernandez repeated his story about Game 6 of the 1986 World Series.

If you’re not familiar with the tale, here is how the New York Times reported it 30 years ago:

Hernandez had just made what seemed so certain to be the next-to-last out of the game, the World Series and the Met season. The Mets were trailing the Red Sox by two runs in the bottom of the 10th inning, and after Hernandez flied out to center field with no one on base, he took a long, slow walk to the dugout and kept going.

He picked up his glove and his cap and took another long walk to the clubhouse. Hernandez walked through the door. He turned left into the office of manager Dave Johnson, put his cap and glove on the desk, sat in a folding director’s chair in the manager’s office. After the third hit, Ray Knight’s run-scoring single that brought Gary Carter home to bring the Mets within a run, Hernandez realized that there might be another inning.

”I got my glove and my hat,” he told the media. “I was going to go back out. And I said, uh-uh. That seat has got hits in it.”

Well, that’s part of the story anyway. Hernandez would later admit that he cracked open a Budweiser and drank it … then another … and another. By the time Mookie Wilson’s ground ball rolled under Bill Buckner’s glove, Hernandez had put away three beers. Those are his words, not mine. Go back, watch the SNY broadcast for yourself.

The way history tells it, the 1986 New York Mets became “famous” for their drinking. The Boston Globe reported, Hernandez made sure he had an ice bucket of chilled beer in front of his locker at the end of every game. One source added, “Guys would go into the clubhouse, pour beer in Gatorade cups and return to the dugout … we’d have three or four cases in the clubhouse at any one time.”

So, what does history tell us about drinking beer in the clubhouse? I pulled out my baseball Bible — The Cultural Encyclopedia of Baseball by Jonathan Fraser Light — for answers to this question.

In the 1950’s Casey Stengel divided the Yankees clubhouse. There were the milk drinkers and the Whiskey Slicks. When asked about the move Stengel said, “They say some of my stars drink whiskey, but I have found that the ones who drink milkshakes don’t win many ball games.” Imagine if one of today’s managers made that statement!? A heated debate would be on social media before you could say Leinenkugel’s.

In more recent years, some teams have banned alcohol from the clubhouse. Oakland Athletics GM Billy Beane imposed a ban in 2006 after Esteban Loaiza is busted for driving under the influence. One year later, in 2007, the Cardinals, Baltimore Orioles and New York Yankees ban drinking in the clubhouse after Cardinals pitcher Josh Hancock was killed while driving drunk.

The 2011 Red Sox made headlines when the Boston Globe reported players (Jon Lester, Josh Beckett and John Lackey) were drinking beer, eating and playing video games during games. The incident inevitably cost Terry Francona his job after eight seasons and two World Series titles.

Then Boston pitcher Jon Lester said:

“It was a ninth-inning rally beer. We probably ordered chicken from Popeye’s like once a month. That happened. But that’s not the reason we lost. I know how it looks to people and it probably looks bad … “I should have been on the bench more than I was.”

The subject leads to intense debate among involving the league, teams, players and the media. Everyone has an opinion. This is what Fox Sports wrote in 2010; the New York Daily News in 2011; the Los Angeles Times in 2012; USA Today in 2015: and A.J. Pierzynski’s admission to drinking “rally beers” during games. Sound familiar?

After going back and looking at the events related to subject, one thing is clear: drinking beer during games is not an “old school” baseball tradition, but part of baseball culture — event today. Some franchises have been proactive and have taken action, while others have not. MLB has not taken action (search “MLB alcohol clubhouse” to research the decade-long debate).

Still, the question lingers: Should alcohol be banned from professional baseball clubhouses?

In my opinion, yes, Major League Baseball should eliminate alcohol from the clubhouse. Why? Give me one benefit of allowing professional athletes access to alcohol while playing? I can’t think of one. Two, if this is a “business” like players often tell us it is, then why would any owner allow his employees to consume alcohol on the job? The average MLB players earns in excess of $4 million per season. If you can’t wait to have a drink until you leave the ballpark, then maybe you should trade your MLB stripes in and check into AA.

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