The Birmingham Barons 2013 promotional events include a celebrations of Christmas in July, Halloween in May, and Cuatro de Mayo as well as a “Pyro-Palooza,” a.k.a. fireworks. Will any of these rank among the most clever and best minor league baseball promotions ever? Or even this year?
Top early marks for 2013 go to Class A San Jose Giants, a San Francisco affiliate, who on April 12 hosted “Lennay Kekua Night.” Kekua, as you’ve hopefully forgotten, is the fictitious girlfriend of Notre Dame football player Manti Te’o.
And here’s an all-star line-up from seasons past:
In 2002, in Charleston, S.C., RiverDogs owner Mike Veeck—who has inherited the funny-promotion DNA from his Hall of Fame major league team owner Bill Veeck—had a “Nobody Night.” Fans were locked out of the stadium until the fifth inning so that the official attendance would be 0.
The same season, the Nashua Pride played “Who Wants to Be a Turkish Millionaire.” Fans played a version of “Who Wants to be a Millionaire,” with the winner taking home a million Turkish lira, worth a about one US dollar at the time.
In 2003, the Fort Myers Miracle (Class A, Minnesota Twins) had a “George Costanza Night”: As the Seinfeld character decided to reverse his bad luck by doing everything the opposite of his norm, the Miracle scoreboard ran from the ninth inning to the first, fans were paid to park their cars in the lot, buy a reserved seat and you got box seats, the men’s and women’s rest rooms were switched and the players asked the fans for autographs.
In 2007, the Augusta Greenjackets hosted a Salute to Indoor Plumbing, closing the restrooms so that fans had to use porta-potties.
2007 also saw Mike Tyson Ear Night, on which the Ft. Myers Miracle gave out plastic ears (in honor of Evander Hollyfield’s ear, bitten by Tyson during their 1997 fight) as well as replica Mike Tyson facial tattoos. Kudos to our Barons, cracking the top 10 with Petrol-Palooza Night, the same year: Fans could buy general admission prices for the current price of unleaded gasoline—then $2.90 per gallon—and box seats for the price of premium—$3.50.
In 2010, the Lowell Spinners (Class A affiliate of the Boston Red Sox) had a “50th Anniversary Salute to Bubble Wrap,” handing out squares of bubble wrap and having fans simultaneously pop them in the third inning. The same season, the Reading Phillies hosted “Gluttony Night”: For $10, fans got to eat unlimited concessions through the seventh inning. And on Used Car Night, the San Antonio Missions gave away 12 used cars—not quite as sensational as the free vasectomies (also Mike Veeck), free liposuction, free pre-planned funeral and other giveaway nights that earn honorable mention, but, for some reason, more popular.
Columnist Keith Thomson was a semi-pro baseball player in France. Now a Birminghamian, he writes about intelligence and other matters for The Huffington Post. His books include the New York Times Best-Selling Once a Spy.