Some of us—let’s say those of us lesser versed in the poetry of the sport—need beer, maybe quite a few beers, to enjoy a baseball game. It’s not because the sport isn’t technically interesting, or that we’re less American than people who can watch a full game sober. We just have a lower tolerance for games that last three hours, during which time a majority of the team is actually sitting down, chewing, and spitting. For folks like us, a beer, and maybe a hot dog, help the innings pass.
Turns out we aren’t the only ones who rely on the suds to get from pitch to pitch. Players have been known to drink beer during games, too.
No shock here: drinking alcohol during a baseball game is clearly prohibited under MLB rules, even though it’s arguably one of the only sports in which a mild buzz wouldn’t likely result in a serious concussion, missed pass, or poorly negotiated green (that’s what they call it in golf, right?). And maybe that’s why players have historically found it so easy to drink.
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The concern, of course, is that drinking will interfere with the game. (We all know Ken Griffey Jr. couldn’t resist Mr. Burns’ nerve tonic, and the toll that took.) But rules aside, drinking in the dugouts has been described by a baseball insider as “nothing new.” It’s so not new that it stretches all the way back to Babe Ruth himself. When he wasn’t pointing stoically at his home run targets, Ruth was apparently known to knock back a few beers (during Prohibition, no less). In fact, Ruth was such a prodigious (in truth, troubled) drinker, opposing teams actually tried to use it against him. One legendary story has the Chicago White Sox taking Ruth out the night before a game, the goal being to get him so drunk he wouldn’t be able to whoop some baseball ass the next day. Unfortunately for the Sox, Ruth’s tolerance was plenty high by that point in his career; he showed up to the game the next day, “demolished the White Sox and asked them where they were going that night.” Game, set, match. OK, yes, that’s tennis. Anyway.
Most baseball/drinking stories are a lot tamer, especially when it comes to drinking during games. The subject only came up in late 2011 because the Red Sox had blown the end of their season and some thought recreational boozing was to blame. Pitchers John Lackey, Josh Beckett, and Jon Lester were specifically singled out, although they were actually only accused of drinking on nights they weren’t pitching. Lester eventually admitted that the players “had an ‘occasional’ beer in the clubhouse, calling them ‘ninth-inning rally beers.’” You know, the kind of thing you might order to power through the final inning of a less than stellar night on the town (see, baseball players—they’re just like us!).
The “rally beer” is actually more common in baseball than you’d guess. Veteran player and Atlanta Brave catcher A. J. Pierzynski told Fox Sports’ Garbage Time host Katie Nolan he’s been known to partake of a rally beer or two. Then again, if you were the game’s most hated player, you might be drowning your sorrows at work, too. Pierzynski actually says it’s all about game fatigue. “Sometimes, you’re in the 15th inning of a game, and you’re six hours in, and one of the starting pitchers is 12 beers in, and you’re like ‘Man, I’m really jealous of this guy over here.’ And the next thing you know, they’re like ‘RALLY BEERS!’”
Even the Bronx Bombers don’t have a spotless record here. Jason Giambi and Roger Clemens would “routinely” drink beer in the Yankees dugout, “passing back and forth what Giambi called his ‘protein shake,’ code for a cup of beer.” (Again, this is according to an unnamed baseball insider; on the other hand, it really doesn’t seem hard to imagine.) But don’t get all high and mighty yet, Mets fans. Apparently Mets players would “’go into the clubhouse, pour beer in Gatorade cups, and return to the dugout,’” per anonymous insider. And here you thought you invented secret Gatorade drinking.
Maybe the best—and least common—story of drinking during games comes from Jose Conseco, who apparently didn’t like to drink, but made something special out of it one game. “He once drank a can of light beer, went out and hit a home run, went back into the clubhouse and drank another can, hit another home run, and did the same thing a third time. Three lights, three homers.”
If only light beer could do that for regular professionals. Give me a light beer and I’ll have your Excel spreadsheet ready in no time. Another light beer, the copier’s fixed. One more, and I’ve amortized our budget gaps. Home run.