Toilet seats, gall bladders and eight of the weirdest promotions in Minor League history
Much like apple pie and ranking things on the Internet, outrageous Minor League promotions are a long-standing American tradition. In just the past couple of years, we've seen everything from Mr. Rogers to Space Jam, and that's not even touching the bobbleheads (or bobblearms, as it were).
But of all the strange uniforms, theme nights and giveaways, just which are the very strangest? We're glad you asked.
Altoona Curve, Awful Night
No one can accuse the Curve of false advertising. During a game in 2003, the Pirates' Double-A affiliate held its first annual "Awful Night," whose goal was, well, exactly what it sounds like: to create the most awful ballpark experience imaginable.
William Shatner and David Hasselhoff blared through the loud speakers. Batting average was instead displayed on the scoreboard as "failure average." When those in attendance weren't attending autograph sessions with the ballpark cook, they were bobbing for onions or trying to toss helium balloons. And, because no Minor League promotion would be complete without a giveaway, the first 1,000 fans went home with ... a photo of GM Todd Parnells' recently-removed gallbladder. (One lucky fan was even awarded the organ itself in a postgame raffle.)
The Curve went on to hold six more Awful Nights, featuring everything from William Hung to souvenir cups that were missing a bottom.
Lowell Spinners, Bubble Wrap Night
It began with a very simple idea: Who doesn't love popping bubble wrap?
"Bubble Wrap is one of the most addicting unnoticed nuances in life," said Spinners Vice President of Communications Jon Goode, instantly validating untold hours of childhoods all across the nation.
And so, in honor of the product's 50th anniversary, Lowell's July 17, 2010, game against the Aberdeen Ironbirds became Bubble Wrap Night. The team handed out a one-foot-by-one-foot piece to every fan, coach and even player -- 3,692 in all -- and in the middle of the third inning, the popping commenced.
The team set a Guinness World Record for the most people popping Bubble Wrap simultaneously, and that was just the beginning of the fun. Fans who'd celebrated their 50th birthday that year were invited onto the field for a postgame dance atop a Bubble Wrap dance floor -- set to 50 Cent, because of course -- and the Spinners even offered one fan a year's supply of popcorn if the 50th out of the game was a popup. (Alas, it was not.)
West Virginia Power, Salute to Indoor Plumbing Night
Sadly, the original Salute to Indoor Plumbing Night never got off the ground: The Power's first idea was to close the bathrooms at Appalachain Power Park and have fans use portable toilets, the better to help them appreciate the benefits of indoor plumbing.
As you might imagine, that constituted a massive health code violation, and the state Health Department nixed it. But the team would not be discouraged -- employees dressed in plumber's overalls, the theme song to "Home Improvement" played between innings and, last but not least, the traditional Hamburger Helper Skillet Toss was replaced with something more ... thematically appropriate:
"We took some brownies and mushed them up and made them look like poo," director of promotions Kristin Call told The Washington Post. "It was a poo toss that night."
Fort Myers Miracle, Costanza Night
On May 19, 1994, Seinfeld aired an episode called "The Opposite," in which George Costanza experiences remarkable personal and professional success -- including a front office job with the Yankees -- by doing the exact opposite of what he thinks he should do.
Honoring a long-standing tradition of Seinfeld-inspired promotions, the Fort Myers Miracle decided to take that concept and apply it to all aspects. The Miracle wore their away uniforms. Fans were paid to park their cars. The scoreboard started in the ninth inning and worked its way toward the 1st. After the game, players even asked fans for their autographs.
No word on whether chicken salad on rye was served from every concession stand.
Charleston RiverDogs, Nobody Night
Befitting a team partially owned by Mike Veeck -- son of former Indians, Browns and White Sox owner and master entertainer Bill Veeck -- the RiverDogs have long had a knack for outlandish promotions. Over the years, they've held everything from a backwards race around the warning track to Silent Night, in which fans were instructed not to speak for the first five innings.
But not even those outlandish ideas have anything on Nobody Night: In July of 2002, the Yankees' Class A affiliate tried to set the record for the lowest attendance at a professional baseball game ... by padlocking the entrances for the first five innings.
Of course, fans weren't turned away for good. They were simply directed to a nearby tent, where they enjoyed discounted food and beer until the game became official and they were allowed into the park to cheer on their team as normal. Some even grabbed ladders to peer over the fence in the meantime.
But while the official attendance was zero, the National Baseball Hall of Fame determines attendance records through ticket sales. The fans who showed up for the tent party were counted in the total, and Veeck was denied his record. The RiverDogs ended up losing the game, 4-2, with every run coming before the sixth inning -- with no one there to cheer it on.
Quad Cities River Bandits, Circle of Life
Technically, this wasn't a single promotion, but a series of them. During each game of the team's homestand from May 7-10, 2010, Quad Cities celebrated the four major phases of life: birth on May 7 (a gift package for expectant mothers), school on May 8 (a one-year scholarship to the University of Iowa), marriage on May 9 (an all-expenses-paid wedding package) and, finally, death on May 10 (an all-expenses-paid funeral package).
In the words of owner Dave Heller: "We want our fans to know that cradle to grave the River Bandits have you covered."
Dunedin Blue Jays, Office Space Night
When Dunedin decided to hold Office Space Night, an ode to everyone's favorite workplace satire/ode to Michael Bolton. Trivia contests were held between each inning. Fans received discounted tickets if they dropped the word "stapler" while at the box office. There was even a flair contest -- 15-piece minimum, of course.
But the Blue Jays saved the best for last: At the conclusion of the game, fans were invited to come down to the field and smash a printer to smithereens.
We can think of no better antidote to a case of the Mondays.
Nashua Pride, Who Wants to Be a (Turkish) Millionaire?
At first, the Pride's "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire" night in 2002 seemed too good to be true: How could a team from the independent Atlantic League, with an official seating capacity of 4,000, actually offer a millionaire dollars to the winner of a trivia contest?
Of course, then came the catch: It was actually "Who Wants to Be a Turkish Millionaire" night. Instead of one million dollars, the winner would be rewarded with a million Turkish lira. Exchange rate at the time: around one U.S. dollar. But hey, bragging rights are priceless.