Today in Sports History: June 4th

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(The Rangers try to leave the field. Photo by Paul Tepley, Cleveland Press)

6/04/1974 - Ten Cent Beer Night

What if a team gave the rowdiest fans at the ballpark the opportunity to purchase ten beers for just a buck -- sounds like a bad idea right? For the Cleveland Indians it was a way to attract a season-high 25,134 fans to Cleveland Municipal Stadium. "Ten Cent Beer Night" started out okay, but an idea that crazy was bound to go wrong, and go wrong it did.

A week before at the Ballpark in Arlington, the Rangers and Indians played in "Cheap Beer Night." When the two teams got into a brawl, the inebriated crowd threw their beverages at the visiting Indians. The fact that a brawl and subsequent beer showering actually inspired the Indians to mimmick the promotion shows how bad they were from the 70's to the 90's.

65,000 beers were consumed during Ten Cent Beer Night, and you could certainly tell from the way the crowd behaved. Nearly every inning was mired with one delay or another: kids deciding to run onto the field, a drunk woman trying to kiss the umpire, a father-son tandem mooning the crowd, streakers running onto the field. Rangers manager Billy Martin briefly pulled his team off the field when the cherry bombs, beers, and garbage thrown from the stands interfered with the game.

In the bottom of the ninth, the Indians hit a double and three singles to tie the game at 5-5, making the already fanatical crowd even crazier. A small contingency of fans hopped onto the field, stealing the bat and cap of Ranger left fielder Jeff Burroughs. In response, the Rangers rushed out of the dugout with bats in their hands. For the drunken crowd this was more than enough insight for a confrontation. More fans climbed onto the field and started fights with the players. The Indians tried to help the Rangers out, and suddenly both teams were now fighting the crowd.

Tom Hilgendorf was hammered with a folding chair, while several others walked away with cuts and bruises. All the bases were stolen and kept as souvenirs. Stadium seats were hurled at the players as was anything else the bystanders could find. When both teams finally made it off the field, chief umpire Nestor Chylak had had enough and ruled the game a forfeit in favor of Texas.

"Obviously these guys went down there and for ten cents had a few beers, got stiff, became wild men and didn't know what they were doing," said Cleveland safety director John T. Carney. "They just went berserk. It's just an act of god that nobody was killed. These kids get so wild and there were knives and everything else down there."

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(Hilgendorf after getting whacked with a chair. Photo by Paul Tepley, Cleveland Press)

6/04/1976 - Suns and Celtics go three overtimes

Game 5 of the 1976 NBA Finals is considered to be the greatest NBA game of all time, and for good reason. With the Phoenix Suns and Boston Celtics tied at two games apiece, the two teams put on a show that went longer than any NBA Finals game before it, a show that featured some of the greatest clutch shots anyone ever has, or ever will hit.

At first it looked like the Suns were going to wilt away, as they fell behind by 22 points in the first half. But they came storming back and managed to tie the game at 95, forcing overtime. The game went to a second OT, which featured one of the most memorable moments in NBA history. After a Curtis Perry baseline jumper, which gave the Suns a 110-109 lead with five seconds left, the Celtics inbounded the ball to John Havlicek. The 36 year-old bench player caught the ball near the sideline, took three dribbles to get into the lane, and put up a leaning bank shot. With two seconds left on the clock, Hondo's shot found the bottom of the net, giving the Celtics a 111-110 advantage. But the Celtics' timekeeper, perhaps favoring the C's just a little bit, allowed the clock to run out, giving Boston an apparent victory.

The jubilant fans at the Boston Garden stormed the court in celebration, as the Celtic players raced into the locker room. The Suns brass conferred with the officials as the hysterical fans swarmed the playing area. During the commotion, a fan got into it with referee Richie Powers and had to be pulled off of him by a cop and some players. It was announced to the crowd that there was still some time on the clock, albeit one second instead of two. The Celtics dejectedly returned to the bench for a final second as the police officers and referees pushed the unruly fans off the hardwood.

The problem for the Suns was that even with one second left, scoring was going to be impossible -- they had used up all of their timeouts and could no longer advance the ball. But rather than inbound the ball from 94 feet away, Phoenix guard Paul Westphal took advantage of an NBA technicality. He called a timeout anyway, which gave the Celtics a technical foul shot but advanced the ball to halfcourt nonetheless. Nowadays, if a team called a timeout when they didn't have any, it would be a turnover.

Celtics guard Jo Jo White sunk the foul shot, raising Boston's lead to 112-110. With many fans crowding the end line, Curtis Perry threw the ball in to Garfield Heard, who played all but one minute of the ballgame. Heard caught the ball just inside the top of the key and unleashed a turnaround jumper just as time expired. To the astonishment of everyone in the stadium, the "Shot Heard 'Round the World" was good, sending the game to an unprecedented third overtime.

In 3OT, the Celtics were at last able to pull away. White and the seldom-used Glenn McDonald scored six apiece in the quarter to at last give Boston a 128-126 victory. They then traveled to Phoenix for Game 6, which they won in a much less dramatic 87-80 decision.

6/04/2000 - Portland chokes in Game 7

90 seconds into the fourth quarter of Game 7, the Portland Trail Blazers had a 15-point lead over the Los Angeles Lakers. They were less than eleven minutes away from advancing to the NBA Finals, from becoming the first team to win a conference finals series after trailing 3-1, from giving Scottie Pippen a realistic shot at championship No. 7. Everything was in their favor.

What happened next was one of the greatest choke-jobs in NBA history. Portland managed only 11 points the rest of the way and relinquished the lead with less than two minutes to go. Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal scored nine points apiece in the quarter and rode the momentum of a raucus Staples Center crowd. When it was all said and done, Los Angeles had won, 89-94.

"I realized that we sort of made cowards of ourselves in the fourth quarter," said Pippen, who scored just 12 points on 3-10 shooting. "We played like we were fatigued, and they gained the momentum that they needed to pull this game out."

"Well, no one remembers who finished second 10 years down the road," Phil Jackson said after the game. "The reality is when you get here, you're going to win it, and we may have learned enough at this point to know how to do it."

The Lakers' win was highlighted by an alley-oop combo made Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal with 41.3 seconds left. Bryant got past Pippen off the dribble, waited for defenders to come, and lobbed it at the basket for Shaq, who slammed it down with one hand -- making it 85-79 Los Angeles. Shaq's slam was so back-breaking that the game might as well have ended then. "It was like Shaq dropped out of the roof when he threw that down," said Lakers forward said Rick Fox. "Just devastating."

The Lakers and Blazers were like two ships passing in the night. The Lakers went on to win the championship over the Indiana Pacers and won it again the following two years. The Blazers, on the other hand, started load their roster with big-name, over-the-hill All-Stars and progressively got worse and worse. By 2004, the Blazers were sitting out of the playoffs while Lakers were heading back to the finals.

6/04/2006 - Milledge high-fives fans

Outfielder Lastings Milledge didn’t do much in his stint with the Mets. But on a warm day at Shea Stadium, he picked a good time to knock the first home run of his career. In the bottom of the tenth, Milledge hit a solo blast off the Giants’ Armando Benitez to tie the game at 6. The Mets rookie was so overjoyed at the longball that he high-fived the fans as he made his way back to the outfield for the top of the eleventh.

The Mets wound up losing 7-6, and it was Lasting’s demeanor, and not his home run, that became the topic of conversation. Milledge was blasted by baseball purists claiming his high-fives were out of place and disrespectful. Mets manager Willie Randolph said he sat down with Milledge and lectured him about proper etiquette. His New York teammates allegedly fell out of favor with him; on one occasion he returned to his locker to find his clothes stolen, on another his cubicle read "Know your place rook."

Lastings did not understand the backlash and said he didn’t regret it at all. "I decided to show the fans love. They pay my salary. It's becoming a big thing. I don't think it's like I shot somebody or something. You know what? It's good for the fans. And the fans will always remember it. And I'll always remember it."

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(Randy Johnson after winning his 300th game. Photo by Greg Fiume, Getty Images)

6/04/2009 - The Big Unit gets 300th win

In a moment that few people could have predicted, Randy Johnson gets the 300th win of his career as his San Francisco Giants win the first game of a doubleheader. Johnson had not been a likely candidate to reach 300 wins; although he was a tremendous pitcher, he started his career rather late and had only 64 wins by the time he was 30; he also missed most of the 1996, 2003, and 2007 seasons due to injury, and underwent two back surgeries that easily could have abbreviated his career. But he kept on going and, at age 45, finally reached it after 22 seasons (only Phil Niekro, at 46, was older when he got to 300).

By achieving the pinnacle of pitching milestones, the "Big Unit" had done almost everything a pitcher could do. Besides winning five Cy Young Awards, Johnson won one pitcher's triple crown, finished second on the all-time strikeout list, had a 20-strikeout game, a no-hitter, a perfect game, a World Series MVP, and once struck out the side in nine pitches. He was just the sixth left-hander to get to 300 wins and had more strikeouts than any lefty in history.

Johnson's victory was met with an enormous amount of anticipation, as many wondered if it was the last time a pitcher would reach 300 wins.

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