Gluttony is never something that has been looked upon in a positive light -- it is one of the seven deadly sins, after all.
So staging a "Gluttony Night" at the ballpark hardly seems like an obvious choice for a promotion. But the Reading Phillies, daring iconoclasts that they are, threw caution to the wind and went for it. This past Tuesday was indeed "Gluttony Night" at FirstEnergy Stadium, and it was a success.
Before getting into the gory details of the evening, let's review the guidelines -- for $12, fans received admission to the ballpark and a wristband entitling them to unlimited concessions from the time the gates opened at 5:30 p.m. through the seventh-inning stretch. This translated to nearly four hours of unlimited hot dogs, french fries, pizza, funnel cake, ice cream and soda. The only caveat was that fans could get just one item at a time. This guarded against those with eyes bigger than their stomachs.
The R-Phils were understandably apprehensive about staging a promotion with such a ridiculous concept. A press release touting Gluttony Night quoted general manager Scott Hunsicker as saying: "I'm trying to encourage my family and friends to attend this game ... just in case I get fired over this promotion."
For now, Hunsicker's job is safe. "Gluttony Night" attracted a crowd of 6,435 of hungry Reading residents to the ballpark -- the largest crowd on a Tuesday night in May that the club has seen this century. A total of 2,576 Gluttony Night wristbands were sold, and the team calculates that the average "Glutton" ate $19 worth of food.
"Our concession staff was really hustling, but I think the toughest job belonged to the runners, who had to restock everything," said R-Phils communications director Rob Hackash. "But all in all, the night went smoothly. The lines moved well, even though there were some fans who didn't even see one pitch."
This special subset of fans missed the night's baseball action because they were engaged in the far-more-important task of getting the biggest bang for the buck that they possibly could.
"I saw people who would get in line, get some food and then go right back in line while eating the food they had just ordered," said Hackash.
This commitment to overindulgence helps account for some of the following statistics. The ballpark's 2,576 gluttons consumed 2,857 orders of fries, 1,432 funnel cakes, 1,394 slices of pizza and a stadium-record 4,549 hot dogs (breaking the previous mark of 4,275, set on Father's Day 2008).
The fans had plenty of time to gorge themselves, as it turned out. Visiting New Britain won the game, 14-6, and 15 of the contest's 20 total runs occurred before the concession stand closing time.
"The game was our [operations] department's worst nightmare, from a time standpoint," said Hackash. "Those guys were just spent by the end of the evening."
Unlimited concessions were the obvious main focus of the evening, but the R-Phils supplemented the Gluttony Night theme in a variety of ways. Burp sound effects were frequently played over the PA, and Weird Al Yankovic's "Eat It" made an inevitable appearance as well. Best of all was a pregame eating contest, in which contestants had to consume each of the six featured concession items in as quick a manner as possible.
"[The eating contest] was won by a semi-ringer," said Hackash. "The guy [Joe Menchetti] had apparently won our wing-eating contest a few years ago, and he came all the way from Wallingford, Conn. for this. He won, got his $250 and went home. I don't think he even stayed for the game."
Menchetti's early exit just meant that there would be more food for all of the amateur gluttons in attendance.
"In the seventh inning, we made an announcement along the lines of 'The concession stands are now closed. If you enjoyed Gluttony Night, then let out a big cheer.' The place went wild."
Such positive reviews may result in -- gulp -- a sequel.
"This came together pretty well," said Hackash. "I'm already hearing rumors about Gluttony Night 2."
Consider yourself warned.
Benjamin Hill is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.