Minor League teams are known for the creativity of their gameday promotions. Every Tuesday we'll preview the week ahead, highlighting the best and brightest (not to mention strangest) that the industry has to offer. If you'd like a particular promotion to be considered for this feature, please send it to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line "Promo Preview."
According to an oft-repeated legend, the Chicago Cubs' seemingly endless championship drought is due to "The Curse of the Billy Goat." This ominous spell was placed upon the team in 1945, after tavern owner Billy Sianis was ejected from a World Series game at Wrigley Field because his malodorous pet goat was bothering nearby fans.
Will Chicago's North Side professional baseball entity ever be able to overcome the sorcery of Sianis? The Boise Hawks, the Cubs' Class A Short-Season affiliate, sure hope so. On Friday the 13th, the team is staging the third iteration of its "Reverse the Curse Night" promotion, in which all area goats are welcome at the ballpark (with the purchase of a full-price general admission ticket -- no freeloaders!).
"The first time we did this was in 2004, the year after the Steve Bartman incident," said Hawks broadcaster Michael Safford. "That night we had 11 goats at the ballpark, who were all in a special goat area. There was a guy dressed up as Bartman, and we had a sellout crowd."
The sellout crowd was motivated in no small part by the evening's giveaway item, as early-arriving fans received limited-edition Billy Goat bobbleheads (Safford reports that they were selling on eBay for $50 before the game's first pitch). The Hawks repeated the promotion in 2006 (in which the color of the bobblehead was switched from white to black), and, come Friday, are hoping that the third time's the charm. Goat bobbleheads will once again be given away, and the evening's real-life goat attendees will be free to roam within a specially-designated ballpark petting zoo. And to top it all off, the Hawks are planning a plethora of superstition-themed promotions to take place during the game.
"It's Friday the 13th -- maybe we can reverse the curse and finally get the Cubs to the World Series," said Safford, who was then moved to consider just how badly the parent club has played thus far. "Well, that's obviously not going to happen this year."
New York-Penn League overload!
Teams in the Class A Short-Season New York-Penn League only play 38 home dates a year, but in the case of the Lowell Spinners and State College Spikes, that just means that less is more. Both clubs feature a non-stop cavalcade of promotions this week, and only the hardiest of fans will be able to keep up with them all. Let's take a look:
The Spinners turn a pair of Kings into bobblehead royalty as they honor sports journalist Peter King on Thursday and master of horror Stephen King on Friday. This segues into Saturday's "Valentine's Day" promo, a tongue-in-cheek tribute to Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine that features a pink baseball giveaway and wrap sandwiches at the concession stand (because Bobby, an erstwhile restaurateur, claims to have invented them). Finally, Monday is "Turn Back the Clock Day," as the Spinners take the field in the uniforms of the 1912 Lowell Grays.
It'd be tough to top the Spinners' upcoming promo slate, but the State College Spikes just might. Wednesday is "Japanese Game Show Night," in which the team pays tribute to the bizarre televised competitions produced by our friends in the far East. This gives way to Thursday's giveaway, as the first 1,000 fans receive a replica Hall of Fame bust of local baseball legend John Montgomery Ward. Then things get downright freaky on Friday the 13th, as stuntman Ted Batchelor will run the bases WHILE ON FIRE following the game. (Note: Batchelor will also be performing the night before, following the Harrisburg Senators' game.)
Once the smoke clears, the Spikes' promo train will keep right on rolling with Saturday's distribution of dual bobbleheads featuring 2006 Spikes-turned-2011 World Series heroes Jason Motte and Allen Craig. This will be followed by Sunday's "Christmas Beach Party" (why not?) before the homestand wraps up in decidedly low-tech fashion with Monday's "Tribute to Amish Heritage."
Appy League awesomeness
This column has belonged to short-season clubs thus far, and with short-season clubs it will remain. For even the normally no-frills Appalachian League has some premier promos this week, highlighted by the Bluefield Blue Jays' "Hatfield vs. McCoy Night" on July 17.
The Blue Jays are playing their arch rivals the Princeton Rays on this evening, so what better way to celebrate than by commemorating one of the most vicious Appalachian feuds of all time? Entertainers from the Hatfield and McCoy Dinner Show (based in Pigeon Forge, Tenn.) are coming in to perform, and all in-game contests will be inspired by the famous family feud. And, of course, all fans with the last name of Hatfield or McCoy receive free admission to the ballpark.
The Princeton Rays have their own memorable promotion this week as well, which puts the "miner" in "Minor League Baseball." July 14 is the team's annual "Coal Heritage Game," which pays tribute to the region's industrial heritage. The Rays will take the field in "coal-colored" black and grey jerseys, and these duds are scheduled to be auctioned off after the game with proceeds benefiting the charitable organization Remember the Miners.
Into the Ellipse...
A brief look at other notable promotions taking place this week, with an emphasis on the full-season leagues that have been heretofore ignored...
- July 11: Sophisticated drinkers will "olive" what the Fort Wayne TinCaps have planned, as it's "Martini Night" at the ballpark. ... Hockey great Marcel "The Little Beaver" Dionne visits the Great Lakes Loons... The Hudson Valley Renegades once again stage "Zolz on Deck," in which their PA announcer Rick Zolzer attempts to work the game via Skype from his pool deck.
- July 12: The Myrtle Beach Pelicans host "Auto-Correct Night," an evening of unintentional text-based hilarity. ... Fans who purchase advance tickets to the Sacramento River Cats' "Country Night" receive free team-logo cowboy hats at the game. ... Perfect game impresario Don Larsen makes his annual appearance at a Salem-Keizer Volcanoes game.
- July 13: A "Zombie Apocalypse" is scheduled to occur at the Akron Aeros game, followed by Friday the 13th-themed fireworks. ... The Charleston RiverDogs host "Larry Doby Heritage Weekend," an extensive tribute to the region's rich Negro Leagues past. ... Attendees at the Lake Elsinore Storm's "Fellowship Night" attempt to set a new world record in the category of "most people Tebow-ing at one time."
- July 14: You want some team-logo tube socks? Then get thee to Little Rock, as the Arkansas Travelers are giving them away. ... The Bakersfield Blaze honor Hideo Nomo with his own bobblehead. ... In Lake County, the Captains again pay tribute to the nearby Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame by distributing a "Rock 'n' Bobble" of their mascot Skipper.
- July 15: The Reading Phillies are once again giving away Crazy Hot Dog Vendor souvenirs -- this time in the form of a toothbrush holder. ... The Huntsville Stars host a "Healthy Chili Cookoff," a win-win proposition if there ever was one. ... San Antonio Missions fans receive photos of Ballapeno, the Minors' spiciest mascot.
- July 16: Wilkin "Weblyn" Rosario becomes the latest individual to be honored as part of the Tulsa Drillers' "Superhero Bobblehead" series.
- July 17: David Hasslehoff turns 60, and therefore the Fort Myers Miracle are having a party. ... Along similar lines, the Richmond Flying Squirrels host a "Tribute to Sausage."