Jose Canseco Comeback: A Look at Some Memorable Baseball Publicity Stunts

Joel Reuter@JoelReuterBRFeatured ColumnistFebruary 14, 2012

It was reported over the weekend that Jose Canseco has lined up a tryout with the Quintana Roo Tigers of the Mexican League, as the 47-year-old will attempt to make a comeback to professional baseball.

Canseco last played in the majors for the Chicago White Sox in 2001 when he hit .258 BA, 16 HR and 49 RBI as a 36-year-old.

He spent the 2011 season as player/manager for the Yuma Scorpions of the Independent League, hitting .256 BA, 8 HR and 46 RBI over 199 at-bats. The team made headlines when they were forced to forfeit a game after a brawl broke out against the Chico Outlaws.

While the Mexican League is not the MLB, it is a step up from the Independent League and if he can catch on and display some power, he could at least spark some interest from MLB teams as a late-season addition.

More than likely, though, this is yet another publicity stunt on the part of Canseco, who has been a media whore since releasing his book Juiced, which exposed the steroid problem in baseball.

So with that in mind, let's take a look back at some memorable publicity stunts in MLB history.


Bill Veeck Signs Eddie Gaedel

St. Louis Browns owner Bill Veeck was always known for his publicity stunts and outside-the-box approach to putting fans in the stands, but his festivities on August 19th, 1951 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the American League contained perhaps his best-known stunt.

Prior to the game, Gaedel signed 3'7" performer Eddie Gaedel to join the team, and between games of the double-header he jumped out of a papier-mache cake wearing a jersey with number "1/8" on the back.

It didn't end there, though, as Gaedel was inserted into the game as a pinch-hitter to lead off the bottom of the first inning. After the opposing team's manager and umpire confirmed he was in fact part of the active roster, he stepped into the batter's box and drew a four-pitch walk in what would be his only big-league plate appearance.


Charlie O'Finley Buys The Philadelphia Athletics

When businessman Charlie O'Finley bought the Athletics and moved them from Philadelphia to Kansas City, he inherited a rather plain minor-league stadium to play in. However, it wouldn't be plain for long, as he made the following "innovative" modifications to it:

– A device that came out of the ground named "Harvey" that was a rabbit holding a basket of balls for the umpire when a new ball was needed;

– A compressed air device named "Little Blowhard" that blew dirt off of home plate so the umpire didn't need to dust it off;

– A petting zoo with goats, sheep, monkeys, bats and birds, among other things, down the left-field line;

– A flock of sheep wearing Athletics blankets, complete with shepherd, down the right-field line;

– He attempted to move the right-field wall in to 296 feet, putting some bleachers in right field with a makeshift fence around them. The league shot that idea down, however.

So to generalize things a bit, his tenure with the Athletics was more or less one big publicity stunt.


Ten Cent Beer Night

With attendance slumping, the Cleveland Indians came up with what was almost certainly the worst idea of all time to lure in fans: a 10 cent beer night.

So on June 4th, 1974, a whopping 25,134 fans made their way to Municipal Stadium in Cleveland for an Indians-Rangers game—well over the average attendance of about 8,000.

To make matters worse, the two teams had had a bench-clearing brawl a week earlier in Texas during a similar cheap beer night.

It was more of the same in this game, as the benches cleared once again in the eighth inning after a batter was thrown at. Only this time, it turned into a full-on brawl between the two teams.

To make matters worse, 25,000 heavily intoxicated fans, having drank an estimated 60,000 beers, began storming the field and throwing everything that wasn't bolted down onto the field and at the players.

Fist fights broke out between players and fans, and at one point, the Rangers players grabbed bats in an effort to protect themselves.

This was not the fans' first disruption of the game, as a woman had flashed the crowd from the Indians on-deck circle, a man had streaked to second base and two men had mooned the crowd from the outfield all before the seventh-inning stretch.

The brawl was the last straw, though, as WJW-TV had to suspend their live broadcast of the game and the Indians ended up having to forfeit the game.

Needless to say, such promotions have since been banned.


Disco Demolition Night

Organized by local DJ Steve Dahl, Disco Demolition night was a promotion organized as a symbolic (and literal) destroying of disco music at the White Sox Comiskey Park on July 12th, 1979.

Fans were offered the chance at 98 cent tickets if they brought in their unwanted disco records, which were to be gathered together in the center of the field and blown up.

With average Thursday night attendance sitting at 6,000, a crowd of 90,000 were on hand at the stadium that seated just 52,000 for the event.

When the crate they were collecting the records in filled up, the staff stopped collecting them from fans, and they immediately became projectiles, but that would be the least of the problems caused.

After the records were blown up between the first and second games of the double-header, fans rushed the field and began starting other small fires and just generally rioting and tearing up the field.

In the end, the playing field was deemed unplayable, and the White Sox had to forfeit the second game to the Tigers, who refused to take the field regardless.

Michael Jordan Retires From Chicago Bulls To Play Baseball

An argument can be made that when Michael Jordan retired from basketball (the first time) to pursue a baseball career, he had in fact lost his desire to play basketball and was sincere about making that career work and truly believed the had a future on the baseball diamond.

On the other side of things, there is the theory that he made the move to baseball as a way to let a gambling controversy surrounding him die down, before making his triumphant return to the court.

Either way, the media had a field day with Jordan making the move to baseball, and no underperforming minor leaguer has ever enjoyed the press that MJ did during the 1994 season.

As a 31-year-old, Jordan spent the entire year with the White Sox Double-A affiliate the Birmingham Barons, where he hit ..202/.289/.266, 3 HR, 51 RBI, 46 R and went 30-of-48 on stolen base attempts.

Regardless of whether or not it was intended to be a publicity stunt, in the end that is exactly what it looked like, as Jordan was back to basketball the following season.


So there is a look at a handful of the most memorable publicity stunts in baseball history. If Jose Canseco can somehow work his way back to the big leagues, he and the team that signed him will certainly earn a spot on this list as well.


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