Because it’s called a draft, and involves several rounds, and draws customers from Busch Stadium and Miller Park and Coors Field, the three-day bender known as the Major League Baseball amateur draft might easily be mistaken for a 72-hour pub crawl, especially after the defending champion Astros selected, with their first pick, one Seth Beer.
The morning after the first round, baseball fans woke to highlights of a young woman at a Padres game catching a foul ball in her beer cup at Petco Park and then — in what is becoming a custom at ballparks everywhere — chugging the beer with the ball still in it. Top notes of cowhide, mouthfeel of pine tar, bouquet of Lena Blackburne rubbing mud.
Jason Day hit a ball into a fan’s beer at the Masters in April and the Augusta National patron drank it down before returning the garnish, proving that this is a universal human impulse, not confined to baseball.
But no sport is as wedded to beer as baseball. On the same night that foul ball landed in the lady’s beer in San Diego, Cubs shortstop Javier Baez went into the seats down the third-base line for a foul ball at Wrigley Field and knocked a man’s beer onto his sweatshirt. Of course, diving into the stands at Wrigley and striking beer is like driving into Napa Valley and striking wine. It’s true of every park in baseball.
Giants second baseman Joe Panik hit a foul ball in San Francisco this season that splashed down squarely in a beer that was resting in its cupholder. This sounds like a one-in-a-million shot until you consider how many beers are in how many cupholders. Every foul ball begins a baseball version of beer pong.
Should he make it to the majors, Clemson junior Seth Beer would be the first big leaguer in history named Beer, though Clarence Beers in 1948 threw two-thirds of an inning for the Cardinals, the team more steeped in beer—and beer wagons, and Clydesdales—than any other in baseball. In 1941, Dizzy Dean was hired to call Cardinals and Browns games on KWK radio in St. Louis and flog Griesedieck beer on the air.
Jim Britt in Boston called Red Sox and Braves games while extolling the virtues of Narragansett beer. Yankees home runs were, in the famous phrase of Mel Allen, “Ballantine blasts.” While any Reds batter who hit one onto the sun deck at Crosley Field had, in Waite Hoyt’s phrase, “hit it into Burgerville.” Many Reds fans were deep into Burgerville by the third inning. Burger Beer was “The Beer That Brings You Baseball.”
And it is beer that brings you baseball, rather than the reverse. The ale is wagging the dog here. While it’s rare to find baseball players named for beer, beer is often named for baseball players. In Baltimore, Steady Eddie Spring Wheat IPA, named for Orioles Hall of Fame first baseman Eddie Murray, pairs well with mutton chops. Petco Park serves a San Diego Pale Ale .394, garnished with or without a baseball. That last number is not a reference to one’s blood alcohol level but to the 1994 batting average of the late Tony Gwynn, for whom it was created.
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The Yankees of Murderers’ Row were owned by the brewing magnate Jacob Ruppert, and this spring the team invited members of the media to sample Blue Point beers in which the faces of various Bombers—Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, Gary Sanchez and Aroldis Chapman—were rendered in the foam, the way a barista puts a shamrock in your caramel macchiato. But that was as far as it went, and Yankees fans cannot quaff a portrait of CC Sabathia in the Bronx this summer.
Major League Baseball forbids active players to endorse alcoholic beverages. Fans will not see Bud Norris in their Bud Light any time soon, lest anyone associate a member of the Cardinals with a popular brand of beer.
As teams in recent years have banned alcohol in clubhouses and on team flights bound for home, the number of craft beer tap handles has multiplied on the concourses. In Milwaukee, Bernie Brewer no longer lives inside a beer barrel, nor gets jettisoned into a frothy mug whenever a Brewers batter hits a home run. (He now slides safely onto a home plate.) But everyone else in the stands, and often the players diving into them, will find themselves—at some point this summer, like it or not—immersed.