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Tuesday, September 7, 2004
The best promotions in 25 years

By Jeff Merron
Page 2

Over the past 25 years, some teams have raised clever promotions to an art form. These are the priceless ones.

5. Flash-Card Football (Portland State)
In the first game of the Portland State Vikings' 1989 season, 1,500 fans with flashcards voted on whether the Vikings, playing against Cameron University (Lawton, Illinois) should run or pass during a series of downs in the third quarter. Most fans voted for a pass, and it was complete. Then the fans voted for a run, on which the Vikings scored a TD. "If they can do that every time, they can keep calling them," said offensive coordinator Alan Borges. Portland State won, 35-21.

The ESPN25 Book
In celebration of ESPN's 25th anniversary, ESPN Books has just released "ESPN25 -- 25 Mind-Bending, Eye-Popping, Culture-Morphing Years of Highlights" by Charles Hirshberg, with a foreword by Chris Berman. It's available right now at Amazon.com for $17.00. The book contains several other lists by Jeff Merron, including the best team owners, and the most memorable national anthem renditions.
4. Nobody Night (Charleston Riverdogs)
One of innovative owner Mike Veeck's more imaginative schemes, on July 8, 2002, the gates in Charleston were padlocked, as the Riverdogs took on the Columbus Redstixx. A huge party was held outside the ballpark, as the Riverdogs attempted to break the record for lowest attendance at a game, said to be 12 who saw Chicago defeat Troy on Sept. 17, 1881.

The gates held tight until after the fifth inning, when the new record -- zero -- became official.

3. Arthur Andersen Night (Portland Beavers)
In 2002, the Triple-A Portland Beavers had "Arthur Andersen Night," in appreciation of the scandal-mired accounting firm that helped bring down the owner of its stadium's sponsor, PGE. Everyone named Arthur or Andersen got in free, and shredding stations were spread throughout the stadium. Naturally, the "accounting" of the night's attendance was inflated, reflecting Andersen's problems with basics. Attendance was announced as 58,667 -- about three times capacity. And, surprisingly enough, home runs went a lot farther than usual -- it was 1,317 feet down the left field line, 1,405 to center, and 1,320 to right. And everyone was a winner, tax-deduction-wise. Fans who bought $5 tickets got receipts for $10.

2. Ted Williams Popsicle Night (Bisbee-Douglas Copper Kings)
With the dead baseball great frozen in nearby Scottsdale, John Guy, part-owner and GM of the Copper Kings, decided that the way to honor Williams' memory was to remind fans of his current, cryogenic state. Hence, the first 500 fans to enter the home ballpark of the Arizona-Mexico League team for the June 2, 2003 game got a treat -- a popsicle. It was that simple ... and that clever.

"A few people have trashed the promotion as insensitive," Guy said. "As a baseball fan, I'm offended myself at his fate. So, yes, you can consider this a statement."

1. Seat Cushion Night (Saint Paul Saints)
On June 7, 2002, with talk of a baseball strike going strong, the St. Paul Saints gave away seat cushions with Bud Selig on one side and MLBPA chief Don Fehr on the other. As fans relaxed in soft comfort, they also cast a vote for whom they didn't support -- and as it turned out, 90 percent were sitting on Selig's face.