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Just Off-Camera

"They respect you if you write. The dumber the world gets, the more the words matter." -Dan Jenkins

Thursday, January 13, 2005

"We Want Beer!"

This was touched on very briefly in Brian Murphy's Page 2 column on Monday, but the story of Philly fans booing the president during Prohibition and chanting for beer, to me, deserved a more thorough treatment. I think it captures the spirit of Philadelphia sports fans quite nicely, and perhaps even the spirit of citizen participation to an extent. But that just might be the first day of Constitutional Law talking.

Murphy's short mention of the event goes like this:

In the 1930 World Series at Connie Mack Stadium, the Philadelphia A's played the St. Louis Cardinals. Two details: 1.) President Hoover showed up, and was booed. 2.) Shortly thereafter, the fans began chanting, "We want beer! We want beer!" It was, of course, during Prohibition.

Actually, I found other sources that place this event either at Game 5 of the 1929 World Series or Game 3 of the 1931 World Series. The A's were in all three of those series, and they played the Cardinals in '30 and '31. In '29 their opponents were the Cubs.

In '29, the A's won the first two games of the series at Wrigley Field, but then lost to the Cubs at home in Shibe Park (I don't think it was called Connie Mack Stadium at that point). In Game 4, down 8-0 in the bottom of the seventh, the A's put up an unbelievable 10 runs in the seventh inning, winning the game 10-8 and taking a 3-1 series lead.

Two days later, President Hoover made the trip up from Washington for Game 5 in Shibe Park to see the A's attempt to win their first championship in 16 years. Then, one version of the story goes, as Hoover walked across the field to the presidential box prior to that afternoon's game, the crowd chanted, "Beer! Beer! We want beer!"

The fans didn't get their beer - at least, not legally - until 1933, but they did get another amazing win from the A's. Down 2-0 in the bottom of the ninth, the A's came from behind for the second time in as many games and won the game, 3-2, and brought a championship to Philly.

So was Hoover booed for prohibition in 1929? Well, a quote from Hoover indicates that it might have instead happened in 1931:

"I was not able to work up much enthusiasm over the ball game, and in the midst of it I was handed a note informing me of the sudden death of Senator Dwight Morrow. He had proved a great pillar of strength in the Senate and his death was a great loss to the country and to me. I left the ballpark with the chant of the crowd ringing in my ears, 'We want beer!'"

Morrow died on October 5, 1931, the same day as Game 3 of the 1931 World Series between the A's and Cardinals, played in Philadelphia. So the beer-starved fans' chant could very well have happened then. At least three other sites confirms this as the date, including the Baseball Hall of Fame's site. By the way, the A's lost that game, falling behind 2-1 in the series, which they would eventually lose in seven games.

Still another site places the "We want beer" chant in 1931, only at a Washington Senators game at Griffith Park. This site reports that Hoover, after hearing the chant, laughed.

And apparently, the source of the info in Murphy's column is The Great Philadelphia Fan Book, which places the booing and beer demands on October 2, 1930, at Game 2 of the A's-Cardinals World Series.

If I had to guess at the actual time and place of the event, I'd go with Game 3 of the '31 series.

Anyway, what's the point of this discussion? Well, it shows that I have a severely skewed interest in looking up this stuff. But that isn't the point. The point is that the good folks of Philadelphia are passionate about all sorts of things, not the least of which are their beer and their sports teams. That's part of the city's identity - passion, enjoyment of life, and booing anything and everything.

I guess the reason I burned a half hour of my life looking at what happened over 70 years ago is because I consider myself a peer of those Depression-era fans - a Philly fan who, if he were at a World Series game in 2005, would do the same thing if his beer were taken from him.

Of course, the chances of the Phillies reaching the 2005 World Series are slim to none. And no president would ever dare take away the nation's beer again. Which means I can drown my sorrows regarding Ed Wade's failure to transcend mediocrity in a Yuengling, should I happen to be in Philadelphia come October.

Actually, that's a good question. Would I give up beer for 14 years in exchange for three straight World Series appearances, including two championships? At this point, having spent 23 years of my life without seeing a World Series parade down Broad Street, I'm inclined to say yes.


  • At Thursday, January 13, 2005 9:03:00 PM, Blogger yoni cohen :: http://yocohoops.com said…


    Came across your blog today. Good stuff. Though I would have remained an ESPN researcher for longer than you! Sounds like a great gig.

    Noticed you are a college basketball fan. Hoping you could kindly add a blogroll link to my College Basketball Blog, http://collegeball.blogspot.com. I'd tremendously appreciate a permanent link on your site.

    And would gladly return the favor, adding a link from my site to yours.


    Yoni Cohen, College Basketball Blog


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