Celebrating a clinch with a clubhouse champagne shower (or a beer slip ‘n slide) is a baseball fixture dating back to the 1960s, according to this interesting ESPN account of the tradition’s evolution. But in recent years it’s become as managed and regulated—and sponsored—as anything else baseball has to offer. And MLB is watching to make sure teams follow its rules.
Last month, according to ESPN, MLB sent out a memo to potential playoff teams listing the mandatory guidelines for postgame celebrations. A lot of it is common-sense safety:
[The memo] stated that teams must have non-alcoholic beverages for players and limit the amount of alcoholic champagne to two bottles per player; champagne should be used primarily for spraying; beer is the only other alcohol permitted in postgame celebrations; clubs should remind their players and staff to celebrate responsibly; and clubs should make sure transportation is available following celebrations to get players and staff home or back to the team hotel.
But there’s also been an emphasis on keeping the celebrations confined to the clubhouse.
Teams have also been told not to take any alcoholic beverages onto the field and spray fans, some of whom may be minors.
The problem is, teams have been violating the rules, leaving the commissioner’s office to ponder those “appropriate steps.” Images of players drinking on the field and spraying fans with champagne have become commonplace this postseason, leading the league to contact the guilty parties and warn them that future incidents will result in discipline.
The “won’t somebody think of the children?” argument rings hollow—a child at a ballpark can’t look in any direction without seeing multiple beer ads.
This is probably a liability issue more than anything else, but since I have no skin in the game, players sharing their celebrations with fans—especially on the road—is a very cool thing. One of the lingering images of the NLCS is Terry Collins hosing down Mets fans gathered behind the visiting dugout.
And indeed, according to Newsday, MLB was there trying to prevent the Mets from doing just that.
So after the Mets clinched the NLCS in Game 4 on Wednesday night, officials stopped several players at the door of the tiny, ancient visitors’ clubhouse at Wrigley Field and asked them not to go onto the field carrying champagne bottles.
Memos and warnings are probably as heavy-handed as MLB is willing to be here. I really can’t picture the league going so far as to fine a team for being happy it won a playoff series. Instead, let’s limit the debates to the important stuff, like whether teams should celebrate clinching a playoff spot when they’re undoubtedly going to clinch the division a few days later. (The answer is yes. It’s a long, long season, and there’s no bad excuse for a party.)