Ballantine Beer and Baseball

Right-center.

Peter Ballantine was born in Scotland in 1791, and he moved to the United States in 1820 and began working at a brewery. Thirteen years later, he opened his own brewery. Having some success and wanting a bigger market, he moved his family from Albany to New York City in 1840. By 1877, he was the fourth largest brewery in the country. When Prohibition hit, they changed to making malt syrup and diversified into an insurance and real estate company. After Prohibiton was lifted, the owners didn’t want to go back to brewing beer, and they sold that part of the company to Carl Badenhausen. Ballantine Beer was still as popular as ever. By the 1950’s, it was so popular that it was the third-largest brewing company in country, but it went into decline in the following decade. Now, it’s owned by Pabst Brewing Company, but it’s only sold in 40 oz. bottles.

What makes Ballantine Beer so special is its relationship with baseball. Based in New York City, it was a major sponsor of the New York Yankees in the 1950’s and 1960’s. Mel Allen, a famous Yankee announcer, would call Yankee home runs “Ballantine Blasts”, but Ballantine Beer would call for his firing in a cost-cutting move. When Phil Rizzuto retired from playing, Ballantine pushed for him to be hired as an announcer. After the Mets came to town, Ballantine Beer (favored by Yankee fans) and Rheingold (favored by Met fans) had an interesting rivalry.

Ballantine even reached into Philadelphia. Shibe Park’s outfield fences were originally low, and fans could watch games from nearby buildings. Connie Mack, not one to ignore finances, created a “spite fence” to block the view from right field. Brought over from Yankee Stadium, the Ballantine Beer Sign occupied the top 15 feet of the 75 foot wall just over the scoreboard. Anything hit over hit was a home run, but it is believed that Dick Allen was the only one to clear it.

After the 1960’s, Ballantine lost much of its influence and connection with the game of baseball.

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3 Responses to “Ballantine Beer and Baseball”

  1. Ron Rollins Says:

    Did you ever hear the story of when Dizzy Dean used to broadcast Saturday games for CBS?

    Seems Ol’ Diz would sample some of Ballentines finest during the broadcast and become more ‘verbose’ as the game went on.

    One afternoon during at a game in Wrigley, the camera showed a couple sitting in the bleachers kissing.

    Diz said, “I know what they’re doing. He’s kissing her on the strikes and she’s kissing him on the balls.”

    Keeping in mind this was in the mid-60’s, Diz took a mid-season vacation for a couple of weeks.

    And we have to put up with McCarver.

  2. tHeMARksMiTh Says:

    That’s awesome, but no, I didn’t know that.

  3. Richard E Sinda Says:

    What memories the picture of Connie Mack Stadium and The Ballentine Beer Sign have for me. While Dick Allen may have hit one over the scoreboard, Wes Covington hit the clock above it. Alas, he only got a double.

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