Once again the Charleston RiverDogs’ hype machine made headlines recently for a wacky promotion.
No, it wasn’t another rendition of Nobody Night, a 2002 stunt in which fans were literally locked out of Riley Park until the fifth inning so that the official attendance for the game would be a big, fat goose egg. By the way, that night ranked No. 4 on a 2016 crazy promotions list from FOX Sports.
Nor was it last season’s Technicolor Ballpark Night, during which RiverDogs fans took part in a multicolored powder toss during the seventh-inning stretch.
No, last week's Helen McGuckin night was an ode to bad online reviews. But in classic RiverDogs’ fashion, the team turned the smallest negative into a positive.
Two out of five
It started in May 2018. In her review of the RiverDogs, the New York Yankees’ Class A affiliate, a Google reviewer named Helen McGuckin had an interesting take on Riley Park.
“Just drove by,” she wrote.
And she gave Riley Park two out of five stars on the review.
From there, the RiverDogs’ staff went to work. The 2019 promo schedule marked July 9 as Helen McGuckin night.
“Helen, we hope this message reaches you,” the team wrote in the promotional press release. “We promise an unforgettable night at the ballpark that we hope ends with a new review.”
The coolest part? The RiverDogs' staff was actually able to track Helen down. She initially accepted their invitation but was unable to make it due to a scheduling conflict. So the RiverDogs did the next best thing.
They dressed their office manager in a blue T-shirt with five yellow stars across the front. And of course, they capped it off with a name-tag.
Nate Kurant, Charleston’s director of promotions, told MiLB.com that the night ended in success.
“We ended up with a number of new five-star reviews. People bought into it,” he said.
Helen night was one of many success stories that the Charleston-based team has been able to brag about over the years. It also shows the RiverDogs’ willingness to take risks for the good of the promotional game.
But it hasn’t always gone so smoothly. Here’s a brief walk down memory lane, detailing some of the team’s best and worst stunts.
Silent Night: Hit
After the success of Nobody Night in 2002, the RiverDogs followed up with Silent Night in 2003. No talking was allowed for the first five innings. Fans who wanted a beer had to hold up a sign, and librarians and golf marshals replaced the usual ushers in the stands.
Vasectomy Night: Miss
In 1997, one day after announcing Vasectomy Night, the RiverDogs decided to roll it back due to the immediate backlash. As the title suggests, the team was going to offer a free vasectomy in honor of Father’s Day. But, “We found that clearly people didn’t like the idea. We are sensitive to our fans’ wants,” said then-General Manager Mark Schuster.
Legalize Marinara Night: Hit
In celebration of 4/20, the RiverDogs paid homage to the fight to legalize marijuana by serving up dishes that included loads of marinara. While fans ate their food, they were treated to songs by Bob Marley, Grateful Dead and other artists known for partaking in marijuana.
Ribbing Tim Tebow: Miss
Charleston had a little too much fun in 2017 when former NFL quarterback Tim Tebow came to town as a member of the Columbia Fireflies.
The team received negative reviews after poking fun at Tebow throughout the series, including a church joke and showing a picture of Tebow crying following his Florida Gators' 2009 loss to Alabama in the SEC championship game.
The incident made national headlines, including segments on ESPN. For many, the joking was perceived as bullying, prompting the RiverDogs to apologize.
“Our intent was not to offend anyone,” the team wrote in a statement.