Attendance to Cleveland Indians baseball games were reaching towards all-time lows. The low attendance was made all the more pitiful against the vastness of the aging, 72,000 seat Municipal Stadium (Babe Ruth once said "You need a horse to reach the outfield").
In an attempt to boost attendance, baseball promoters decided this year's game against the Texas Rangers would be Nickel Beer Night. Even in 1978 a five-cent beer was still quite a steal.
Cleveland of 1978 was still a brawny town, but it had lost a lot of its spirit. The whole region was known as the Rust Belt because of the prevalence of decrepit old steel factories. And since the Cuyahoga River, Cleveland's over-polluted river had actually caught on fire, the city had earned the moniker "The Mistake on the Lake."
Needless to say there was a lot of pent-up agression when a few thousand burly Clevelanders, most of them unemployed steelworkers, showed up to have a couple of cheap beers.
Well they didn't stop at a couple. And no one really knows whether the promoters decided to cut their losses or if the city actually was drained of all its beer, but whatever the reason, the crowd soon became somewhat surly.
A short time thereafter the pitcher for the Texas Rangers was hit on the head with a lawn chair. The players took to the field. No, not to play ball, but to defend themselves from the drunken, marauding fans.
Needless to say, the Indians forfeited the game, and Nickel Beer Night became a part of Cleveland lore.