July 12, 1979: Disco Demolition Night ends badly. The promotional event took place at Comiskey Park in Chicago, Illinois. The Chicago White Sox were hosting a doubleheader against the Detroit Tigers. A May 2 game between the two teams had been rained out. The doubleheader, called a twi-night (where the first game was played earlier in the day and the second game starting before 5 PM so both games could be seen for the price of a single ticket) was held on a Thursday. It was the first of a four-game weekend series between Chicago and Detroit.
Chicago disc jockey Steve Dahl had been fired after the radio station he worked at went from rock to an all-disco format. Dahl was hired at another album-oriented rock station and began disparaging disco, going so far as to create a mock organization called, “The Insane Coho Lips Anti-Disco Army.” He and his radio partner, Garry Meier planned a Disco Demolition Night to be held between the two baseball games. Mike Veeck, son of then-owner of the White Sox, Bill Veeck, helped the men plan the event. Dahl’s new radio station, WLUP at 97.9 FM allowed fans to bring a disco album to destroy in exchange for an admission fee of 98¢ (the station’s dial number).
Crowds for a Thursday game were about 6,000 and the promoters were hoping to double that figure. Instead, about 90,000 people tried to enter the 52,000 seat stadium. People were milling about the stadium and the roads leading in were blocked by traffic. The first game was played, although authorities now say there was a strong smell of marijuana present. Between the two games, a bin set in center field with all the disco records was brought out and Dahl set off explosives to destroy the hated music.
It not only destroyed the music, but tore up the outfield and even started a small fire. Dahl exited the field and immediately, thousands of fans streamed in. Some started other fires, some tore up more of the field, and even the bases were stolen. The police were called in to quell the riot. Six people reported minor injuries and another 36 were arrested. The second game was called and eventually was forfeited to the Tigers, the last American League game to have to forfeit due to rioting from the fans. The last game in the National League to end this way was in August 1995. Mike Veeck was blacklisted from Major League Baseball. Dahl continues to work as a DJ and write for the Chicago Tribune, as well. Disco’s demise was hastened by the event.
The second that first guy shimmied down the outfield wall, I knew my life was over! – Mike Veeck
Disco dancing is just the steady thump of a giant moron knocking in an endless nail. – Clive James
Disco deserved a better name, a beautiful name because it was a beautiful art form. It made the consumer beautiful. The consumer was the star. – Barry White
I feel the same way about disco as I do about herpes. – Hunter S. Thompson
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