Never before or since has a baseball promotion been so ill-advised, spectacularly destructive and, perhaps, so good for society as a whole. Sunday is the 30-year anniversary of Disco Demolition Night, the brainchild of Chicago White Sox owner Bill Veeck and area disk jockey Steve Dahl, wherein an estimated 90,000 people tore up Comiskey Park during a wild celebration of the death of disco music.
It was on July 12, 1979 that fans were urged to bring disco records to Comiskey so that the disks could be blown up in a fiery display between games of a White Sox-Tigers doubleheader. After the records were destroyed, however, fans surged onto the field and mayhem reined. Dahl remembered the event, and ensuing riot, in the CHICAGO TRIBUNE today to mark the event’s 30-year anniversary (video also below).
Dahl, interviewing himself in THE CHICAGO TRIBUNE:
So you had no idea that DD was going to be as big as it was?
No, I thought it was going to be a failure. Even if I drew 10,000 fans, the place would have still looked empty. I was just hoping I wouldn’t be too embarrassed. I mean, I was dressed up like a fat G.I. Joe, singing “Do You Think I’m Disco” a cappella and running around blowing up records.
When did you know that it was going to be bigger than you had ever imagined?
When I finally got down on the field and felt the beer-fueled energy of he crowd. I might have also smelled a little pot. They were throwing cherry bombs at me. Never schedule an event that close to the 4th of July.
You mentioned alcohol and drugs. Were you high?
I don’t think so. I feared for my life and my career.
The White Sox were hoping for a modest bump in attendance for the promotion, but latent hatred of disco music was apparently so great that more than 80,000 people showed up, many climbing fences to enter Comiskey. Excess records were used as frisbees, fans threw beer and set off firecrackers, fights erupted, players armed themselves with bats and batting helmets, and chaos ruled the night. The White Sox forfeited the second game of the doubleheader, the last time in the American League a game has been forfeited. The Bee Gees later called the event the official death of disco music.
Fun fact: Actor Michael Clarke Duncan, 21 at the time, was among the first people to rush the field, and stole a bat from the White Sox dugout.