Remembering the Disco Demolition

Perhaps known as one of the most extreme promotions in the MLB, Disco Demolition Night took place at Comiskey Park in Chicago, IL, on Thursday, July 12, 1979, and ended in a riot.

At the height of the event, a crate full of disco records was blown up on the field between games of a twi-night doubleheader between the Chicago White Sox and the Detroit Tigers. Many in attendance had come to see the explosion rather than the game. After the explosion, fans rushed onto the field. The field had become so ruined – both from the explosion and the fans – that the White Sox were forced to forfeit the second game to the Tigers.

In the late 1970s, dance-oriented disco was the most popular music genre in the United States, especially after being featured in hit movies like Saturday Night Fever (1977). Disco had sparked a major backlash from rock music fans; an opposition strong enough that the White Sox, looking to fill seats during a rather low season, teamed up with Chicago disc jockey and anti-disco campaigner Steve Dahl for the promotion on July 12. Dahl’s sponsoring radio station was 97.9 WLUP (now more commonly known as “The Loop”), so tickets were discounted to 98 cents to fans who turned in any disco records. Between the games, Dahl was going to destroy the collected vinyls.

White Sox officials had hope for a crowd of 20,000 fans, about 5,000 more than usual. At least 50,000 – including tens of thousands of Dahl’s supporters – packed the stadium, and thousands more snuck in after gates closed. Many of the records were not collected by staff, and were thrown like frisbees from the stand. After Dahl blew up the collected records, thousands of fans stormed the field and remained there until riot police dispersed them.

The second game was originally postponed, but was then forfeited by the White Sox the next day under order of the American League president Lee MacPhail. Disco Demolition Night is believed to be a jumping-off point of the decline of disco in late 1979.

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