Disco Demolition Night (7-12-1979)

When he was the voice of the White Sox, Harry Caray used to tell listeners, “You can’t beat fun at the old ball park.”  This was one time the fun got out of hand.

Steve Dahl was the morning DJ on WLUP-FM.  He didn’t like disco music.  Part of the reason was he’d lost his job at another station when it changed to an all-disco format.  Dahl and his radio sidekick Garry Meier lost no opportunity to trash disco.7-13--1-sign

Down at Comiskey Park, Bill Veeck was running the White Sox.  He was known for his zany stunts.  Someone—and there are different versions of who it was—came up with the idea of a Disco Demolition Night.

The date chosen was Thursday, July 12.  The Sox were hosting the Detroit Tigers in a twilight double-header.  Anyone who brought a disco record to Comiskey would be admitted for 98 cents.  Between games, Dahl would blow up a crate of the records.

On a normal day, the Sox drew about 16,000 fans.  But for this gala occasion, over 50,000 people crammed their way into the park.  Another 15,000 were turned away.

During the first game, fans started sailing their records around like frisbees.  Fights broke out, beer cups were tossed.  Pot smoke drifted through the air.

The Tigers beat the Sox, 4-1.  Dahl came onto the field dressed in an army uniform.  After leading the crowd in some lusty chants of “Disco Sucks,” he set off the explosives.  The crate of records went up with a loud boom and a puff of smoke.

As Dahl left, a few fans jumped onto the field.  Hundreds more followed.  Then thousands.

They ran around the park.  They tore up the sod, knocked over the batting cage, pulled down banners, lit small fires.  Someone stole the bases—literally.  The security guards were overwhelmed.


After awhile the crowd calmed down.  Caray and Veeck took turns on the public address system, telling the trespassers to go back to their seats.  Most of them stayed where they were.  A Chicago police riot squad finally cleared the field.

Thirty-nine people were arrested for disorderly conduct.  Six injuries were reported.  The playing field was wrecked, so the second game was cancelled.

Nearly forty years have passed.  Disco Demolition Night has become Chicago’s Woodstock.  Everyone claims to have been at Comiskey that night.  Add the numbers up, and there must have been 500,000 people on the field.

BTW—anybody want to buy a 1979-vintage second base?


1 Response to “Disco Demolition Night (7-12-1979)”

  1. 1 Melvin July 13, 2016 at 12:45 pm

    True! I’ve had teachers, uncles, and second cousins all claim to have been at Disco Demolition Night.

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