Thursday, July 12, 2018

July 12, 1979: Disco and everything went crazy in the old Comiskey Park

By the summer of 1979, disco music saturated US radio stations.   Everybody was doing disco, from Paul McCartney "Goodnight tonight" to Frankie Avalon's "Venus".    Frankly, it was probably too much disco!

On this day in 1979, the Chicago White Sox and Detroit Tigers were scheduled to play a doubleheader.     The Chisox needed a promotion and they got one by joining forces with Chicago DJ Steve Dahl, one of many rock fans who resented how disco threatened rock ’n’ roll.

The promotion called for fans to blow up disco vinyl 45s and LPs between games.

What could possible go wrong?   Everything did, as Joe LaPointe reminded us in his 2009 recalling the 30th anniversary of the event:
During the first game, the stands filled with Dahl’s listeners, who got in for 98 cents if they brought a record to be destroyed.
Alan Trammell, then the Tigers’ shortstop, said, “I remember from the get-go, it wasn’t a normal crowd.” Trammell, now a Cubs coach, said umpires ordered the grounds crew to clear debris from the warning track between innings of the first game.
“The outfielders were definitely a little scared,” Trammell said. Ron LeFlore, a former convict, played center field for Detroit, “and Ronnie wasn’t usually afraid of anything.”
The Sox did not expect such a large crowd, which was officially announced as 47,795. Mike Veeck said that it was really closer to 60,000 and that he had hired security for 35,000. “That’s what we thought attendance would be,” Veeck said.
Staub said: “People brought ladders. They were climbing in from the outside. It was like a riot.”
Veeck ordered yellow-jacketed guards to go outside to stop fans from crashing the gates.
That allowed the spectators inside the ballpark to storm the field without much resistance. Jack Morris, a Tigers pitcher, recalled “whiskey bottles were flying over our dugout” after Detroit won the first game, 4-1.
Then Dahl blew up the records.
“And then all hell broke loose,” Morris said. “They charged the field and started tearing up the pitching rubber and the dirt. They took the bases. They started digging out home plate.”
By the way, I had tickets to the game.    My senior partner took me along on a business trip to Chicago.   He knew that I was a baseball fan and would enjoy the game.

We took a morning flight, landed at Midway, went to the hotel and headed for the park.

We never got in.   We were greeted by police officers who were telling fans to go home because the game was cancelled.

We went back to the hotel and saw the chaos on TV.

A couple of months later, we got a letter from Mr Veech along with a refund check. 

My guess is that the White Sox never had another promotion like that again.

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