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Happy Anniversary Disco Demolition Night

Jul 12, 2013, 12:30 PM EDT

Disco Demolition

I have no idea how we all survived the 1970s. Everything about that decade encouraged anarchy. Often times nearly forced it.  If I told you that in 1978 there was a “Kill the Person Next to You With Your Bare Hands Night” at a major league ballpark and that everyone thought it would be a good idea at the time, but boy howdy, it just got out of hand somehow, you’d probably believe it because it was so fitting for the time. That’s just how we rolled in Ford and Carter’s America.

Of the disasters that actually did happen, I still think Ten Cent Beer Night was the greatest fiasco. I mean, what did anyone think was going to happen? But Disco Demolition Night is a worthy challenger to that crown. It occurred 34 years ago today.

In a suitable signpost for the end of the absolutely insane 1970s, a Chicago DJ named Steve Dahl achieved infamy during a doubleheader between the White Sox and Tigers. The backlash against disco had reached its apex. Dahl convinced the White Sox to stage a promotion for which people would bring unwanted disco records to the game in exchange for a 98 cent ticket. The records were to be collected and placed in center field where they were to be blown up — actually blown up — during the intermission between the two games. Fun would be had by all, Dahl and the White Sox thought. What actually happened?  A riot, of course.

Which, today anyway, we probably could have seen coming. You combine cheap tickets, a promotion which, by its nature, attracted people who were not into simply dancing and having a good time, the promise of actual violence in the form of an explosion and the fact that no one really controlled beer sales in those days, and it makes perfect sense that chaos ensued. Back in 1979, however, people just didn’t think things through like that, God love ’em.

There was not enough room in the collection boxes — Dahl, the organizer, assumed maybe 10,000 people would show up but more than 50,000 did — so many just brought their records into the ballpark and started throwing them on the field. Then the explosion happened. It tore a big chunk out of the outfield grass. Then thousands of fans rushed the field, lighting fires, throwing firecrackers, and making general asses of themselves. The batting cage was pulled down and wrecked, bases were ripped off the infield, and the place was generally torn to shreds before riot police showed up.

Watch some of the local news coverage from the event. And, before wondering how this could all happen, ask yourself the first question that occurred to me: did men simply not wear shirts in the 1970s? Was there some law against it? Because in 100% of the footage I have ever seen from the 1970s, all men were shirtless. Including Nixon’s resignation speech, all episodes of the Michael Douglas Show and the Bicentennial celebrations:

  1. virusgvr - Jul 12, 2013 at 12:38 PM

    30 years from now we as a nation are going to look back at this Obama administration and ask ourselves… What the hell were we thinking!!!

    • Wesley Clark - Jul 12, 2013 at 12:55 PM

      Are you kidding me? We will be praising Obama and all the other candidates that even wanted the job after the damage Bush did. It really is a moot point anyways. The zombie apocalypse will end it for us all anyways.

      • heyblueyoustink - Jul 12, 2013 at 1:41 PM

        Right, we’re still blaming Bush. Gotcha.

      • cohnjusack - Jul 12, 2013 at 2:28 PM

        Right, we’re still blaming Bush. Gotcha.

        I know! Incredible! It’s almost as though he believes a President’s influence doesn’t the the instant his Presidency does.

    • tellyspop - Jul 12, 2013 at 12:57 PM

      It’s only been 13 years and I look back at the administration of Mad King George and ask ourselves what in the Hell did we do!!!

      • heyblueyoustink - Jul 12, 2013 at 1:43 PM

        And the Mad King has been followed by the detatched emperor.

        They both suck as far as presidents go.

    • historiophiliac - Jul 12, 2013 at 1:13 PM

      I have bad news for you, in 30 years, you will look back and realize that the world did not come to an end and it wasn’t so bad after all. You might even — like so many people do with JFK — lie about voting for him. Perhaps you don’t know that in the 60’s there were calls to impeach JFK for treason and all kinds of talk about his unconstitutional use of the military. In retrospect, we realize he was much more moderate than people feared. I think we are repeating that history here, and you may look back on your position with chagrin and tolerance later.

      • mybrunoblog - Jul 12, 2013 at 1:28 PM

        Who’s lying about voting for Kennedy? Heck, anyone who voted for Kennedy is past age 70 or likely playing a harp up in the clouds. Kennedy was strong pro life catholic, supported the 2nd amendment, wanted to cut taxes to increase economic activity, and was a war veteran who supported the armed forces. If Kennedy were alive today he would be a republican or as an unhinged left winger would say “a tea bagger”
        Kennedy was an avid sportsman who did enjoy baseball.

      • historiophiliac - Jul 12, 2013 at 2:13 PM

        Do you know a lot of old people who say they *didn’t* vote for Kennedy?

        Personally, I think he would be a blue dog Demo today, but you never know. He might have gone with the neo-Cons.

      • DelawarePhilliesFan - Jul 12, 2013 at 1:33 PM

        True – 30 years ago you had Ronald Reagan calling Tip O’Neill “Pac-Man” because he was round and gobbled up money, whilst the Speaker called Reagan a cheerleader for selfishness. Now they are portrayed as the models of how rivals can work together (not by me, though). Time changes perspective on everything

      • chacochicken - Jul 12, 2013 at 2:20 PM

        Kennedy was more an opportunist. The JFK that criticized Eisenhower and ran against Nixon was not the JFK of 1962-63. He was deeply suspicious of the military and intelligence community. He ran on a strong defense and anti-communist platform while being called a treasonous commie by ’63. His continuous advancement of civil rights put him firmly to the left but more moderate than his adversaries suggested.

      • historiophiliac - Jul 12, 2013 at 2:22 PM

        I think all candidates change once they take office.

        Dammit, how did I get sucked into a JFK discussion???? Boooo!!!!!

      • asimonetti88 - Jul 12, 2013 at 4:56 PM

        I think Kennedy’s assassination has more to do with people looking back on his tenure more kindly than the passage of time does.

      • historiophiliac - Jul 12, 2013 at 4:59 PM

        That’s true. But there are other examples too.

    • beefytrout - Jul 12, 2013 at 3:08 PM

      virusgvr – we’re already looking back at your parents and asking what the hell were they thinking.

  2. 13arod - Jul 12, 2013 at 12:40 PM

    We should do it again

    • nothanksimdriving123 - Jul 12, 2013 at 3:25 PM

      ChiSox are planning a followup with rap music and hip-hop, combined with 5 cent beer and a gun and ammo buyback. I foresee that going smoothly too.

  3. dwrek5 - Jul 12, 2013 at 12:46 PM

    When is Bieber demolition night?

    • nothanksimdriving123 - Jul 12, 2013 at 3:19 PM

      Of the actual dippy kid himself, or just his “records”?

  4. DelawarePhilliesFan - Jul 12, 2013 at 12:46 PM

    Your welcome :)

    • historiophiliac - Jul 12, 2013 at 12:53 PM

      I love you.

      • DelawarePhilliesFan - Jul 12, 2013 at 12:57 PM

        Back at ya 😉

  5. mybrunoblog - Jul 12, 2013 at 12:53 PM

    Everyone was shirtless in the 1970s because most of them were thin enough to get away with it. Today’s chubby America wisely covers up the man boobs, love handles and the ladies muffin top.

    • historiophiliac - Jul 12, 2013 at 1:14 PM

      I was going to add that, in all fairness, I seem to recall that women wore shirts less often then too.

    • dwrek5 - Jul 12, 2013 at 1:50 PM

      You ever notice on Cops everyone that gets arrested is not wearing a shirt? Did you see Aaron Hernandez when he got arrested? Yep, no shirt. Word to the wise, keep your shirt on people.

  6. northstarsmitty - Jul 12, 2013 at 1:00 PM

    I can’t believe 15 and counting people disliked the Obama comment! haha get real, he is a failure. Not saying a republican should be in there, just saying for petes sake anyone else would be fabulous!

    • chacochicken - Jul 12, 2013 at 1:28 PM

      Judging by your use of the word “fabulous”, you should rethink your comment given all he has tried to do for the legalization of same-sex marriage and equality.

      • heyblueyoustink - Jul 12, 2013 at 1:48 PM

        C’mon now, you’re smarter than that. He gave it a pass, and some words, but he was far from a drum beater on that issue.

        It’s insulting to the people that have been ardently working on this for decades and came down to a court case. And the right decision was made.

        He was nothing much than a mousy voiced cheerleader.

      • chacochicken - Jul 12, 2013 at 2:13 PM

        Everything good or bad during your administration you get the blame or credit for regardless of what hand you had in it. Not my rules, I’m just an observer.

      • heyblueyoustink - Jul 12, 2013 at 3:05 PM

        Good point. I voted for him the first time, I won’t called it a wasted vote, but I certainly don’t feel I got as advertised. With his charisma and so much public support, he had the makings of a great one.

      • nothanksimdriving123 - Jul 12, 2013 at 3:23 PM

        hey blue, do try to keep in mind that after 2 years in office, President Obama became saddled with a House of Representatives dedicated to opposing anything and everything he proposed, regardless of merit. Try succeeding with that.

      • asimonetti88 - Jul 12, 2013 at 5:00 PM

        He has not done very much for gay marriage other than flip flopping on the issue. Part of that is because the Office of President can’t really do a whole lot regarding the issue of gay marriage, but he shouldn’t politicize the issue if he can’t do anything about it. If he really cared about gay rights as much as he claims, he would be working on employment discrimination against gays- which he CAN do something about.

      • heyblueyoustink - Jul 12, 2013 at 6:13 PM

        In fact, the only openly gay ambassador, was the guy in Benghazi.

      • heyblueyoustink - Jul 12, 2013 at 6:18 PM

        And 123, Clinton had a republican congress for the last six years of his presidency. Difference is, he wasn’t inept and not nearly as diversive as this guy turned out to be. Chew on that for a little.

        That was the last time this country had a real surplus of anything other than confusion and anger.

      • koufaxmitzvah - Jul 12, 2013 at 6:36 PM

        “In fact, the only openly gay ambassador, was the guy in Benghazi.”

        Is that why the Koch Brothers supported budget got passed, y’know the one where they cut funding to security for embassies across the board?

        They want you to keep blaming the wrong guy. But, no, we’re the fools. Because billionaires say so.

      • heyblueyoustink - Jul 12, 2013 at 6:50 PM

        Are the Koch brothers in the intel business? Sometimes you say things I can respect, but, at the very least, that whole tragedy was a failure of sharing intel within different executive branch departments. As far as if there could have been a response to save those lives, we may never know.

        But if you’re going to cry poor for the NSA and FBI, they have plenty of money for bullets and drones, and the IRS has plenty of money to hire an additional 16,000 people.

        So tell me again about the evil Koch brothers.

    • koufaxmitzvah - Jul 12, 2013 at 6:33 PM

      Because George W Bush was super fabulous.

      And his father was fucking fantastic.

      Ah, for Pete’s sake….

      • heyblueyoustink - Jul 12, 2013 at 7:46 PM

        You did see where I praised Clinton, right?

        I don’t follow any other doctrine besides my own. It’s fun, some days I get called liberal, one days I get guys like you who think I carry the Bush family banner in my car.

        It’s all good man, I can take it. Free range is liberating and makes for easy sleeping.

      • koufaxmitzvah - Jul 12, 2013 at 7:58 PM

        Yes, they all stink. Something happens when they get into office. Alien blood is what I imagine.

      • heyblueyoustink - Jul 12, 2013 at 8:23 PM

        Personally, especially with the last two, they listen way too much to their advisors. That’s just my opinion. I didn’t initially vote for Barack so that Eric Holder could attack the constitution one amendment at a time.

  7. therealtrenches - Jul 12, 2013 at 1:04 PM

    Sheesh…the 70s weren’t THAT chaotic. In fact, compared to now, the 70s were a cakewalk.

    • tellyspop - Jul 12, 2013 at 1:11 PM

      A re-reading of American & World history 1970-1979 perhaps would be in order for you.

      • therealtrenches - Jul 12, 2013 at 1:22 PM

        And perhaps you should take a look around at the atrocities happening in the here and now.

    • chacochicken - Jul 12, 2013 at 1:39 PM

      Vietnam, Nixon, Laos/Cambodia, Khmer Rouge, Watergate, Energy Crisis, Fall of the Shah, Yom Kippur War, American hostages in Teheran, Disco, Munich Olympics, the birth of Craig Calcaterra, Tangshan earthquake, Jonestown, 3-Mile Island, Margaret Thatcher, Elvis dead, and some other shit too

      • Gamera the Brave - Jul 12, 2013 at 2:40 PM

        Elvis is dead?!?
        Well, that explains his career tanking so suddenly…
        Also why he stopped doing live shows…

      • Max Power - Jul 12, 2013 at 2:46 PM

        Birth control, Ho Chi Minh, Richard Nixon back again,
        Moonshot, Woodstock, Watergate, punk rock,
        Begin, Reagan, Palestine, terror on the airline,
        Ayatollah’s in Iran, Russians in Afghanistan…

      • tmohr - Jul 12, 2013 at 2:51 PM

        Wasn’t this an R.E.M. song?

      • koufaxmitzvah - Jul 12, 2013 at 6:37 PM

        Nixon would be too liberal for today’s GOP.

      • chacochicken - Jul 12, 2013 at 6:41 PM

        Oh entirely so. EPA, detente with China, continued desegregation, ABM treaty. Its amazing really as he actually tried to compromise even with his enemies (possibly while plotting their destruction). He sure would’ve liked to have unmanned drones though.

  8. tellyspop - Jul 12, 2013 at 1:37 PM

    Every year, every 10 years, or at any time in history, every generation has difficult situations. To make the claim the 1970’s were a cakewalk compared with today, last year or even the last 13 years was naive. At least: and thank Koresh, there have been no more disco riots.

  9. hopespringseternal - Jul 12, 2013 at 1:59 PM

    I believe it was Mike Veeck’s idea to have Dahl do it at Comisky.

  10. eightyraw - Jul 12, 2013 at 2:02 PM

    The eagle-eyed might be able to spot a 21yo Michael Clarke Duncan in the above video. He was one of the first 100 or so to rush the field, and participated in the festivities by sliding into third base and stealing Bill Melton’s bat.

  11. proudliberal85392 - Jul 12, 2013 at 2:32 PM

    How did a discussion of Disco Demolition Night devolve into a political discussion? I think I sustained whiplash on that one.

    • DelawarePhilliesFan - Jul 12, 2013 at 4:11 PM

      It is the HBT way…..

  12. ndnut - Jul 12, 2013 at 2:33 PM

    I came here for baseball history, not politics. Let’s handle this like the 70’s now. Everybody smoke a joint, picture a flying unicorn, and join in a giant Internet hug. 1………2………..

  13. proudliberal85392 - Jul 12, 2013 at 2:34 PM

    dwrek5, thank you. I’ve wondered about the no shirt thing.

  14. Max Power - Jul 12, 2013 at 2:47 PM

    Greg Gumble, local sports anchor at about 2:00.

    • nothanksimdriving123 - Jul 12, 2013 at 3:42 PM

      And a young Gene Siskel not long after Greg.

  15. sirrealrainman - Jul 12, 2013 at 4:27 PM

    I remember this game well.
    I was a kid living in Novi MI and watched this double header on t.v.

    The White Sox had to forfeit the 2nd game to the Tigers by a 9-0 score.
    As a kid, I didn’t even know a forfeit was possible like this.
    I remember asking myself questions like why is the score an arbitrary 9-0? How are the stats maintained for a 9-0 game that was never actually played, etc.

    34 Years later, and I finally checked some of this stuff.
    The only forfeit since this game looks to be the Dodgers/Cardinals on August 10, 1995.
    Only 5 forfeits since 1970.

    • nothanksimdriving123 - Jul 12, 2013 at 4:48 PM

      Nice job, thanks!

    • Detroit Michael - Jul 14, 2013 at 6:44 AM

      I remember how Al Kaline on television with George Kell was lamenting the situation. One could tell during the first game that the crowd was going to go nuts.

      • sirrealrainman - Jul 15, 2013 at 4:33 PM

        I loved our all-hall-of-fame broadcast teams back then!

  16. mungman69 - Jul 12, 2013 at 7:25 PM

    The Koch brothers were so evil…

  17. northstarnic - Jul 12, 2013 at 10:26 PM

    Hilarious!!! Thank you for the laugh!
    Spirit of 76 baby!
    And by the way, disco (at least some of it) rules!

  18. mottershead1972 - Jul 13, 2013 at 10:59 AM

    Thought this was about disco demolition night… Not Reagan vs. JFK, vsobama and bush… BTW, disco still sucks!

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