July 12, 1979: Disco Demolition Night

You have to be of a certain age to truly understand the passion that disco music incited – both for and against – back in the late 1970s. On this night in 1979, a disc jockey named Steve Dahl, of WLUP-FM, teamed up with the Chicago White Sox to hold a “Disco Demolition Night” promotion between games of a twilight doubleheader. According to Wikipedia, the terms of the promotion were that if you brought a disco record to the ballpark that evening, you would be admitted for just 98 cents (WLUP’s frequency on the dial). Hoping for 12,000 participants, organizers were shocked when 95,000 showed up. Unfortunately, Comiskey Park only held 55,000 so there were a lot of disgruntled disco-haters before the festivities even began.

Between games, DJ Dahl took to center field where the records had been collected in a large wooden crate. He then caused explosives lining the crate to detonate, destroying the records and setting the grass outfield on fire. That commotion prompted hundreds of spectators to vault the walls and take to the field, starting other fires and tearing up chunks of turf. By the time police had cleared the field, 40 had been arrested and the umpires awarded a second game victory to the visiting Tigers by forfeit, making it the last time an American League game had been decided in that manner.

The YouTube clip below is a collection of clips from local Chicago TV news coverage of the riot. It’s 7+ minutes long, but it’s worth watching the entire thing. Besides the outrageousness on the field, it’s also a reminder of the outrageousness of fashion during that forgettable period of time. As a bonus, some now familiar national figures show up as neophyte Chicago TV people. Enjoy: