July 9, 2004


The night anti-disco fans went batty at Sox Park (DAVE HOEKSTRA, July 9, 2004, Chicago Sun-Times)

Bill Veeck danced to the beat of a different drummer. Just as leisure suits dressed up disco, the late White Sox owner brightened up baseball.

In July 1979, Veeck gave the lime-green light to his son Mike's idea of having radio personality Steve Dahl burn disco records in center field between games of a White Sox-Detroit Tigers doubleheader at Comiskey Park. Any fan who brought a disco record to the game was admitted for 98 cents, to tie in with Dahl's radio frequency, WLUP-FM (97.9).

The White Sox lost the first game 4-1. About 15 minutes before the second game was to begin, fans started streaming onto the field and tore up the infield grass. Comiskey had become a Field of Screams. The White Sox forfeited the second game.

Flying discs not the big worry

After 25 years, people now talk about being scared at Disco Demolition.

I'll tell you what was really scary:

The music of 1979.

Throughout the spring and summer, the Bee Gees dominated the charts with "Too Much Heaven," "Tragedy" and "Love You Inside Out." For Disco Demolition, I brought a copy of Rod Stewart's "Blondes Have More Fun," which included his hit "Do Ya Think I'm Sexy." As a loyal Faces fan, I couldn't wait to see Rod go down in flames.

Even rock 'n' roll stunk in 1979. Styx -- huge White Sox supporters -- had a No. 1 hit with "Babe," and the vapid ballad wasn't about Babe Ruth. The Knack scored its only hit with "My Sharona," and the Knack held up about as well as Harry Chappas.

I was there.

I behaved myself, most likely because I didn't drink Schlitz or Stroh's, the Comiskey house brews.

I sat in the right field upper deck with my girlfriend Miller from Beverly.

Sounds awfully funny now, but at the time it seemed one of those indicators that our society really was crumbling. And no one at the helm but the peanut farmer...


The Clattering Train

Who is in charge of the clattering train?
The axles creak and the couplings strain;
And the pace is hot, and the points are near,
And sleep has deadened the driver’s ear;
And the signals flash through the night in vain,
For Death is in charge of the clattering train.

Author unknown, but declaimed by Churchill in the excellent biopic, The Gathering Storm.

Posted by Orrin Judd at July 9, 2004 10:29 AM

I remember that "Disco Demolition Night" was originally to be after a single game (like Friday night fireworks), and only became a double header to make up a rainout. I wasn't there myself, because I couldn't join my usual companions who did have tickets and did go. They left midway during the first game because of the chaos. Even Harray Caray was commenting on the TV broadcast how there was constant motion in the aisles, unlike a normal game.

Also, it was a few weeks later that a Yes concert during a rainstorm so chewed up the outfield that the first game after was played "on the beach". I seem to recall several games got canceled due to field conditions.

Ah, the good ol' days. They were terrible.

Posted by: Raoul Ortega at July 9, 2004 11:20 AM

Disco, which really hit the airwaves in 1975, actually was starting to fade out by early 1978, until it was revived by "Saturday Night Fever" and dominated the music charts in early 1979 with mostly mindless dreck attached to a thumpa-thumpa beat. That's what Veeck's anti-disco night promotion was reacting against (the disco backlash was still big enough a year later so that the gag in "Airplane!" of the jetliner knocking down the disco radio station's antenna received major laughs and applause in the theaters. Meanwhile, John Travolta moved on to the country and western genre with "Urban Cowboy" while voters had Jimmy Carter just moving on by the end of 1980).

Posted by: John at July 9, 2004 11:22 AM


Can you fix the link to the poem, please?

Posted by: Peter B at July 9, 2004 11:35 AM


Don't know who wrote it, but Albert Finney as Churchill recites it in The Gathering Storm:


Posted by: oj at July 9, 2004 11:48 AM

Thanks. It is wonderful!

Posted by: Peter B at July 9, 2004 12:02 PM

Don't forget those White Sox uniforms in 1979. The team's web site describes them as:

One of baseball's most innovative uniform ideas came from Bill Veeck in 1976. Pull-over jerseys were worn pajama style outside the trousers, and featured a v-neck simulated collar. Shirts and trousers were navy blue and could be intermixed. "CHICAGO" lettering was a throwback to bygone days.

In my opinion they were terrible.

Posted by: pchuck at July 9, 2004 12:33 PM

I remember the song "Do Ya Think I'm Disco" by Steve Dahl and Teenage Radiation. Probably still have the 45 somewhere.

Do ya think I'm disco?/Am I superficial?/Looking good's my only goal . . .

Posted by: Mike Morley at July 9, 2004 12:47 PM

The hats were a solid navy blue with an embroidered blockish "SOX" on it. (Probably the same typeface as the old NASA "worm" logo.) Northside team fans, no dummies they, figured out that it was easy to remove the top of the "O".

And what about the one game (I forget the year) in which the they played in shorts? Yeow!

Posted by: Raoul Ortega at July 9, 2004 12:53 PM

I believe the shorts appeared in 1976; that uniform was designed by Mrs. Veeck and was intended to be an alternate uniform for home stands. They were only used for one game because the players hated them, were impossible to slide in, and looked more like a softball uniform than even the "Rainbow" Astros uni from the same period. Of course, since the Sox played like a softball team, maybe the complaint was with themselves.

Posted by: John Barrett Jr. at July 9, 2004 9:40 PM