36 years later, we remember Disco Demolition Night at Comiskey Park

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By John Dorn

It was a night that brought one of the most destructive revolutions in professional sports history, but one that has been largely forgotten as the decades have blown by. July 12, 1979 -- Disco Demolition Night at Comiskey Park in Chicago -- rests in baseball and music lore forever.

Near the height of the disco movement sweeping the nation, Chicago rock DJ Steve Dahl took it upon himself to literally demolish the genre for good. In between games of a day-night double header between the White Sox and Detroit Tigers, Chicago ownership allowed Dahl to take the field for a stunt that the team would soon regret.

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36 years later, we remember Disco Demolition Night at Comiskey Park
Chicago police disperse crowd in center field of Chicago's White Sox Park after hundreds of disco records were blown up between games of a double-header between the White Sox and the Detroit Tigers, July 12, 1980. Some 7,000 fans of a 50,000-fan crowd jammed the field during an Anti-Disco promotion sponsored by a local radio station. Second game had to be called when umpires ruled the field unfit for play. (AP Photo/Fred Jewell)
Fans storm the field at Chicago's White Sox Park on Disco Demolition night Thursday, July 12, 1979 after the first game of a double header between the White Sox and Detroit Tigers. The promotion by a local radio station turned into a melee after hundreds of disco records were blown up on the field. The second game of the double header was called by umpires who declared the field unfit for play. (AP Photo/Fred Jewell)
Fans storm the field at Chicago's White Sox Park on Disco Demolition night Thursday, July 12, 1979 after the first game of a double header between the White Sox and Detroit Tigers. The promotion by a local radio station turned into a melee after hundreds of disco records were blown up on the field. The second game of the double header was called by umpires who declared the field unfit for play. (AP Photo/Fred Jewell)
Some of the 7,000 fans who stormed the field at Chicago's White Sox Park during double-header between White Sox and Detroit Tigers run amok on the diamond, July 13, 1979, during an Anti-Disco Night promotion by the local radio station. A bonfire in center field and the blowing up of disco records caused umpires to rule the field unfit for play. (AP Photo/Fred Jewell)
Some of the 7,000 fans who stormed the field at Chicago's White Sox Park during double-header between White Sox and Detroit Tigers run amok on the diamond, July 13, 1979, during an Anti-Disco Night promotion by the local radio station. A bonfire in center field and the blowing up of disco records caused umpires to rule the field unfit for play. (AP Photo/Fred Jewell)
Chicago police move in as a portion of 7,000 fans who stormed the field burn disco records and carry the batting cage onto center field in Chicago's White Sox Park, July 12, 1979. Melee erupted during Anti-Disco Night promotion by local radio station after first game of a scheduled doubleheader against the Detroit Tigers. Fans rendered the field unplayable, and second game was canceled. (AP Photo/Fred Jewell)
Some of more than 7,000 fans of a 50,000-crowd at Chicago's White Sox park storm the field following the first game of a scheduled doubleheader against the Detroit Tigers, July 12, 1979. The second game had to be called off when umpires ruled the field unfit for play. Melee followed a burning of disco records on the field by an anti-disco radio station. (AP Photo/Fred Jewell)
Chicago police move in to arrest some of the 7,000 fans who stormed the field during scheduled doubleheader between the White Sox and the Detroit Tigers, July 12, 1979. The second game was canceled after fans set bonfire in center field and threw disco records and firecrackers throughout the park during an Anti-Disco promotion by local radio station WLUP. (AP Photo/Fred Jewell)
Some of more than 7,000 fans of a 50,000-crowd at Chicago's White Sox park storm the field following the first game of a scheduled doubleheader against the Detroit Tigers, July 12, 1979. The second game had to be called off when umpires ruled the field unfit for play. Melee followed a burning of disco records on the field by an anti-disco radio station. (AP Photo/Fred Jewell)
Some of the 7,000 fans who stormed the field at Chicago's White Sox Park during double-header between White Sox and Detroit Tigers run amok on the diamond, July 12, 1979, during an Anti-Disco Night promotion by the local radio station. A bonfire in center field and the blowing up of disco records caused umpires to rule the field unfit for play. (AP Photo/Fred Jewell)
Chicago police move in as a portion of 7,000 fans who stormed the field burn disco records and carry the batting cage onto center field in Chicago's White Sox Park, July 12, 1979. Melee erupted during Anti-Disco Night promotion by local radio station after first game of a scheduled doubleheader against the Detroit Tigers. Fans rendered the field unplayable, and second game was canceled. (AP Photo/Fred Jewell)
Chicago police move in as a portion of 7,000 fans who stormed the field burn disco records and carry the batting cage onto center field in Chicago's White Sox Park, July 12, 1979. Melee erupted during Anti-Disco Night promotion by local radio station after first game of a scheduled doubleheader against the Detroit Tigers. Fans rendered the field unplayable, and second game was canceled. (AP Photo/Fred Jewell)
Fans who stormed field during an anti-disco promotion by a local radio station, run amok during rioting at White Sox Park during a scheduled doubleheader between the White Sox and the Detroit Tigers, July 12, 1979. The second game was canceled after umpires ruled the field unfit for play. Tigers won the first game. (AP Photo/Fred Jewell)
Some of more than 7,000 fans of a 50,000-crowd at Chicago's White Sox park storm the field following the first game of a scheduled doubleheader against the Detroit Tigers, July 12, 1979. The second game had to be called off when umpires ruled the field unfit for play. Melee followed a burning of disco records on the field by an anti-disco radio station. (AP Photo/Fred Jewell)
Chicago police disperse crowd in center field of Chicago's White Sox Park after hundreds of disco records were blown up between games of a double-header between the White Sox and the Detroit Tigers, July 12, 1980. Some 7,000 fans of a 50,000-fan crowd jammed the field during an Anti-Disco promotion sponsored by a local radio station. Second game had to be called when umpires ruled the field unfit for play. (AP Photo/Fred Jewell)
Fans storm the field at Chicago's White Sox Park on Disco Demolition night Thursday, July 12, 1979 after the first game of a double header between the White Sox and Detroit Tigers. The promotion by a local radio station turned into a melee after hundreds of disco records were blown up on the field. The second game of the double header was called by umpires who declared the field unfit for play. (AP Photo/Fred Jewell)
FILE - In this July 12, 1979, file photo, fans storm the field at Chicago's White Sox Park on Disco Demolition night after the first game of a doubleheader between the White Sox and Detroit Tigers. The promotion by a local radio station turned into a melee after hundreds of disco records were blown up on the field. The second game of the doubleheader was called by umpires who declared the field unfit for play. (AP Photo/Fred Jewell, File)
Fans storm the field at Chicago's White Sox Park on Disco Demolition night Thursday, July 12, 1979 after the first game of a double header between the White Sox and Detroit Tigers. The promotion by a local radio station turned into a melee after hundreds of disco records were blown up on the field. The second game of the double header was called by umpires who declared the field unfit for play. (AP Photo/Fred Jewell)
Some of the 7,000 fans who stormed the field at Chicago's White Sox Park during double-header between White Sox and Detroit Tigers run amok on the diamond, July 13, 1979, during an Anti-Disco Night promotion by the local radio station. A bonfire in center field and the blowing up of disco records caused umpires to rule the field unfit for play. (AP Photo/Fred Jewell)
Some of the 7,000 fans who stormed the field at Chicago's White Sox Park during double-header between White Sox and Detroit Tigers run amok on the diamond, July 13, 1979, during an Anti-Disco Night promotion by the local radio station. A bonfire in center field and the blowing up of disco records caused umpires to rule the field unfit for play. (AP Photo/Fred Jewell)
Some of the 7,000 fans who stormed the field at Chicago's White Sox Park during double-header between White Sox and Detroit Tigers run amok on the diamond, July 13, 1979, during an Anti-Disco Night promotion by the local radio station. A bonfire in center field and the blowing up of disco records caused umpires to rule the field unfit for play. (AP Photo/Fred Jewell)
Some of the 7,000 fans who stormed the field at Chicago's White Sox Park during double-header between White Sox and Detroit Tigers run amok on the diamond, July 13, 1979, during an Anti-Disco Night promotion by the local radio station. A bonfire in center field and the blowing up of disco records caused umpires to rule the field unfit for play. (AP Photo/Fred Jewell)
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Admittance was just 98 cents that day if fans brought a disco record to the games -- ones that would be tossed into a giant box to be demolished in center field after Game 1. Average attendance of around 15,000 skyrocketed to about 50,000, including thousands more who snuck in simply to take part in the destruction. The Sox were undoubtedly thrilled with the turnout, but little did they know the fans would be doing most of the destruction that evening.




After Dahl took the field to blow up the records -- as players began warming up for Game 2 -- a handful of fans stormed the field to cause some extra ruckus. When it was apparent that no police or security was stopping them, it was a matter of minutes before Comiskey Park's field was swarmed with thousands of reckless disco-haters.

Bases were torn out of the ground, the outfield grass was set to flames. Rioters refused to leave the field after constant pleads from game announcers, and Chicago was forced to forfeit the game as a result.

A total of 39 arrests were reported as well as several minor injuries. Disco music and culture, as it was known in the 1970s, was effectively dead a short time later. There have been several links to homophobia and racism as true motives for the demolition, which makes the destructive event all the more troubling.

It was likely the most ill-fated promotion in sports history, and one we're still talking about decades later.

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