“As a cultural event,I’m kinda proud of it.”
Disco Demolition Night in Cominsky Park: In the weeks before the event, Dahl invited his listeners to bring records they wanted to see destroyed to Comiskey Park. He feared that the promotion would fail to draw people to the ballpark and that he would be humiliated. The previous night’s attendance had been 15,520,and Comiskey Park had a capacity of 44,492. The White Sox were not having a good year and were 40 46 going into the July 12 doubleheader. The White Sox and WLUP hoped for a crowd of 20,000, and Mike Veeck hired enough security for 35,000.
Owner Bill Veeck was concerned the promotion might become a disaster and checked himself out of the hospital, where he had been undergoing tests. His fears were substantiated when he saw the people walking towards the ballpark that afternoon; many carried signs that described disco in profane terms.
The doubleheader sold out, leaving at least 20,000 people outside the ballpark. Some leaped turnstiles, climbed fences, and entered through open windows. The attendance was officially reported as 47,795, though Bill Veeck estimated that there were anywhere from 50,000 to 55,000 in the parkâeasily the largest crowd of his second stint as White Sox owner. The Chicago Police Department closed off-ramps from the Dan Ryan Expressway near the stadium. Attendees were supposed to deposit their records into a large box, some 4 by 6 by 5 feet (1.2 by 1.8 by 1.5 m) tall; once the box was overflowing, many people brought their discs to their seats.
The first game was to begin at 6 pm CDT, with the second game to follow. Lorelei, a model who did public appearances for WLUP and who was popular in Chicago that summer for her sexually provocative poses in the station’s advertisements, threw out the first pitch. As the first game began, Mike Veeck received word that thousands of people were trying to get into the park without tickets, and sent his security personnel to the stadium gates to stop them. This left the field unattended, and fans began throwing the uncollected disco LPs and singles from the stands. Tigers designated hitter Rusty Staub remembered that the records would slice through the air, and land sticking out of the ground. He urged teammates to wear batting helmets when playing their positions, “It wasn’t just one, it was many. Oh, God almighty, I’ve never seen anything so dangerous in my life.” Attendees also threw firecrackers, empty liquor bottles, and lighters onto the field. The game was stopped several times because of the rain of foreign objects.
Dozens of hand-painted banners with such slogans as “Disco sucks” were hung from the ballpark’s seating decks. White Sox broadcaster Harry Caray saw groups of music fans wandering the stands. Others sat intently in their seats, awaiting the explosion. Mike Veeck recalled an odor of marijuana in the grandstand and said of the attendees, “This is the Woodstock they never had.” The odor permeated the press box, which Caray and his broadcast partner, Jimmy Piersall, commented on over the air. The crowds outside the stadium also threw records, or gathered them and burned them in bonfires. Detroit won the first game, 4 1.
The first game ended at 8:16 pm; at 8:40, Dahl, dressed in army fatigues and a helmet, emerged onto the playing surface together with Meier and Lorelei. They circled the field in a Jeep, showered (according to Dahl, lovingly) by his troops with firecrackers and beer, then proceeded to center field where the box containing the records awaited, rigged with explosives. Dahl and Meier warmed up the crowd, leading attendees in a chant of “disco sucks”. Lorelei recalled that the view from center field was surreal. On the mound, White Sox pitcher Ken Kravec, scheduled to start the second game, began to warm up. Other White Sox, in the dugout and wearing batting helmets, looked out upon the scene. Fans who felt events were getting out of control and who wished to leave the ballpark had difficulty doing so; in an effort to deny the intruders entry, security had padlocked all but one gate.
Dahl told the crowd:This is now officially the world’s largest anti-disco rally! Now listen—we took all the disco records you brought tonight, we got ’em in a giant box, and we’re gonna blow ’em up reeeeeeal goooood.
Dahl set off the explosives, destroying the records and tearing a large hole in the outfield grass. With most of the security personnel still watching the gates per Mike Veeck’s orders, there was almost no one guarding the playing surface. Soon, the first of 5,000 to 7,000 attendees rushed onto the field, causing Kravec to flee the mound and join his teammates in a barricaded clubhouse. Some climbed the foul poles, while others set records on fire or ripped up the grass. The batting cage was destroyed, and the bases were pulled up and stolen. Among those taking to the field was 21-year-old aspiring actor Michael Clarke Duncan; during the melee, Duncan slid into third base, had a silver belt buckle stolen, ] and went home with a bat from the dugout. As Bill Veeck stood with a microphone near where home plate had been, begging people to return to the stands, a bonfire raged in center field.
Years later, Lorelei remembered that she had been waving to the crowd when she was grabbed by two of the bodyguards who had accompanied the Jeep, who placed her back in the vehicle. The party was unable to return to home plate because of the rowdy fans, so the Jeep was driven out of the stadium and through the surrounding streets, to the delight of the many Cohos outside the stadium, who recognized the occupants. They were driven to the front of the stadium, ushered back inside, and taken up to the press room where they had spent most of the first game.