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1970s / Disco Demolition Night - 1979
Disco Demolition Night--one of baseball's most ill-conceived promotions--caused a rare MLB forfeit on July 12, 1979. It occurred at Chicago's Comiskey Park between games of a Thursday doubleheader between the hometown White Sox and visiting Detroit Tigers. Popular Chicago disc jockey Steve Dahl had been fired from radio station WDAI when he mentioned--on the air--that he listened to the album-oriented rock of rival station WLUP rather than his own station's fare--predominantly disco tunes. Dahl was subsequently hired by WLUP, known locally as "The Loop." The 1979 White Sox were a mediocre team struggling to attract decent crowds, so the team's management was willing to try anything to try to draw new fans. Dahl, in conjunction with Mike Veeck (son of then-White Sox owner Bill Veeck), devised a promotion: Anyone who brought a disco record to the ballpark would be admitted for just 98 cents. The records would be collected, placed in a large crate in center field, and blown up by Dahl between games. Dahl hyped the event on The Loop, hoping that 12,000 people might show up--double the typical Thursday attendance at Comiskey Park. The turnout exceeded all expectations. An estimated 90,000 people turned up at the 52,000-seat stadium. When the box office stopped selling tickets, thousands of people still got in by climbing over walls. It was an atypical baseball crowd to be sure. Broadcasters Harry Caray and Jimmy Piersall commented on the "strange people" wandering throughout the stands. When the crate was filled with records, stadium staff stopped collecting them. The "fans" who still had records soon realized they were shaped like frisbees. A few began to throw records from the stands during the game. After the first game, a 4-1 Tigers' win, Dahl, clad in army fatigues and a helmet, proceeded to center field. The crate containing the records was rigged with explosives. Dahl led the crowd in chants of "Disco sucks!" prior to triggering the explosion. When detonated, the explosives tore a hole in the outfield grass and a small fire began burning. Dahl triumphantly circled the warning track in a jeep before leaving the field. Once Dahl left, the White Sox started warming up for the second game, but thousands of fans rushed the field. Some lit more fires. Others pulled down the batting cage and wrecked it. Bases were stolen and chunks of the outfield grass were ripped away. Most trespassers wandered around aimlessly, though a number of participants burned banners, sat on the grass, ran from security and police and threw records into the air. Veeck and Caray used the PA system to implore the fans to vacate the field, but to no avail. Eventually the field was cleared by police in riot gear. Six people reported minor injuries and 39 were arrested for disorderly conduct. The field was so badly torn up that the umpires decided the second game could not be played. The next day American League president Lee MacPhail forfeited the second game to the Tigers on the grounds that the White Sox had not provided acceptable playing conditions. For the rest of the season, fielders complained about Comiskey Park's playing surface being substandard. No AL game has been forfeited since that night.