Meanwhile, on May 2, the Tigers-White Sox game in Chicago was rained out. League rules called for the game to be made up at the clubs' next meeting in Chicago. July 12 was to have been a single, Thursday night game, to kick off a four-game weekend series, the last series before the All-Star Break. The first meeting was switched to a doubleheader, and the extra game resulted in the unusual situation of a five-game series. (The White Sox would end up losing four of the five games.)
Dahl and Meier, in conjunction with Mike Veeck (son of then Chicago White Sox owner Bill Veeck), Dave Logan, WLUP Promotion Director, and Jeff Schwartz, WLUP Sales Manager, devised a promotion that involved people bringing unwanted disco music records to the game in exchange for an admission fee of 98¢, representing the station's location on the dial, 97.9. The records would be collected, placed in a large crate in center field, and blown up by Dahl.
White Sox TV announcers Harry Caray and Jimmy Piersall commented freely on the "strange people" wandering aimlessly in the stands. Mike Veeck recalled that the pregame air was heavy with the scent of marijuana. When the crate on the field was filled with records, staff stopped collecting them from spectators, who soon realized that long-playing (LP) records were shaped like frisbees. They began to throw their records from the stands during the game, and the records often struck other fans. The fans also threw beer and even firecrackers from the stands.
After the first game, Dahl, dressed in army fatigues and helmet, along with a female "fire goddess" named Lorelei and bodyguards, went out to center field. The large box containing the collected records was rigged with a bomb. When it exploded, the bomb tore a hole in the outfield grass surface and thousands of fans immediately rushed the field. Some lit fires and started small-scale riots. The batting cage was pulled down and wrecked, and the bases literally stolen, along with chunks of the field itself. The crowd, once on the field, mostly wandered around aimlessly, though a number of participants burned banners, sat on the grass or ran from security and police. People sitting in the upper deck could feel it sway back and forth from the rioters.
Veeck and Caray used the public address system to implore the fans to leave the field immediately, but to no avail. Eventually, the field was cleared by the Chicago Police in riot gear. Six people reported minor injuries and thirty-nine were arrested for disorderly conduct. The field was so badly torn up that the umpires decided the second game couldn't be played, though Tigers manager Sparky Anderson let it be known that his players would not take the field in any case due to safety concerns. The next day, American League president Lee McPhail forfeited the second game to the Tigers, on the grounds that the White Sox had failed to provide acceptable playing facilities. The remaining games in the series were played, but for the rest of the season fielders and managers complained about the poor condition of the field.
For White Sox outfielder Rusty Torres (who had singled and scored the only Chicago run in a 4-1 loss in the first game), it was nothing new: Disco Demolition Night was actually the third time in his career he had personally seen a forfeit-inducing riot. He had been playing for the New York Yankees at the last Senators game in Washington in 1971, and had been playing for the Cleveland Indians at the infamous Ten Cent Beer Night in Cleveland in 1974.
According to the 1986 book "Rock of Ages: The Rolling Stone history of Rock and Roll" the event was the "emblematic moment" of the anti-disco "crusade" and noted that "the following year disco had peaked as a commercial blockbuster".
Steve Dahl himself said in an interview with Keith Olbermann that disco "was a fad probably on its way out" but that the event "hastened its demise."
To this day, the second game of this doubleheader is still the last game forfeited in the American League. The last game to end in this manner in the National League was on August 10, 1995, when a baseball giveaway promotion went awry and resulted in the Los Angeles Dodgers forfeiture.
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