Sunday, July 12, 2009

It Was Thirty Years Ago Today . . .

It was thirty years ago today that I hopped the wall along the left-field line and ran around on the field at Comiskey Park during "Disco Demolition Night." I was fourteen years old.

After jumping the wall, it took me about ninety seconds to realize that I was in way over my head. I quickly headed back to my seat and watched the madness unfold. Eventually, scores of Chicago police officers in full riot gear cleared the badly damaged field, and the White Sox forfeited the second game of a double-header against the Detroit Tigers.

But I've gotten ahead of myself.

My brother Mark turned twelve on July 12, 1979. To celebrate his birthday, my mom decided to take her five boys -- then ranging in age from seven to fourteen -- to watch the White Sox play. (Mark has always been a huge Sox fan.) My mom had been widowed about nine months earlier, so even under the best of circumstances, an outing like this, with five kids in the station wagon, meant that she had her hands full.

Unlike me, my mother did not listen to Steve Dahl's morning radio show, so she had no idea that a radio promotion called "Disco Demolition Night" was on the bill between games. I didn't tell her about it because I thought she might cancel the trip from suburban Villa Park to 35th and Shields if she knew something potentially subversive was afoot.

Once we arrived at the ballpark, it had to be obvious to my mom that this was not a typical baseball crowd. It looked (and smelled) a lot more like a cross-section of the lawn at the Alpine Valley Music Theater during a Blue Oyster Cult/Nazareth twin-bill.

Toward the end of the first (and only) game that night, I left my family and wandered out to the left-field bleachers to take a look around. Folks throughout the park appeared to be pretty plastered.

Then, after the first game ended, Steve Dahl blew up a bunch of disco records, thousands of people stormed the field, and all hell broke loose.

As I said earlier, my adventure on the field lasted no more than ninety seconds. By the time I headed out there, people were flinging pieces of broken disco records like Frisbees. These scraps of broken vinyl, however, were more like ninja death stars, and I knew enough to get the hell back to my seat. I saw little honor in becoming a casualty in the "War On Disco."

Before leaving the park that night, I shelled out six bucks and bought myself a black "Disco Sucks" t-shirt to commemorate the event. My mom saw the shirt as soon as we got home, and she immediately cut it to pieces, telling me, "No son of mine is going to wear anything with the word 'sucks' on it. No son of mine is even going to use the word 'sucks.'"

Thirty years later, that t-shirt would probably fetch a few bucks on eBay. It's too bad -- in fact, it downright sucks (sorry, Mom) -- that I didn't get to keep that souvenir from "Disco Demolition Night."

Happy birthday, Mark.

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