By Patrick Mondout
One of the last of the truly historic parks (along with Tiger
Stadium, Yankee Stadium, Fenway
Park, and Wrigley Field), White Sox
Park opened in July of 1910. It was renamed Comiskey Park in 1912 in honor
and at the request of the owner, Charles Comiskey. However, it reverted to
the name "White Sox Park" from 1962-1975.
The owners installed Astroturf in 1969 (they called it "Sox
Sod"), but only in the infield. It was thus the only major league
field to be both natural grass and turf. That bizarre experiment
came to an end when Bill Veeck (as
in wreck) reacquired the team in 1976 and restored order (and the name
Veeck's antics included a "disco demolition derby" night on
July 12, 1979 in which fans were encouraged to bring their disco records
to be burned in centerfield between games in a doubleheader. In fact
admission was only $.98 if you brought such a record and the promotion
succeeded in attracting over 49,000 angry rock music fans who were still
upset over the Bee Gee's Grammy for
Album of the Year. They showed up with tens of thousands of disco
records they had been discreetly purchasing over the years but couldn't
wait to burn, baby burn!
Bored non-baseball fans spent three hours waiting for the Tigers and
Sox to get of the field so the real fun could begin. For the players it
must have been like being the opening act for the Sex Pistols. In the
meantime those who felt threatened by the Village People had little to do
but drink beer and glance at their watches.
For Those About To Riot...
The inevitable happened between games. Inebriated record holders felt
liberated and were soon in control of the field, Donna
Summer records were flying everywhere (and presumably the disco
records of Elton
Rod Stewart and the Rolling
Stones as well) and a near-riot ensued.
The field was in such bad shape once Chicago's finest had finally
cleared it of felons and 12" singles (souvenir hunters had cleared it
of its bases) the head umpire declared the field unplayable and forced the
White Sox to forfeit the game (that's an automatic 9-0 win for Detroit if
you're keeping score at home).
"These weren't real baseball fans," said owner Bill Veeck at
the time. "All I know is we won't try anything like this again. I was
amazed. I wish I wasn't." Veeck, who had also owned the team between
1959 and 1961, would not own the team long enough even to attempt a
"new wave demolition derby." He had to sell the team for the
final time in 1981.
...We Salute You!
You could fill about 20 Comiskey Parks with all the over-35s in the
Chicago area who claim to have been there that night. If you were one of
them (no, really), please share your experience - providing you were sober
and actually remember anything at all from that night - using our
"Share Your Memories" link below.
I Will Survive
While disco made a nostalgic comeback in the late 90s, there would be
no 20th anniversary "disco demolition night" for this Comiskey
Park. The new owners threatened to move to a new stadium in St.
Petersburg, Florida (that dreariest of stadiums which is now home to the
Tampa Bay Devil Rays) in the late Awesome80s if a new stadium wasn't
provided by the city.
The "New Comiskey Park", which now has a corporate name, was
built next to the old one and opened for business in 1991. Old Comiskey
was demolished and the most of the site is now a parking lot for its
replacement. The new one will have to last until the year 2071 to enjoy as
long a life as its predecessor. In this age of disposable ballparks,
struggling billionaire owners who need "new sources of revenue",
and taxpayers who are only too happy to pay for another at ten times the
cost of the previous, that seems unlikely.