With the exception of last week’s post about an unwise wager, and one unfortunate incident involving Baltimore Orioles outfielder Adam Jones, a disgruntled San Francisco Giants fan and a banana, I haven’t blogged much about baseball. That’s because I have a stratospheric level of distain for what used to be America’s pass time. I have my reasons. For starters, I think the season is far too long. The Twins will play more games in a year than the Vikings will play in a decade. In addition, the MLB salary structure is completely out of whack. In 2013, the payroll for the New York Yankees exceeded that of the Houston Astros by more than two hundred million dollars. A-Rod alone was paid more than the entire Astros team. What’s wrong with that picture? And finally, Major League Baseball s so hung up on tradition the sport evolves at about the same pace Florida is sinking into the Atlantic. For generations, baseball managers used a standard land line to call the bullpen. Quaint but not exactly timely. They just switched to cell phones this year. It was a gradual shift because not all teams had the technology readily available. I wish I was making that up. I have other issues but I’ll save those for another time because I just made an incredible discovery. Have you ever learned something and immediately wondered how you’d gotten to that point in your life without coming across that vital bit of information before? I had such a moment very recently. As a result, I now know we all owe baseball a tremendous debt of gratitude.
As the Neil Young song says, “Hey Hey, My My, Rock and Roll will never die.” I don’t know if that’s true but the demise of rock has seemed imminent on a at least a few occasions, never more so than in 2010. That was the year the Bee Gees inducted ABBA into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame–icons of the disco era stealing rock’s biggest stage. “Do you believe in rock and roll? Can music save your mortal soul? Had Don McLean ever written a sequel to American Pie, the “day the music died” would have had a lot less to do with Chevys and levies and more with bell bottoms and shiny white suits. What in the hell does any of this have to do with baseball? Nothing… and everything, because if disco nearly killed rock and roll, baseball once had a big hand in saving it.
In 1979, a Johnny Fever type DJ was working at a rock station in Chicago. His name was Steve Dahl and someone should make room in the Hall of Fame for him. Dahl was famous for hating disco. Every day on his show, he’d start a disco song, scratch the needle across the record and then blow it up. Why didn’t I think of anything like that when I was in radio? Maybe Hall of Fame isn’t good enough for Dahl. I’m thinking Nobel Peace Prize. Anyway, Steve Dahl and the promoter for the Chicago White Sox came up with the idea for Disco Demolition Night. On July 12th, the White Sox were slated to play a double-header against the Tigers at Chicago’s Comiskey Park. Admission was just 98¢ plus one disco record. Between games, Dahl would collect the records, dump them all in the outfield and do his thing. The White Sox didn’t expect more than a few thousand people to respond. They underestimated American’s loathing for disco. Approximately seventy thousand were on hand for what turned into the largest anti-disco rally in the history of the world. As promised, Dahl blew up all the records. The explosion left a crater in the outfield, which made little difference in the long run. Fans stormed onto the field, most of them chanting “disco sucks!” Mayhem ensued. By the time stadium security and local law enforcement restored order, Comiskey Park looked like a war zone. Things were burning. The ground was torn up. Broken bits of glass and vinyl were everywhere. Someone had even stolen home base. Game officials finally decided the field was unplayable and the White Sox had to forfeit the second half of the double-header. Sometimes it’s necessary to make a sacrifice for the greater good. That single event changed the landscape of American music. The Bee Gees accused Steve Dahl of killing disco and I say God bless him!