Thursday, October 20, 2005

Bill Veeck: Pinch-Hitting Midgets, Disco-Hating Riots, and Other Acts of Genius

The Chicago White Sox last won a World Series in 1917, one year before the Boston Red Sox, but you don’t hear much talk about curses or tortured generations of fans on the south side of the Windy City. The Cubs are the city’s – and much of the nation’s – doomed franchise of choice. The White Sox perhaps get a smaller share of attention (and sympathy) in part because of the infamous 1919 scandal in which several members of the "Black Sox" agreed to throw the World Series for gamblers. Fair enough. Tops on the list of reasons to love the White Sox, though, is the slightly less scandalous and infinitely more entertaining Bill Veeck, the eccentric owner of the team for most of the 1960s and 1970s who turned marketing into a mad science.

As the team prepares to host Game 1 of the World Series on Saturday night, the New York Times appropriately remembers Veeck today, though the article isn’t long enough to properly focus on each piece of weirdness, especially Disco Demolition Night, a 1979 promotion at Comiskey Park that almost ended up making Mrs. O’Leary’s cow look like a friend to the city. That night, disco-hating Chicagoans were invited to bring albums to the stadium and watch the offending tunes blown up in center field between games of a doubleheader. This link provides a good summary of what went wrong. One key paragraph among many:

Those fans who turned up late were surprised to find out that their records were no longer being taken for the demolition (quite enough had been collected), and throughout the opener those discs found their way onto the field frisbee-style, along with beer, golf balls with "disco sucks" written on them, and the occasional fireworks. Across one of the catwalks in the outfield, a banner hung with a pot leaf on it, and (allegedly) a cloud of smoke from the weed was hovering over the outfield bleachers. The bleachers, every seat taken and filled up even in the aisles, were shaking noticeably, to the point that some feared possible collapse. On top of it all, two fans attempted to climb the left field foul pole.


Anonymous pattyoo said...

During a recent bout with the flu, I was on my couch wishing for sleep. I soon learned from ESPN Classic that it was the aniversary of the Yankees' 1977 World Series victory over the Dodgers -- Game 6, in which Reggie Jackson hit a record 3 home runs, on consecutive pitches, no less, and ESPN was showing the game in its entirety. I dozed off in the later innings but when I awoke the crowd had stormed the field. I got only a glimpse of the scene, but two images have stayed with me: cops beating jubilant fans with billy clubs, and Reggie Jackson running for dear life to the dugout, tackling a fan or two on the way. I bring this up now because I'm hoping, O wise blogger, that you can offer some insight into this chaos, or at least point me to the rest of the story. And I'm still waiting for your take on Clemens.

5:40 PM  

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