Archive for the ‘Executives’ Category

Seeking a way to attract more customers and more revenue, the Cardinals saw the light and broke with tradition.

Seventy years ago, on April 18, 1950, the Cardinals became the first major-league team to play a season opener at night. Club owner Fred Saigh said he opted for an Opening Night game because it gave more working people a chance to attend.

The innovation was a success, though not as much as anticipated.

Expecting a crowd of 30,000 for their Tuesday night game against the Pirates at Sportsman’s Park in St. Louis, the Cardinals drew 20,871, the largest attendance for a Cardinals home opener. The previous high was 20,754 for the 1928 opener on a Wednesday afternoon versus the Pirates.

Time for a change

Though St. Louis was home to two teams, the National League Cardinals and the American League Browns, Opening Day there then wasn’t the grand event it was in places such as Cincinnati and Washington, D.C.

“This is a good baseball town, but the cash customers here don’t become too excited about Opening Days,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch sports editor J. Roy Stockton wrote in April 1950.

On the eve of the Cardinals’ 1950 opener, St. Louis Globe-Democrat sports editor Bob Burnes noted, “The last time anything special was done for Opening Day in St. Louis was 1936” when the Cubs and Cardinals players “appeared downtown in their baseball uniforms. Then they paraded through the downtown and midtown areas in open carriages.”

Later that afternoon, the Cubs thumped the Cardinals, 12-7, before 14,000 customers, putting an end to any more Opening Day parades.

After winning the 1946 World Series championship, their third in five years, the Cardinals drew 11,963 spectators to their 1947 home opener on a Friday afternoon against the Cubs.

The attendances for subsequent Cardinals home openers were 14,071 on a Tuesday afternoon against the Reds in 1948 and 10,121 on a Friday afternoon versus the Cubs in 1949.

In January 1950, Saigh, in his first year in charge of the Cardinals after the 1949 death of co-owner Robert Hannegan, made the decision to have his team become the first in the majors to open a season at night.

Of the Cardinals’ 77 home games in 1950, 54 were scheduled for night, their most since lights were installed at Sportsman’s Park in 1940. Saigh told The Sporting News a club survey showed fans, especially the growing number of women customers, wanted night baseball.

“The national industrious character of the population makes day games conflict with the bread-winning of too many,” Saigh told The Sporting News.

“The fans want night ball and they’re the only ones we have to consider.”

Saigh’s decision to have his team open at night was controversial.

“This is a history-making episode in the game and has caused a split in the ranks of the free thinkers,” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette sports editor Al Abrams wrote. “Some baseball men say Fred Saigh has gone too far in arranging for an opener to be played at night, especially at this stage of unsettled weather conditions. Others see nothing wrong with the innovation and credit Saigh with being foresighted.”

Abrams concluded, “Night baseball has helped attendance everywhere because it gives the working man and woman a chance to see more games. Time will come, and it isn’t far off, when day games will be played only on Sundays and holidays.”

Low-key event

In the Globe-Democrat, Bob Burnes wrote Saigh “is not a man to bow to the ancient dictates of a game which too often keeps itself wrapped in the same mothballs it used in 1910 or thereabouts.”

Saigh “expects at least 30,000 spectators to view this precedent-setter,” the Globe-Democrat reported.

First pitch for the 1950 Cardinals season opener was 8:30 p.m. Game time temperature was 56 degrees, but felt colder. “A change in the wind, which blew toward right field the rest of the night, discouraged late gate sale,” according to the Post-Dispatch.

The playing surface was in bad shape because the field had been used for soccer matches. “It was the first night opening game in big-league history and the first major-league game, probably, played on a grass infield with a skinned outfield,” the Post-Dispatch reported.

For the first time at Sportsman’s Park, pennants with the colors and names of all eight National League clubs hung from the outfield flagpole. The Cardinals’ pennant was on top and the Dodgers’ was on the bottom, even though they were defending league champions, the Globe-Democrat noted.

Opening ceremonies were brief. A Marine Corps Reserve band, accompanied by a color guard, played the National Anthem. Cardinals players were introduced at the plate by broadcaster Harry Caray. St. Louis mayor Joseph M. Darst threw out the ceremonial first ball and it was caught by Pirates infielder Hank Schenz. The park was draped in bunting.

“St. Louis in general has taken tonight’s historic opener in stride,” Bob Burnes observed. “As long as it is baseball, nothing else counts.”

Winning start

The starting pitchers were Bob Chesnes for the Pirates and Gerry Staley for the Cardinals.

In the first inning, Red Schoendienst hit a home run to the roof in right, giving the Cardinals a 1-0 lead. Stan Musial also hit a home run to the roof in right, leading off the third.

The Pirates tied the score at 2-2 in the sixth on a two-run single by Johnny Hopp, a former Cardinal. Joe Garagiola’s RBI-single in the bottom of the inning put the Cardinals ahead again, 3-2.

As a light rain began to fall, the Cardinals added a run in the seventh on consecutive two-out singles by Schoendienst, Musial and Enos Slaughter. Before stroking his single, Schoendienst almost hit a second home run, but his long drive into the upper grandstand in right narrowly hooked foul.

Staley pitched a complete game and limited the Pirates to six hits. He threw 95 pitches, including 66 for strikes.

The triumph “‘thrilled a chilled and damp gathering,” the Post-Dispatch reported. The Globe-Democrat noted the “first nocturnal opening game proved very gratifying to 20,871 chilled spectators.” Boxscore

Four days later, on Saturday afternoon, April 22, 1950, the Browns played their home opener at Sportsman’s Park against the Indians and drew 10,166.

The Cardinals played four consecutive home openers at night before returning to a daytime home opener in 1954 under Anheuser-Busch, which bought the club from Saigh. Since then, the Cardinals have had multiple day and night home openers. Their most recent night home opener, a scheduled 6:15 p.m. start, was 2018 versus the Diamondbacks.

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The strained relationship between Cardinals owner Gussie Busch and pitcher Steve Carlton had its roots in a dispute which occurred two years before the ill-fated trade of the future Hall of Famer.

Fifty years ago, on March 12, 1970, after Carlton refused to accept the club’s salary terms, Busch said, “I don’t care if he ever pitches a ball for us again.”

Carlton and the Cardinals eventually agreed on a contract, but Busch held a grudge.

Two years later, when Carlton again balked at the Cardinals’ contract offer, Busch ordered general manager Bing Devine to trade the pitcher.

Dealt to the Phillies on Feb. 25, 1972, for pitcher Rick Wise, Carlton was one of the game’s all-time best left-handers, winning four Cy Young awards, compiling 329 career wins and earning election to the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Bitter Busch

After helping the Cardinals win consecutive National League pennants in 1967 and 1968, plus a World Series title, Carlton developed a devastating slider and posted a 17-11 record and 2.17 ERA in 1969. He also became the first major-league pitcher to strike out 19 batters in nine innings.

Entering spring training in 1970, Carlton, 25, told the Cardinals he wanted a salary of $50,000. The Cardinals, who paid Carlton $24,000 in 1969, gasped and responded with an offer of $30,000 for 1970. Carlton countered with an ask of $40,000, but the Cardinals “refused to budge” from the $30,000 figure, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.

Busch asked Carlton to accept the club’s terms and assured him the Cardinals “would make it up to him” if he produced a good season in 1970. After Carlton rejected the proposal, Busch told the Sporting News, “I don’t like his attitude, not a damn bit.”

In a rant reminiscent of his public scolding of the players in a 1969 spring training clubhouse meeting, Busch said, “The fans are going to resent this situation. I can’t understand it. The player contracts are at their best, the pension plan is the finest, the fringe benefits are better, yet the players think we are a bunch of stupid asses.

“I’m disillusioned,” Busch said. “I don’t know what’s happening among our young people, to our campuses and to our great country.”

Busch got support from the editor and publisher of The Sporting News, C.C. Johnson Spink, who wrote, “We believe fans in general will agree with Busch in his challenge to the other owners to join him in resisting some of the players’ demands.”

Surprise settlement

Carlton said he wouldn’t ask for a trade and Devine said he had no plans to deal the pitcher.

A day after Busch said he didn’t care if Carlton pitched again for the Cardinals, Carlton told the Post-Dispatch, “I intend to pitch, but I want to meet Bing again and try to solve this.”

Post-Dispatch sports editor Bob Broeg noted, “Carlton has kept his composure in the face of Busch’s unfortunate comment that he didn’t care if Steve ever pitched again for the Cardinals.”

Broeg concluded, “The Redbirds need the big left-hander, one of baseball’s best young pitchers.”

On March 17, 1970, Carlton signed a two-year $80,000 contract with the Cardinals. According to multiple published reports, the deal paid Carlton $30,000 in 1970 and $50,000 in 1971.

Carlton became the first Cardinals player to receive a two-year contract since third baseman Ken Boyer (1960-61).

“I never thought I’d sign a two-year contract, but this is a fair way to handle the situation and I’m very happy,” Carlton said.

Cardinals executive vice president Dick Meyer, who brokered the compromise, said, “This enabled both sides to maintain a posture and was fair to both of us _ to Steve and to the club.”

Get rid of him

In 1970, the first year of the contract, Carlton was 10-19. In the second year, 1971, he was 20-9.

The Cardinals reportedly offered Carlton a 1972 salary of $57,500. As spring training got under way, he remained unsigned. Carlton said he and the club were less than $10,000 apart, The Sporting News reported, but Busch was angry when the pitcher didn’t sign.

In his book, “The Memoirs of Bing Devine,” Devine said, “Mr. Busch wanted him gone.”

“This thing was generated by our difference with Carlton two years ago,” Devine told the Sporting News after dealing Carlton to the Phillies. “Having gone through that experience, we could sense a similar situation developing.”

The Phillies signed Carlton for $65,000 in 1972. Though the 1972 Phillies finished in last place in the East Division with 59 wins, Carlton was 27-10 with a 1.97 ERA.

Carlton, who was 77-62 as a Cardinal, pitched 24 years in the majors and was 329-244. He ranks second all-time in career wins by a left-hander. Warren Spahn has 363.

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Roger Kahn, who gained prominence for his work about the Dodgers, wrote extensively about the Cardinals as well.

Kahn, 92, died on Feb. 6, 2020. A newspaper and magazine journalist, Kahn wrote 20 or so books, including the 1972 classic “The Boys of Summer” about his hometown Brooklyn Dodgers.

After covering sports for the New York Herald Tribune, Kahn wrote for magazines such as Collier’s, The Saturday Evening Post and Sports Illustrated.

Kahn was respected by colleagues and the baseball people he covered. In February 1954, he called former Cardinals and Dodgers executive Branch Rickey, who had moved to the front office of the Pirates, at his spring training base in Fort Pierce, Fla., and was “offered a job,” The Sporting News reported.

When Kahn asked Rickey how long it would take him to do for the Pirates what he did for the Cardinals and Dodgers, Rickey replied, “I need help. If you know how to help a tail end ballclub, come down here. I’ll pay you more than you’re making. I don’t care what it is.”

Lane explains

In May 1956, Dodgers outfielder Duke Snider was the subject of a controversial Kahn article in Collier’s titled, “I Play Baseball For Money, Not Fun.”

A month later, in The Saturday Evening Post, Kahn wrote about Cardinals general manager Frank Lane in a piece titled, “I’m Here To Win A Pennant.” Lane was in his first season with the Cardinals and created a ruckus by trading players such as Red Schoendienst, Harvey Haddix and Bill Virdon.

“I didn’t come to St. Louis to raise red roses or tell after-dinner stories or take the tenor lead in ‘Hearts and Flowers,’ ” Lane told Kahn. “I came here to win a pennant and that’s exactly what I intend to do any way I can.

“I’ve got a program here to keep the club growing and improving,” Lane said. “I want to tell the other general managers around the National League that, with our fine farm clubs, and with the tough core we’ve welded, I’m not going to have to jump at every little offer for a trade. If I see something good, though, they’d better be ready.”

Lane lasted two seasons with the Cardinals and didn’t win a pennant.

Prideful struggle

Four years later, in September 1960, Kahn wrote a story on Stan Musial for Sports Illustrated titled, “Benching of a Legend.”

Musial, 39, was hitting .250 when he was benched by Cardinals manager Solly Hemus. Musial was kept out of the starting lineup from May 27 through June 23. His season batting average fell to .229 on June 25, but Musial recovered by hitting .352 in July and finished the year at .275 with 17 home runs.

Musial “intends to end his career with dignity and with base hits,” Kahn wrote. “Neither comes easily to a ballplayer several years past his peak, and so to Musial, a man accustomed to ease and to humility, this has been a summer of agony and pride.”

Regarding Musial’s struggles in the first part of the season, Kahn concluded, “Athletes, like chorus girls, are usually the last to admit that age has affected them, and Musial appeared to be following the familiar unhappy pattern.”

In an interview with Kahn, Hemus said, “What’s my obligation as manager? It’s not to a friendship, no matter how much I like a guy. My obligation is to the organization that hired me and to 25 ballplayers. I have to win. Stan was hurting the club. He wasn’t hitting and balls were getting by him at first base.”

Kahn reported, “Musial hated the bench. He confided to a few friends that he wouldn’t mind being traded to a club that would play him every day.”

After returning to the starting lineup, Musial told Kahn, “Maybe my wheels are gone, but I’ll be able to hit like hell for a long time.”

Musial went on to play three more seasons for the Cardinals, including 1962 when he hit .330, before retiring at 42.

High praise

When “The Boys of Summer” came out in February 1972, it received a glowing review from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, which called Kahn’s work “a magnificent sports volume” and “a book which is redolent of dream and magic and which finds a common ground between one boyhood in a big city and lots of boyhoods in many other places.”

In September 1972, when Kahn was in St. Louis for a Cubs-Cardinals series, columnist Jerome Holtzman wrote in The Sporting News, “A half-dozen ballplayers got into line to meet and shake hands with Roger Kahn, who was in town promoting his bestselling ‘Boys of Summer.’ I had never seen players line up to meet a writer, and Kahn said it was a big thrill for him.”

Pitching lessons

In 2000, Kahn’s book, “The Head Game,” was published. It focused on pitchers, including two who were prominent with the Cardinals, Bob Gibson and Bruce Sutter.

Gibson told Kahn, “Pitching is inexact. It begins as a craft, working with your hands, but the longer you go, if you know how to think, the more it becomes an art.”

To illustrate, Gibson cited how he threw fewer knockdown pitches as he gained experience.

“As the art, the thinking, takes over, I’ve come to realize not everyone is bothered by knockdowns and some of them are afraid of my fastball, whether I throw at them or not,” Gibson said.

Like Gibson, Sutter won head games with batters. A Cardinals closer, Sutter did it with an innovative pitch, the split-fingered fastball.

“It was some time before I could control the splitter the way I had to,” Sutter told Kahn. “After a while, I found out I did best throwing for the top of the catcher’s mask. That became my target. If I used a wide finger split, the ball would end up in the dirt. If I split the fingers a little less, it would be a strike at the knees.

“Once in a while,” said Sutter, “maybe one pitch in 10, to cross them up, I’d play real dirty. I’d throw a straight fastball that didn’t drop at all.”

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The Cardinals continue to span the globe for talent.

In January 2020, the Cardinals’ 40-man winter roster had players who were natives of nine countries or territories. In alphabetical order, those are Canada, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Mexico, Panama, Puerto Rico, South Korea, United States and Venezuela.

One of the Cardinals’ key acquisitions for the 2020 season was left-handed pitcher Kwang-Hyun Kim, a South Korean.

Cardinals president of baseball operations John Mozeliak is leading the franchise’s efforts to grow its global reach. In January 2020, Mozeliak answered questions from bloggers by e-mail. The opportunity to ask questions of Mozeliak came about through the efforts of Daniel Shoptaw, founder of United Cardinal Bloggers.

Mozeliak thoughtfully answered my two questions regarding the Cardinals’ international approach. Here are those questions and his answers:

Q.: What will be the long-term impact of the Cardinals’ Dominican Republic Academy on the major-league organization?

John Mozeliak: “Great question. We continue to invest in Latin America, specifically in the Dominican Republic. We’re currently operating two Dominican Summer League teams, and part of the reason for that is trying to create opportunity for finding more talent.

“I think, as you look at overall operating costs and what we’re also trying to manage through on the minor-league side, at some point I hope we get back to one team down there, but the impact we’re hoping for from the Latin America program is very real. These are measurable. Are you getting contribution from that program that’s contributing to the major-league side, or helping you with trades?

“Right now, we feel that our international operations has done a very good job of finding us talent and we continue to hope to enrich that by making investments and educating our staff to help them grow.”

Q.: How important will the Pacific Rim become as a talent source and how will the Cardinals be a player in that region?

John Mozeliak: “Well, clearly, we are a player in the region. I think you’re going to see more and more players have interest in coming here.

“A couple of things have changed over the last 10 years. I think the posting system (created to allow Asian teams to get compensation for players who want to go to the U.S. majors leagues) is much more fair. It’s more fair for everybody involved, not only domestic teams, but also teams in Korea and Japan.

“Players are able to see the game more, too. If you think about why New York, Boston or Los Angeles were the teams that seemed most attractive, I think part of that was because those were the teams that were on television in Asia. But now, with the ability to stream, players can see all the games, so their interest in other
baseball teams has become very real. You saw that with the Kwang-Hyun Kim signing.

“(Seung-Hwan) Oh (who pitched for the 2016-17 Cardinals) certainly didn’t hurt in that, being from Korea and speaking positively of the Cardinals, but also it was a team that he could see. I think how people watch the game of baseball now has helped our game grow.”

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Harry Caray built a broadcast career in St. Louis based on baseball and beer, but his relationship with the Anheuser-Busch brewery became as flat as a cup of Budweiser left outside in the summer sun.

On Oct. 9, 1969, Caray, the voice of the Cardinals for 25 years, was fired by the sponsor of the broadcasts, Anheuser-Busch.

Caray said he wasn’t told why he was fired.

Cardinals owner Gussie Busch, president of Anheuser-Busch, said the brewery’s marketing department recommended Caray’s dismissal.

In his 1989 book, “Holy Cow,” Caray scoffed at widespread speculation his departure came because he was having an affair with the wife of an Anheuser-Busch executive.

“At first, these rumors annoyed me,” Caray said. “Then they began to amuse me. They actually made me feel kind of good. I mean, let’s face it … I wore glasses as thick as the bottom of Bud bottles, and as much as I hate to say it, I was never confused with Robert Redford.”

Wild about Harry

In 1945, Caray, a St. Louis native, began broadcasting Cardinals games on radio station WIL. Griesedieck Brothers Brewery was the sponsor. Caray and former Cardinals manager Gabby Street formed the broadcast team.

Cardinals games also were broadcast on two other radio stations then. Johnny O’Hara and former Cardinals pitcher Dizzy Dean called the games on KWK. On KMOX, the broadcast team was France Laux and Ray Schmidt.

Caray’s colorful broadcasting style made him popular. In 1947, the Cardinals chose Griesedieck Brothers Brewery as the exclusive broadcast sponsor and Caray’s career soared.

In his book “That’s a Winner,” Cardinals broadcaster Jack Buck said, “In the Midwest, no announcer has been more revered or respected than Harry. He told it like he thought it was, and that’s different from telling it like it is. He never hesitated to give his opinion … He had the guts to do it. That was his style.”

In February 1953, Anheuser-Busch purchased the Cardinals and took over sponsorship of the broadcasts. Caray went from pitching Griesedieck Brothers beer to advertising Anheuser-Busch products.

Anheuser-Busch sales increased, and Caray and Gussie Busch became pals.

“Harry and Gussie Busch were close friends,” said Buck. “They used to drink and play cards at Busch’s home at Grant’s Farm.”

Said Caray: “Gussie and I rarely talked about baseball. Ours was not a business relationship. It was social.”

When Caray was struck by a car and severely injured in November 1968, Busch gave him use of a Florida beach house to recuperate during the winter. Caray made a triumphant return to the broadcast booth in the Cardinals’ 1969 opener.

Trouble brewing

A few months into the season, speculation about Caray’s job status became a hot topic in St. Louis. In August 1969, Pirates broadcaster Bob Prince told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette he was offered a five-year contract for “excellent money” to join KMOX.

Prince decided to stay with the Pirates’ broadcast team, but Caray was worried. Gossip about Caray’s alleged womanizing was rampant, so he met with Gussie Busch to talk about it. In his book, Caray said Busch laughed and told him, “You’ve got nothing to worry about.”

In September 1969, before he went on a trip to Europe, Busch told Caray “to keep his mouth shut” about his concerns until Busch returned, Buck said.

On Sept. 20, 1969, the Cardinals, whose hopes of qualifying for the postseason were fading, played the Cubs in Chicago when a journalist informed Caray of a report saying he would be fired. During the game broadcast, Caray told his audience, “The Cardinals are about to be eliminated and apparently so am I.”

According to Buck, Busch was livid with Caray for making the remark and for disobeying his edict to stay mum.

The ax falls

On Oct. 2, 1969, before the Cardinals played their season finale at St. Louis, Caray said he approached Buck, his broadcast partner since 1954, and asked him, “Do you know something I should know?”

Caray said Buck revealed he had been asked by Anheuser-Busch publicist Al Fleishman and KMOX general manager Robert Hyland to recruit other broadcasters. In his book, Caray said he and Fleishman “had been enemies for decades” and Fleishman wanted Caray fired.

A week later, Caray was at the Cinema Bar in downtown St. Louis on a Thursday afternoon when the bartender told him he had a phone call. An Anheuser-Busch advertising executive, who knew Caray’s hangouts, was on the line. The ad man informed Caray, 55, he was fired and Buck would replace him as head of the Cardinals broadcast team.

“I’m bruised, I’m hurt and I feel badly about it,” Caray said to the Post-Dispatch.

Caray also was miffed he didn’t hear about the decision from Gussie Busch. “You’d think after 25 years they would at least call me in and talk to me face to face about this,” said Caray.

Buck said, “I had nothing to do” with the decision to fire Caray.

“I always wanted to be No. 1 on the broadcast team,” Buck told the Post-Dispatch, “but not at the expense of Harry or anyone else.”

Special order

On his way home, Caray stopped at Busch’s Grove restaurant in the suburb of Ladue _ despite its name, the restaurant wasn’t affiliated with Anheuser-Busch _ and “decided to get some revenge,” he said.

Caray ordered a Schlitz, a beer made by an Anheuser-Busch rival. The restaurant didn’t carry the brand, so the bartender went across the street to a liquor store and bought cans of Schlitz.

As news photographers and television cameramen arrived, Caray posed with a can of Schlitz in his hand and “drew applause from a large number of patrons,” the Associated Press reported.

The bartender made several runs to the liquor store to stock up on Schlitz because customers kept ordering the beer in support of Caray, according to the Associated Press.

“I thought it was funny at the time because I was angry and hurt,” Caray said. “It seemed like the right gesture to make, but now I realize it was petty.”

After former players Bill White and Elston Howard each rejected a chance to join Buck in the Cardinals booth, Jim Woods, who did Pirates games with Bob Prince, was hired to be Buck’s broadcast partner.

According to the Cincinnati Enquirer, the Reds were interested in Caray. Their general manager, Bob Howsam, was the Cardinals’ general manager from August 1964 to January 1967. “You know Harry and I are good friends,” Howsam said.

Instead, Caray joined the Athletics broadcast team in 1970. He left after one season, went to the White Sox and capped his career with the Cubs, for whom he hawked Budweiser with the line, “I’m a Cubs fan and a Bud man.” Video

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Baseball experienced Saturday night fever on a Thursday in Chicago and it resulted in a disco inferno.

Forty years ago, on July 12, 1979, the White Sox staged a Disco Demolition Night promotion for a doubleheader with the Tigers at Comiskey Park.

The stunt called for disco record albums to be blown up between games, but the situation got out of control when thousands of people poured out of the stands and damaged the field.

Umpire crew chief Dave Phillips called off the second game, ruling the field unplayable, and the next day the American League granted a forfeit win to the Tigers.

Rock n’ roll will never die

Disco dance music became popular in the 1970s and was highlighted by performers such as Donna Summer, Village People, and KC and the Sunshine Band. The soundtrack to the hit movie, “Saturday Night Fever,” featured disco songs such as “Stayin’ Alive” by the Bee Gees and “Disco Inferno” by The Trammps.

In an attempt to capitalize on the trend, Chicago radio station WDAI changed its format from rock music to disco. The switch caused the departure of disc jockey Steve Dahl, who resented the rise of disco.

Dahl ended up at WLUP, a Chicago FM radio station focused on rock music. Dahl, 24, developed a following by bashing disco.

The White Sox, looking to build an audience for a weekday doubleheader between two teams with losing records, arranged with Dahl and WLUP for the Disco Demolition Night. Anyone bringing a disco album would be admitted to the doubleheader for 98 cents. The price was chosen because WLUP’s location on the FM dial was 97.9.

“When baseball has to rely on that kind of bush promotion to get people in the park, we’re all in trouble,” Tigers general manager Jim Campbell said to the Detroit Free Press.

The scheme called for the disco albums to be burned and exploded under fire department supervision in center field between games.

White Sox owner Bill Veeck, whose 1979 antics included a Greek Night featuring what The Sporting News described as belly dancers “of all shapes, sizes and ages,” was surprised when the anti-disco promotion attracted far more spectators than he expected. Attendance was 47,795 in a ballpark with a seating capacity of 44,492 and many more reportedly were turned away at the gates.

“We had more security than we ever had before, but we had as many people in here as we ever had,” Veeck said to the Chicago Tribune.

The first game was played “under a constant bombardment of records and firecrackers,” according to the Tribune, and play was halted several times. Spectators flung the record albums onto the field like Frisbees.

“How’d you like to get hit in the eye with one of those?” said White Sox designated hitter Wayne Nordhagen. “These people don’t realize it only takes one to ruin a guy’s career.”

Tigers center fielder Ron LeFlore said a golf ball thrown from the stands bounced between his legs while he was catching a fly ball.

“These were not baseball fans tonight,” Veeck said.

After the Tigers won the game, 4-1, it was time for the disco demolition to begin. Boxscore

Wild bunch

Dahl blew up a crate of disco records and the fiery explosion sent spectators into a frenzy. An estimated 7,000 spectators stormed the field, the Free Press reported. Video

“I was scared,” said White Sox pitcher Ken Kravec, who was in the bullpen to warm up for Game 2.

Veeck and White Sox broadcaster Harry Caray each used the public address system to urge people to leave the field, but their pleas mostly were ignored.

“Beer and baseball go together,” Tigers manager Sparky Anderson told the Tribune. “I think those kids were doing things other than beer.”

With little to do other than run around the field, the interlopers eventually began leaving. When helmeted police arrived, fewer than 1,000 people remained on the field and officers cleared it in five minutes, The Sporting News reported.

According to the Tribune, 39 people were arrested and six were injured.

One hour and 16 minutes after its scheduled start, Phillips called off Game 2.

“Ten years after Woodstock, there was Veeckstock,” wrote Tribune columnist David Israel, who called it baseball’s “first rock riot.”

Paying the consequences

On July 13, 1979, American League president Lee MacPhail ruled the canceled game a forfeited win for the Tigers and a loss for the White Sox “because of inadequate crowd control and damage to the playing field, both of which are the responsibility of the home team.”

“We have found a lot of ways to lose games this year,” said White Sox manager Don Kessinger, “but I guess we’ve added a new wrinkle. It’s tough to lose two games when you played only one.”

For Anderson, who joined the Tigers a month earlier after managing the Reds in the National League, Disco Demolition Night was his first time at Comiskey Park.

“If I could get every team in the league to put on a promotion like that, I might win a few games,” Anderson said.

Veeck disagreed with MacPhail’s decision, saying, “I think the grounds for forfeiting are specious at best. It’s true there was some sod missing. Otherwise, nothing was wrong.”

On its editorial page, the Tribune called Veeck’s antics “an outrageous example of irresponsible hucksterism that disgraced the sport of baseball, endangered the White Sox and Tigers, and cheated and insulted the genuine fans who came to Comiskey Park.”

In The Sporting News, columnist Dick Young suggested, “Let them hold it in the studio and burn down the radio station.”

Dahl said to the Free Press, “Everybody over 40 is freaked out.”

Veeck called Disco Demolition Night “a regrettable incident” and an “ill-advised promotion,” apologized to White Sox fans and players, and said, “All I know is we’ll make certain we don’t try anything like this again.”

WLUP production director Russ James shot back, “Tonight was like the Toyota commercial: You asked for it, you got it. What did Veeck expect? He sanctioned this.”

Said White Sox pitcher Rich Wortham: “This wouldn’t have happened if they had country-and-western night.”

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