Sparks recalls infamous Disco Demolition Night
New assistant hitting coach comes full circle in return to Chicago
CHICAGO -- Serving as the new White Sox assistant hitting coach really brings 51-year-old Greg Sparks back to Chicago.
Sparks' father, Joe, worked as the White Sox first-base coach under manager Don Kessinger in 1979, after previously managing and playing in the club's Minor League system. With Joe on the coaching staff, Greg became a batboy in 1979 and was in attendance for Disco Demolition Night on July 12 of that season at old Comiskey Park.
More than 35 years later, the younger Sparks still has vivid memories of that promotion gone wrong as he recounted during a Thursday afternoon conference call.
"That was a very chaotic, wild night," Sparks said. "Being a batboy during that thing, when it all exploded and went off, and trying to get everything out of the dugout into the clubhouse so it didn't get stolen or ripped off. It was really scary.
"We were actually getting ready for the second game. I remember being in the dugout. I think the starting pitcher for the second game was getting loosened up on the mound, which I thought was kind of weird. We were kind of hanging out in the dugout like we always did, making sure everything was ready for the second game, and a lot of us listened to that radio station. Lorelei, The Loop lady, was there. We all wanted to get a sight of her. We were watching this thing unfold.
"When it happened, we were like, 'Oh, this is kind of fun,'" Sparks said. "And then Sox security, they were a bunch of big dudes at the time, they came out and they were trying coral the people jumping on the field, and then it started getting a little hairy, and it started coming toward the dugout. That's when panic time set in. This is getting out of hand."
Being younger kids, Sparks and the other batboys were ushered out of the dugout and away from the playing field by his father and the players. There were plenty of pure baseball moments for Sparks to go with this crazy night, with memories of his dad throwing early batting practice to him as a kid and being around players such as Chet Lemon, Claudell Washington, Ralph Garr and Lamar Johnson to name a few.
"In that sense, yeah, it's kind of a full circle deal," Sparks said. "The White Sox have been in the family for a long time and it's kind of ironic how it worked out that my first Major League gig is going to be with the White Sox, the same as my dad's was in 1979. But it's kind of a neat little back story."