Yep, it was 21 years ago today the Cubs played their first scheduled home game under lights, becoming the last Major League team, as some local pundits observed at the time, to discover electricity.
Alas, it wasn’t an “official” game. Rain forced the game, against Philadelphia, to be called after 3-1/2 innings (given that the Midwest was in the grips of a severe drought that summer, I find a touch of irony in that). The first official Cubs home night game was actually the next night, Aug. 9, with the good guys beating the New York Mets, 6-4 (Mrs. CKOW has the distinction of being in attendance, with her family, at that game; I’m hoping someone can dig up a ticket stub, but no luck yet).
It seems so very, very long ago. It also seems strange to think of a time when you could only watch a game at the Confines during the day. Over the past two decades, the Cubs – and Wrigleyville – have slowly but surely been dragged kicking and screaming into the 20th, and then the 21st, centuries (I couldn’t find any “No Lights” t-shirts for sale in the shops around Wrigley, but you can still buy them online; They’ve also got some buggy whips and typewriters they’d like to sell you).
But they’ve still got a ways to go. The Cubs now play 30 night games a season, and are allowed no more than that through 2015 as part of an agreement with the city of Chicago. That amounts to a little more than a third of their 81 home games. Meanwhile, most other teams, including the White Sox, play about 50 games or more at night.
That’s ridiculous. There’s been a number of theories posited over the years on how the additional day games hamper the Cubs compared with other teams – Cubs’ players tend to wear down as the summer moves along because they play so much in the heat being one. There may be some truth to that. But as local pundits have also observed, the Cubs have historically proven themselves just as inept during the day as they are at night.
Whatever the case, CKOW hopes that Tom Ricketts, or whoever the next Cubs owner is, pushes for even more Wrigley modernization, including adding at least 10 to 20 night games to the schedule. Many of you are familiar with the drill when it comes to this kind of thing. The Cubs say they want to do something to Wrigley – expand the bleachers, build a restaurant/parking garage next door, add night games, whatever. Mayor Daley then snorts and scoffs at a press conference, community meetings are held, certain Wrigleyville residents scream like scalded cats about drunk people urinating on their lawns, and eventually, after a long, drawn-out process, something gets done.
It may take similar wrangling to get this ordinance changed, but the new owner should go for it anyway. Day baseball is great and everything. But there’s no reason the Cubs shouldn’t be playing games on Friday and Saturday nights like every other team. Additional night games would also make it easier for working people to get to Wrigley.
Mr. Ricketts, tear down this ordinance!