8/8/88 – Let There Be Light!

NoLightsinWrigleyCKOW would like to take a moment to observe an unusual anniversary: The day they finally turned the lights on at Wrigley Field.

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).

Meet Justin, 27, of Lincoln Park, here enjoying Lollapalooza Saturday. He was barely past kindergarten when they first turned the lights on at Wrigley, but remains a purist on the matter.

Meet Justin, 27, of Lincoln Park, here enjoying Lollapalooza Saturday. He was barely out of kindergarten when they first turned the lights on at Wrigley, but remains a purist on the matter.

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.

July 19, 2006 - Then-Astro Roger Clemens squares off against Greg Maddux during one of many Wrigley night games since 1988.

July 19, 2006 - Then-Astro Roger Clemens squares off against Greg Maddux during one of many Wrigley night games since 1988.

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!


7 responses to “8/8/88 – Let There Be Light!

  1. Mrs. CKOW’s ‘old’ Dad is still looking for those
    first “night games with lights ” tickets….No tuxedos that night.

  2. Hey, just wanted to make sure you knew about Windy Citizen: http://www.windycitizen.com It’s a great local social news site to stay abreast of what’s going on in Chicago. Also, you can submit your own blog posts. We’ve been dropping a ton of traffic to the stories that makes the front page. Check it out.

    • Anna, thanks for the heads-up and good to make your connection. I emailed Windy Citizen about my blog last weekend, but got no response. I did just post a couple of my recent bloggings on WC’s ‘latest Chicago stories.’ Is that what you’re referring to?

  3. I was at the 8/8/88 game with two friends. We were very disappointed to have it get rained out. The atmosphere before the game was just electric. Then Sutcliffe let up a homer to the first Phillie hitter – not a good start. I was behind home plate, about 15 rows back. Perfect view.

    One other thing about that game: My friends and I weren’t able to actually get tickets. We bought tickets for another game and each went separately to different ticket takers presenting the fake tickets. I don’t know how exactly my friends made it in (we all somehow found each other when the rain started), but I went in with the fake ticket and got rejected a couple of times. Then I tried bribing another ticket taker with a $20 bill. He smiled and just waved me in without taking the money!

    As for me sitting 15 rows behind the plate – that was another tricky thing I did. Not actually having a ticket, and with every seat occupied, I found my way to what used to be the handicapped section, which consisted of about five rows of folding chairs in a field box section right behind home. I just pretended I belonged there and sat in one of the seats. No one ever asked what I was doing there.

    Once the rain started, I walked around the ballpark looking for my friends (a real shot in the dark considering 38,000 people were at the game), and somehow, we found each other. We ended up in the upper deck watching Walter Jacobson of Channel 2 News doing a live report from the front row behind home plate. After he finished his segment, we asked for his autograph, and he signed the souvenir first night game cap that I’d been handed when I entered the stadium. I kept the hat, with Walter’s smudged signature on it, for years, but eventually lost it.

    I still remember riding my bike home that night in the pouring rain.

  4. Does anyone know if that first image (the one that says front and back) is the actual shirt design, or just something the author got off the internet? I see a few different ones online, but none of them look correct. Thanks!

    • Tom, I believe I found the ‘no lights’ image through some sort of Google search. It’s been almost three years since then, so I don’t recall the specifics, but when I click on the image, it takes me to chicitytees.com. Sorry I can’t be more help. Thanks for the note- Bruce/CKOW

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