Wrigley Field, the cherished home of the Chicago Cubs, stands as a historical landmark in the world of baseball. However, it wasn’t until August 8, 1988, that this iconic stadium hosted its first game under the lights. This shift to night games occurred more than 50 years after the first Major League Baseball (MLB) night game, which took place in Cincinnati in 1935. Interestingly, a unique blend of tradition, neighborhood concerns, and legal battles contributed to this lengthy delay
Philip K. Wrigley, the team’s owner who inherited the Cubs from his father, was a staunch traditionalist. He firmly believed that baseball was a sport meant for daylight, best enjoyed under the sun. Consequently, this belief helped to make Wrigley Field unique. It was one of the last bastions where all games unfolded under the natural light of day, a feature that attracted both players and fans alike.
The location of Wrigley Field added another layer of complexity to the issue. Nestled within a densely populated residential area, the stadium is an integral part of the neighborhood’s fabric. However, many residents voiced worries about the potential impact of night games. They raised concerns about increased noise, higher traffic levels, and the possibility of rowdiness from late-night crowds. Therefore, the preservation of the neighborhood’s peace and tranquility was of utmost importance to them.
For many years, the Cubs adhered to a daytime-only game schedule. This practice continued well into the late 1980s. However, during this period, the financial landscape of baseball began to change. Television broadcast revenue emerged as a significant income source for teams. As a result, the inability to host night games, which were more television-friendly due to higher potential viewership, put the Cubs at a financial disadvantage. Consequently, this situation led to mounting pressure to install lights and host night games at Wrigley Field.
In 1982, Dallas Green stepped in as the new General Manager of the Cubs. He recognized the financial implications of the daytime-only policy and began advocating for lights at Wrigley Field. However, his efforts met with stiff resistance. Local residents and city officials stood against the proposal, leading to a lengthy legal battle
After years of debates and negotiations, a breakthrough finally came in 1988. The city of Chicago passed an ordinance. This new rule allowed the Cubs to host a limited number of night games, marking a significant shift in the stadium’s history.
The first scheduled night game was to take place on August 8, 1988. However, Mother Nature had other plans. Rain ended the game prematurely after only 3.5 innings. The first official night game, completed in its entirety, occurred the next day, on August 9, 1988.
Today, the Cubs have permission to host several night games each season. However, in keeping with its historical roots, Wrigley Field still hosts fewer night games than any other MLB ballpark. This practice helps maintain its unique connection to its daytime past, preserving a piece of baseball history while also adapting to the modern demands of the sport.