Night Baseball Comes to Wrigley Field (8-8-1988)

The first night game in major league baseball was played in 1935.  By 1950 all the teams played night games—except the Cubs.  Longtime owner Phil Wrigley said the national pastime was meant to be enjoyed in daylight.

When the Tribune Company bought the Cubs in 1981, management began talking about putting lights in Wrigley Field.  The neighborhood didn’t like that, and pressured politicians to pass laws banning night games at the ballpark.  But night games made more money, and now it was only a question of time until the Cubs installed lights.  A compromise was reached, where the number of night games would be strictly limited, and non-resident parking would be prohibited on nearby streets.


On August 8, 1988, the Cubs met the Phillies in the first night game at Wrigley Field.  Naturally, the park was a sellout on that historic 8-8-88.  Just as naturally for something involving the Cubs, things didn’t work out as planned.  A major storm drenched the area, and the game was called after three innings.

Unlike a few hundred thousand Cubs fans, I can’t claim to have been present at Wrigley’s aborted first night game.  I was in San Francisco on vacation with my family that day.  When I finally did get to a Wrigley night game later in the season, the whole experience seemed surreal.  Even now, I still prefer going to the park for day games.  It’s probably a generational thing.

By the way, in the first official night game at Wrigley Field on 8-9-88, the Cubs beat the Mets, 6-4.


7 Responses to “Night Baseball Comes to Wrigley Field (8-8-1988)”

  1. 1 benson August 8, 2018 at 1:39 pm

    John, it’s funny reading all this with 30 to 40 years of hindsight under our belts. Wrigley Field has essentially been rebuilt. It has become a monster money maker. For Cub fans, abandoning the site would’ve been unthinkable, and competing financially in the former antiquated facility, impossible. Sure the neighbors have to put up with drunks, parking problems, etc, but many have profited handsomely and unless you bought your house before 1914 or so, you knew what you were getting into living there.

    • 2 J.R. Schmidt August 8, 2018 at 2:45 pm

      A family we know has owned a parcel of land on Clark Street across from Wrigley for something like 80 years. And yes—they have profited handsomely.

  2. 3 Garry August 8, 2018 at 10:15 pm

    The Cubs were supposed to put up lights in early 1942. But after Pearl Harbor, Phil Wrigley donated the steel supports, which were stored under some of the stands for the war effort.

    • 4 J.R. Schmidt August 9, 2018 at 8:47 am

      There’s also a story that Bill Veeck tells in his book Veeck–As In Wreck. When 20-year-old Veeck was working for the Cubs in 1934, he unsuccessfully tried to get Phil Wrigley to install lights in the park. Veeck writes that when night baseball later caught on, Wrigley decided that if he couldn’t be first, he’d have nothing to do with lights.

  3. 5 benson August 10, 2018 at 6:46 am

    While on the topic of Veeck, what was Bill thinking whitewashing Comiskey Park? There’s this tweet floating around, a color photograph of Comiskey at the 1959 World Series. The ballpark is beautiful.

    • 6 J.R. Schmidt August 10, 2018 at 8:17 am

      I agree—white paint on Comiskey’s exterior was a mistake. But remember, Veeck restored actual white socks on the White Sox, at least for a while.

  4. 7 benson August 12, 2018 at 8:33 am

    And gave us short pants; which people are still laughing about.

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