At 6:05 p.m., 91-year-old Cubs fan Harry Grossman began the countdown. "Three . . . two . . . one . . . Let there be lights!" Grossman pressed a button, and to the cheers of thousands of fans, six light towers flickered to life. Night baseball had come to Wrigley Field.
It had taken six years of arguing, cajoling and bluffing to bring lights to Wrigley, which for years had been the only major league baseball park where night games could not be played. When then-general manager Dallas Green first proposed installing lights in 1982, many neighborhood residents took up the cause of keeping the field dark. Largely because of their efforts, the Illinois General Assembly and the Chicago City Council passed legislation that effectively banned night games (a grandfather clause excluded Comiskey Park, which had had lights since 1939).The Cubs, owned by Tribune Company, persisted. Management hinted darkly that the team might abandon Wrigley for the suburbs. Major League Baseball decreed that, should the Cubs ever make it to the World Series, their home games would have to be played at an alternate, lighted site. Eventually a city ordinance was passed that allowed the Cubs a maximum of 18 night games per season.
The first game with field lights drew far more attention than normally accorded a Monday matchup between fourth- and fifth-place teams. Dignitaries in the sellout crowd included Mayor Eugene Sawyer, Illinois Gov. James R. Thompson, baseball commissioner Peter Ueberroth and National League President A. Bartlett Giamatti.
Starting pitcher Rick Sutcliffe was nearly blinded by the thousands of flashbulbs that went off as he delivered the first pitch. Perhaps that was why Philadelphia Phillies outfielder Phil Bradley deposited Sutcliffe's fourth pitch into the bleachers. Then, with the Cubs leading 3-1 in the fourth inning, the rains came. Not a light drizzle, but a downpour. After a two-hour rain delay, the game was called, obliterating it from the record books. "This proves that the Cubs are cursed," said one fan, as she ran from the ballpark. The following morning, the Tribune editorialized, "Someone up there seems to take day baseball seriously."
The first complete night game at Wrigley Field took place the following evening. The Cubs beat the Mets 6-4.
Rick Sutcliffe started the game for the Cubs, and gave up a home run to Phil Bradley of the Phillies on his fourth pitch. The Cubs’ star second baseman Ryne Sandberg answered with a two-run home run in the bottom of the first inning, and with the Cubs leading in the bottom of the fourth inning 3-1, the game was called due to rain. Because the five innings needed for the game to be official were not completed, Wrigley’s first night game is officially recorded as a 6-4 win over the New York Mets on August 9, 1988.
Today, the Cubs are the only major league team that still plays the majority of its home games during the day.
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