1988- On this day in Sports History, the Chicago Cubs played for the first time under the lights at Wrigley Field. Forty years after the Detroit Tigers became the second to last team to play a night game at home, the Cubs finally got the chance to play a night home game on this day in 1988.
Before this day, 4,193 regular season games had been played at Wrigley Field- all during the day. The first ever Major League night game took place 53 years earlier as the Cincinnati Reds hosted a game under the lights in 1935. In 1948, the Detroit Tigers held a night game which meant the Cubs were the last remaining team to never host a night game. Despite night games averaging bigger crowds and more viewers who could watch the games after work, the Cubs remained as the only team to never play a night game for 40 more years until this day in 1988.
The Cubs actually planned on hosting their first night game at Wrigley in 1942. Plans changed after Pearl Harbor was attacked in December of 1941 and the US was sent into World War II. Our country turned into a massive war effort and Mr. Wrigley thought the steel and materials he had bought for the lights would be better used for ships and munitions for the war. The lights were repurposed for the war and day games continued at Wrigley Field.
After the war, the Cubs faced a different battle in getting night games started. Since Wrigley Field is unique in that it is located in a very heavy residential area, there was a lot of push back from the community due to the traffic and influx of people night games would cause during the late hours. Illinois Governor James Thompson banned night games at Wrigley Field in 1982 and the next year Chicago City Council banned the use of lights. The Cubs tried suing, but Circuit Judge Richard Curry ruled that night baseball would harm the neighborhood’s “peace and tranquility”. A Citizens United for Baseball in Sunshine (C.U.B.S.) group was formed to keep night baseball away from Wrigley Field and the slogan “No Lights at Wrigley Field” was used. Finally, after the team suggested moving out of Wrigley Field, the City Council gave in and let the Cubs play night baseball.
The excitement that surrounded the first ever night game at Wrigley Field was palpable. Electricity was in the air as there was a full crowd on hand and hundreds of media personnel were in attendance. A pregame ceremony was held and MLB commissioner Peter Ueberroth and Chicago Mayor Edwin Sawyer were all present. The date was 8-8-88 and the event everyone was tuned into was the Cubs vs the Phillies in what was the first time the Cubs would play under the lights at Wrigley.
The game started off with Phil Bradley of the Phillies hitting a home run on the fourth pitch of the game to give them a 1-0 lead. The Cubs would answer in the bottom of the first with Ryne Sandberg hitting a two run home run. However, in the 4th inning with the Cubs up 3-1, Mother Nature decided the first official night game would have to wait until the next day as a thunderstorm came through and caused the game to be postponed. Since the game did not reach the five inning requirement, it officially did not count. While it was the first time the Cubs played at night in Wrigley, it would not be an official game and the first official night game at Wrigley Field was played the next day, on 8-9-1988 when the Cubs beat the New York Mets 6-4.
While the game did not officially count, the Chicago Cubs got to play under the lights at Wrigley for the first time on this day in 1988. Still today, the city restricts the number of games they allow the Cubs to play at night. Back in 1988, the Cubs were allowed to play eight night games at Wrigley. That number has since risen as they were limited to 35 regular season night games at Wrigley in 2021. This number is still far below the 2021 average number of night home games for MLB teams which is 54. Kerry Wood made headlines in 2012 when he said the number of day games due to the night game restriction was a contributing reason to why the Cubs hadn’t won the World Series since 1908. Fortunately for the Cubs, they would overcome this and the World Series drought would end as they won it all in 2016.
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Yellon, Al. “It's Time for the City of Chicago to Repeal the Wrigley Field Night Game Ordinance.” Bleed Cubbie Blue, Bleed Cubbie Blue, 21 Oct. 2021,