By Dave Wischnowsky –
(CBS) In my dresser drawer there sits a yellow T-shirt that shouts “SUPPORT DAY BASEBALL” in bold red letters on its front side, while its back sports the equally loud message: “NO LIGHTS IN WRIGLEY FIELD.”
The shirt – a throwback honoring the “purists” who campaigned during the 1980s to keep Wrigley out of the Electric Age – is something that I bought several years ago, and I wear it to Cubs games on occasion.
Although, only if I’m attending one that starts in the afternoon.
After all, I wouldn’t want to be a hypocrite.
I do love day baseball. However, it’s not that I don’t like night games at Wrigley Field too. I do, and the T-shirt is more tongue-in-cheek than anything. But, in my scorebook, the old ballpark at Clark & Addison is still built for day games and is at its best when teams are playing there under the sun, rather than under than the lights.
Twenty-five years ago tonight, however, on Aug. 8, 1988 (8/8/88), the Chicago Cubs went under the lights Wrigley for the first time when the franchise abandoned its long-held tradition of playing only during the daylight at home and took the field for (gasp!) a night game.
As Al Yellon of bleedcubbieblue.com recalled in a piece on the site earlier this year, “August 8 dawned hot and humid; the temperature that day in Chicago would reach 99 degrees. A capacity crowd gathered at Wrigley Field for pregame hoopla; all the while, radars began showing a cluster of thunderstorms beginning to form in northwest Illinois, headed for Chicago.
“Weather forecasting was less accurate then than now, and of course no one had anything resembling a modern smartphone where incoming weather could be followed. Still, someone following weather conditions ordered the start of the game moved up several minutes from its 7:05 p.m. scheduled time.”
Didn’t matter as a torrential downpour halted the game in the fourth inning with the Cubs leading 3-1. The storm didn’t let up for hours, and the game was eventually rained out.
(MOTHER NATURE SUPPORTS DAY BASEBALL!).
Along with that 3-1 score, washed clean from the record books was Rick Suttcliffe throwing the first pitch in a night game, Philadelphia’s Phil Bradley’s hitting the first home run in a night game, and “Morganna the Kissing Bandit’s” failed attempt to run on the field and plant the first kiss in a night game on Ryne Sandberg’s cheek.
The ushers caught Morganna and escorted her away before she could reach Ryno.
The following night on 8/9/88, the Cubs tried the night game thing again against the New York Mets and won 6-4 in a game that many forget. That contest, however, was a game that my friend and former colleague Mike Murphy of The Times in Ottawa, Ill., attended as a 27-year-old along with his best friend. On Wednesday, I called Murph to get his recollections about the electricity – and the electricity – at Wrigley that week.
“I watched the game on 8/8/88 at my parents’ home in Gurnee, and there was just an endless amount of hype leading up to it,” recalled Murph, who purchased tickets for 8/9/88 months earlier on the guess that it would be the date of the first night game. “When it was rained out, I was there the next day, and we sat somewhere down the left field line – probably near the ‘Bartman seats.’ What really struck me was how well they did with the lights. They looked like they’d been there for 50 years. It was fascinating seeing them.”
In spite of the consternation – and, you know, the protest T-shirts – by some Cubs fans the lights were indeed a seamless addition to the Wrigley grandstands. They looked good. And the ballpark does when bathed in them, too.
“I was always pro-lights,” Murph said. “I figured it happens at every place.
Jumbotrons do too, I suppose. And as the 25th anniversary of 8/8/88 has approached this month, it’s had me thinking again about how the impending video board that will be incorporated into the Friendly Confines.
I’ve written before about how I’m not a fan of the Jumbotron. I feel that it’s an unnecessary addition to the ballpark and that it has the potential to overwhelm and alter the entire gameday – or game night – experience at Wrigley Field, which is unlike anywhere else.
But 25 years ago, people probably were saying the same things about lights too, and that’s worked out OK.
“Ideally, I would like it if the Jumbotron wasn’t going in,” Murph said in agreement with me. “But it isn’t going to keep me away from the ballpark. It is what it is.”
It’s not going to keep me away, either, although I don’t think I’ll ever truly love seeing a Jumbotron propped up in the outfield at Wrigley. But, hey, here on the anniversary of the last massive technological change at Clark & Addison, perhaps I’ll, well, light up to it more than I think.
After all, as Murph said, it is what it is. And it indeed is coming.
If nothing else, Dave Wischnowsky is an Illinois boy. Raised in Bourbonnais, educated at the University of Illinois and bred on sports in the Land of Lincoln, he now resides on Chicago’s North Side, just blocks from Wrigley Field. Formerly a reporter and blogger for the Chicago Tribune, Dave currently writes a syndicated column, The Wisch List, which you can check out via his blog at http://www.wischlist.com. Follow him on Twitter @wischlist and read more of his CBS Chicago blog entries here.