CHICAGO (CBS) — Thirty years ago Wednesday night, a blinding light lifted Wrigley Field out of the darkness. The event electrified Cubs fans and would forever change Wrigleyville.
CBS 2’s Jim Williams was there when it happened and reports from Wrigley once again.
More than 5,000 consecutive day games were played at Wrigley Field before the lights went on.
After 8-8-88, the quaint, intimate ballpark and the neighborhood would never be the same.
The transformation of Wrigleyville began three decades ago with a switch.
“Let there be light,” Cub fans chanted on 8-8-88 as the bulbs atop the Friendly Confines glowed for the first time.
The epicenter of this North Side neighborhood was now a evening destination. A concession to a plea for prime time audiences and the bigger money that comes with it.
It had been a tough fight before that first night game at Wrigley Field. Charlotte Newfeld led the “no lights” movement.
“This isn’t a baseball issue. This is a neighborhood issue,” said Newfeld.
“You would have noise and streets being congested when people are coming home from work,” said Newfeld.
More drinking, more bad behavior. Attorney Alan Borlack, representing the community, argued in court.
“A night crowd is different from a day crowd. People don’t mind a dog urinating on their lawns but there’s something about a human being urinating on your home lawn that is a little bitty disconcerting,” said Borlack.
But the Cubs threatened to move to the suburbs. So the Chicago City Council allowed night baseball.
The first night game 30 years was rained out. The Cubs played the next evening and many others since then.
Charlotte Newfeld, now 88, has made her peace with baseball at Wrigley Field under the lights.
“When you’re there at night, when you’re sitting in the right place, you can still see lights of the high rises, you can still see the sun go down, you can still see you’re in a neighborhood,” said Newfeld.
Neighborhood leaders said it was worth it because they won concessions from the city. More security and parking permits for residents.
Early on the city council said the Cubs could only have 18 night games a year. Now they have more than 40 events a year, including concerts.