25th anniversary: The lights go on at Wrigleyby Chris Jaffe
August 08, 2013
25 years ago today, the Chicago Cubs finally entered the 20th century. Over a half-century since night baseball first came to the major leagues and 40 years since all other teams played under the lights, Wrigley Field finally, belatedly hosted its first night game.
OK, so the game was rained out. Still, it was the first night game.
It was a mess getting there. When the Wrigley family owned the team, they didn’t try to get lights in. Supposedly Phillip K. Wrigley looked into getting lights after the 1941 season, but then Pearl Harbor happened, and he opted not to do so. For 40 more years, the Wrigley family had the Cubs play all of their games in the sun.
The Chicago Tribune Company purchased the Cubs in 1981, and then wanted to put lights in. Their initial moves to add lights backfired, though. A neighborhood backlash caused the city to pass an ordinance banning lights from Wrigley. So things stood for a few years.
But the Tribune Company wasn’t going to take it lying down. They hinted that they might move the team out of the city and into the suburbs. That was a lot more common back then, and Wrigley Field hadn’t yet become the perennial draw that it would. Major league baseball helped, decreeing that if the Cubs made it to the World Series, they’d have to play in a stadium with lights. Eventually, local government acceded to reality and let the Cubs build lights and play a limited number of day games per year.
On Aug. 8, 1988, the Cubs hosted the Phillies at night. 91-year-old Cubs fan Harry Grossman, a man whose life went back to the days of Cap Anson, did the honors of flipping the switch and bringing the Cubs into the era of Thomas Edison.
In the top of the first, former Cy Young Award winner Rick Sutcliffe took the hill for the Cubs, and surrendered a home run to the leadoff batter, Philadelphia’s Phil Bradley.
The Cubs quickly recovered, though. They scored three runs, with I believe team star Ryne Sandberg launching one of his own over the fence. That wasn’t all. The first inning also saw one of the last (the last?) major league appearance by Morganna the Kissing Bandit, who ran onto the field in the first inning, but security got to her before she could get to a player.
However, all the early fireworks of the game were soon overshadowed by fireworks from Mother Nature. In the third inning, the skies unleashed a tremendous rainstorm. I remember being in the car with my father and brother and the rain came down so heavily that we had to pull over to the side of the expressway, as did many other cars. It was one of the most ferocious rainstorms I’ve ever seen.
Did God not want the Cubs to have lights? Nah—the next night the Cubs played another night game, and then went off without a hitch, with the Cubs topping the Mets. But while Aug. 9, 1988 might be the first completed night game at Wrigley Field, it was Aug. 8, 1988—25 years ago today—that the lights first went on at the old ballpark.
Aside from that, many other baseball events have their anniversary or “day-versary” (which is something that happened X-thousand days ago) today. Here they are, with the better ones in bold if you’d rather just skim.
4,000 days since 30,000 see the first live video streaming game, with the Yankees topping the Rangers, 10-3.
4,000 days since Manny Ramirez whumps his 300th career home run.
4,000 days since Joe Torre manages his 3,000th game. He is 1,557-1,438 with a few ties so far.
5,000 days since the umpires vote to form a new union.
8,000 days since a 55-ton slab of concrete falls from Olympic Stadium in Montreal. The Expos will have to go on an unexpected and extended road trip.
15,000 days since Harmon Killebrew receives the sole walk-off walk of his career.
15,000 days since the Indians beat the Rangers 2-0 in 14 innings in a great pitchers duel. Gaylord Perry throws 13 shutout innings for Cleveland while Mike Paul lasts 11. Perry’s Game Score of 95 is a tad lower than Paul’s 101.
15,000 days since baseball allows a rather impressive conflict of interest to occur when umpire Tom Haller works home plate in a Tigers game when his brother Bill serves as Detroit catcher. I doubt Tom made calls to help his brother, but the appearance of conflict of interest is a large part of conflict of interest.
1867 Cupid Childs, star second baseman in the 1890s, is born.
1877 A catcher’s mask is first used in the NL. Mike Dorgan uses it after St. Louis' starting catcher has his cheek smashed on a foul tip and Dorgan has to replace him.
1885 All games in New York City are cancelled for the funeral of former president U. S. Grant.
1886 Pete Browning hits for the cycle.
1888 George Bradley, star pitcher in the early NL, plays in his last game.
1889 Jack Glasscock, star infielder, hits for the cycle.
1896 The Phillies purchase second baseman Nap Lajoie from Fall River in the Northeastern League for $1,500.
1896 A record 37 singles are hit in one game, and Baltimore and Washington each have exactly as many runs scored as singles hit: Baltimore 21, Washington 16.
1903 Cleveland forfeits to Detroit when umpire Tom Connolly ignores Cleveland’s complaints about the beaten-up, blackened baseball still being used, and Indians second baseman Nap Lajoie throws it over the stands in protest.
1903 Iron Man Joe McGinnity wins both end of a doubleheader for the Giants, 6-1 and 4-3, over Brooklyn.
1904 Longtime rival managers Ned Hanlon and Frank Selee square off against each other for the 200th time.
1909 Bill O’Hara swipes second, third, and home in the eighth inning of a 3-0 Giants win over St. Louis.
1913 Cecil Travis, star shortstop before WWII, is born.
1913 Lew Richie, briefly a solid pitcher for the Cubs, appears in his last game.
1914 The White Sox purchase Happy Felsch from the American Association’s Milwaukee club for $12,000 and two players. Outfielder Felsch will be one of the eight Black Sox.
1914 Tris Speaker, center fielder, pulls off his second unassisted double play of the year.
1915 Star slugger Gavvy Cravath hits four doubles in one game.
1917 Ken Raffensberger, pitcher, is born.
1918 It’s announced that Ebbets Field will be a government storehouse for the war once the season ends on Sept. 2.
1920 Superb hitting first baseman George Sisler hits for the cycle.
1920 The Tigers top the Yankees in 73 minutes in the shortest nine-inning game in AL history.
1921 Rogers Hornsby gets his 1,000th hit. It took him just 806 games to do so.
1921 Luke Stuart of the Browns becomes the first player in AL history to homer in his first career at-bat.
1922 The Pirates get 46 hits in a doubleheader against the Phillies. Shortstop Rabbit Maranville has a record 13 plate appearances on the day. Pittsburgh sweeps, 19-8 and 7-3.
1923 The Red Sox send two players and $4,000 to Danville of the Three-I League for pitcher Red Ruffing.
1923 Hall of Fame outfielder Ross Youngs gets his 1,000th hit.
1925 The Giants dump hard drinking Hack Wilson on Toledo. Wilson will later return to the majors and be a star slugger for a few years.
1926 200-game winner Earl Whitehill fans 12 in one game, his personal best.
1927 Johnny Temple, second baseman, is born.
1927 Pirates manager Donie Bush benches star outfielder Kiki Cuyler and fines him $50 for not sliding. He’ll use Cuyler sparingly the rest of the year, and Cuyler will be traded in the offseason to the Cubs.
1929 Sunny Jim Bottomley legs out his 100th career triple.
1929 Herb Pennock records his 200th win. His record is 200-134 so far for his career.
1931 Pirates hitting star Paul Waner gets his 100th career triple.
1931 Bobby Burke throws a no-hitter.
1931 Charlie Root, the all-time winningest Cub, endures his worst Game Score: 10. His line: 1.1 IP, 8 H, 7 R, 7 ER, 0 BB, and 0 K.
1934 Lefty Grove records his 200th win. His record is 200-83. He’s the only pitcher between Pete Alexander and Whitey Ford to win 200 games before losing 100.
1934 Brooklyn releases former star slugger Hack Wilson, who has imbibed his way out of the game.
1934 The Pirates sign free agent spitballer Burleigh Grimes.
1934 Former Dodger manager Wilbert Robinson dies at age 70.
1936 Slugger Frank Howard is born.
1937 For the second straight game, Joe Medwick uncorks two home runs in one contest. As it happens, today is his 10th and final multi-home run game. He’ll play 1,255 more games and never do it again.
1943 For the only time in his Hall of Fame career, second baseman Joe Gordon lays down two sacrifice bunts in one game.
1945 Pitcher Jim Wilson suffers a skull fracture after taking a Hank Greenberg liner to his head. He undergoes two hours of surgery, and will recover enough to pitch, but not this year.
1946 Bob Feller tosses his eighth career one-hitter. A seventh-inning bloop single by Frankie Hayes is the only safety. In this game, Feller also faces his 1,000th batter of the year, a damn impressive total given that it’s still just early August.
1947 Jose Cruz, longtime Astros star outfielder, is born.
1950 Longtime NL manger Frankie Frisch loses his 1,000th decision. His record: 1,082-1,000.
1952 Billy Pierce has his 12th straight Quality Start, his longest such stretch. He has a 1.68 ERA in this span.
1952 Bob Neighbors, a shortstop for seven games in 1939, is killed in Korea. He’s the only former big leaguer to die in the war.
1954 The Dodgers stage an incredible rally, scoring 12 runs in an inning despite the first two batters of he frame making outs.
1956 Hank Aaron has a hitting streak peak at 25 games, a career best that he’ll tie six years later.
1957 Walter O’Malley officially announces that the Dodgers will play in Los Angeles next year.
1959 For the first time in his career, Bob Gibson records more than 27 outs in one game as he tosses 10 innings today. He’ll have 25 career games with at least 28 outs.
1961 Boston’s Gary Geiger hits an inside-the-park grand slam.
1963 Dodger batters Frank Howard and Moose Skowron hit back-to-back pinch-hit homers against the Cubs, but Chicago holds on to win, 5-4.
1963 Pete Rose gets on base via catcher's interference for the first time in his career. He’ll end his career with 29 times on base this way, an impossibly high total. I’ve looked it up for many players, and no one comes close to 29 times.
1963 Ron Karkovice, White Sox catcher, is born.
1964 The Angels sign a contract to move from Los Angeles to Anaheim in 1966.
1965 The Dodgers suffer one of their worst losses in franchise history, falling 18-0 to the Reds. They allow 20 hits—10 for extra bases—while mustering just four safeties against Reds ace Jim Maloney.
1966 A Red Sox-Indians game is delayed four times by fog.
1968 Umpire Chris Pelakoudas nullifies three outs, accusing Cub pitcher Phil Regan of throwing an illegal pitch. Manager Leo Durocher and two others are ejected.
1968 Major league baseball grudgingly accepts Jarry Park as a stadium for the new Montreal team.
1969 Mets starting pitcher Jerry Koosman notches his 16th consecutive Quality Start, his longest such streak. He has a 1.71 ERA in this span.
1969 Yankees catcher Thurman Munson makes his big league debut.
1970 Giants pitcher Skip Pitlock hits an inside-the-park home run in a 6-5 win over the Astros.
1970 Tony Perez has a career-best six RBIs, going 3-for-5 with two homers.
1970 The Yankees retire No. 37 for Casey Stengel.
1972 The Yankees sign a 30-year lease starting in 1976 to play at Yankee Stadium.
1972 Tommy John fans a career-high 13 batters.
1973 Orlando Cepeda belts four doubles in one game.
1974 Tonight’s Royals-Twins game is briefly interrupted to broadcast the resignation speech of President Richard Nixon. The Twins win, 3-2 in 14 innings.
1974 Howie Pollet, pitcher, dies at age 53. He won 21 games for the 1946 Cardinals.
1976 The White Sox wear shorts for one game before revolting. They beat the Royals, 5-2.
1977 Tommy John has a great game, tossing a complete-game shutout and hitting a homer in a 4-0 Dodger triumph over the Reds.
1978 For the only time in his 4,000-plus plate appearances, Doug Flynn gets hit by a pitch. It’s the most trips to the plate for someone with just one hit-by-pitch since 1920.
1979 A’s pitcher Matt Keough loses, dropping his record to 0-14.
1980 For the only time in his career, Jim Rice steals two bases in one game.
1982 For the second time in his career, Doug DeCinces hits three homers in one game. The first time was just five days before.
1982 The Yankees trade Bucky Dent to Texas for Lee Mazzilli.
1983 Billy Martin manages his 2,000th game. His record is 1,091-908.
1983 Tom Candiotti makes his big league debut.
1985 Oscar Gamble plays in his final game.
1987 Steve Carlton notches his 329th and final career victory.
1988 Rick Reed makes his big league debut.
1990 Montreal trades Zane Smith to the Pirates for two players and a player to be named later. The PTBNL turns out to be Moises Alou.
1990 Pete Rose reports to federal work camp in Marion, Illinois.
1991 In a 4-0, 14-inning win over the Blue Jays, the Tigers fan 21 times.
1992 Oakland’s uber-closer Dennis Eckersley blows his first save opportunity in nearly a year (since Sept. 10, 1991).
1993 Albert Belle gets two RBIs on one sacrifice fly during Cleveland’s 6-0 win over Baltimore.
1993 Mariners pitcher Brad Holman is hit on the forehead by a line drive from Texas’ Mario Diaz. Holman suffers a fractures sinus cavity.
1994 Hall of Fame relief ace Rich Gossage appears in his last game.
1995 Florida trades Bobby Witt to Texas, which will later send player to be named later Scott Podsednik to complete the trade.
1996 Willie McGee gets his 2,000th hit.
1996 Florida trades John Burkett to Texas for Ryan Dempster and player to be named later Rick Helling.
1996 Second baseman Luis Castillo makes his big league debut.
1997 Manny Ramirez hits his 100th homer.
1997 The Cubs trade Brian McRae, Mel Rojas, and Turk Wendell to the Mets for Lance Johnson and two players to be named later.
1997 Mark McGwire hits his first home run for the Cardinals.
1997 Randy Johnson fans 19 in a complete-game shutout. It’s his second 19-K game of the year for the Mariners.
1998 Paul Molitor steals his 500th base.
1999 Pedro Martinez notches his 100th win for a career record of 100-49.
1999 Former player and manager Harry "the Hat" Walker dies at age 82. He led the 1947 NL with a .363 batting average.
1999 Black Jack McDowell appears in his last game.
2000 Joel Pineiro makes his big league debut.
2001 Damion Easley gets six hits in a game for Detroit. Both starting pitchers in the game are making their big league debuts, too: Detroit’s Nate Cornejo and Texas’ Joaquin Benoit.
2002 Delino DeShields appears in his final big league contest.
2004 It’s the second-longest game ever at the Metrodome: A’s 6, Twins 5 (18).
2004 Tim Wakefield allows six homers but gets the win anyway, 11-9, Boston over Detroit.
2004 Toronto fires manager Carlos Tosca.
2005 Former big league manager Gene Mauch dies at age 79.
2006 Oakland tops Texas, 7-6, on a game-ending unassisted double play by A’s catcher Jason Kendall. He catches strike three for one out and there’s interference by the batter for a second out when Kendall tries to make a throw on a base runner. It’s the fourth unassisted double play of Kendall’s career.
2007 Bruce Bochy wins his 1,000th game, giving him a record of 1,000-1,038.
2007 The Dodgers are shut out for the third straight game, something that hasn’t happened to them since the 1966 World Series.
2007 According to WPA, this is the worst game of Andruw Jones’s career. He’s 0-for-4 with a pair of GIDP for a –0.570 WPA.
2010 Toronto’s Brandon Morrow fans 17 in a one-hit, complete-game, 1-0 shutout over the Rays. The hit came with two outs in the ninth by Tampa’s Evan Longoria.
2010 Boise Hawks manager Jody Davis is suspended six games and fined for pulling his team off the field and taking a forfeit. Davis claims that rain made the field conditions unsafe, but the umps disagree.
2012 In the 636th game of his career, Atlanta’s David Ross finally steals his first base.
History instructor by day, statnerd by night, Chris Jaffe leads one of the most exciting double lives imaginable; with the exception of every other double life possible to imagine. Despite his lack of comic-book-hero-worthiness, Chris enjoys farting around with this stuff. His new book, Evaluating Baseball's Managers is available for order. Chris welcomes responses to his articles via e-mail. Oh, and now he's on twitter.