Tonight, 8/8/18 marks the 30th anniversary of the first night game at the home of the Chicago Cubs, Wrigley Field, which dawned a new era in baseball.
The first game under the lights at Wrigley Field began a 30-year odyssey for the Friendly Confines themselves, the Chicago Cubs and their fans. It is a date fraught with more than fate. It is, indeed, a baseball trivia fan’s delight.
The long strange journey on the way to installing lights at Wrigley Field begins not in the closing years of the 20th century, but rather near its midpoint. Cubs owner P.K. Wrigley had been contemplating installing lights for years before work finally began in in 1941. Wrigley, though, was not thinking about night games. He was thinking more about starting games at twilight, around 6:00 p.m. so people could attend after work. However, conditions became too dark to start a game at that time so Wrigley decided to install lights.
Work began in the late fall of 1941 as the new light standards arrived at the park. But fate intervened. On December 7, the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. In the rush of national fervor, Wrigley donated the light standards to the military. Day only baseball at Wrigley was saved not by protesting politicians and neighbors, nor by those romantics for day baseball. It was saved by a war. Wrigley tried several times during the war to get permission for lights but the raw materials were needed elsewhere. After the war, Wrigley’s enthusiasm for lights waned and the park remained lit only by sunshine and the eternal hopes of Cubs fans.
Cubs fortunes also waned after the war, with the late 1940’s to mid-1960s seeing mediocre (at best) baseball on the North Side. The Cubs posted just one winning season between 1946 and 1966.