Chicago Cubs: Do you see the light?
4. Wrigley Field get lights and plays first night game – sort of
On August 8, 1988, or as it’s popularly known “8-8-88” the lights came on at Wrigley Field for the first time as the Cubs took the field against the Phillies. Since taking ownership of the team, Tribune Company had been trying to get the only ballpark in MLB that was light-less to get some lights and play some night games.
The Cubs could only play day games at Wrigley Field because there were no lights. Major League Baseball was threatening that if the Cubs ever made it to the Championship race, they would have to play somewhere that had lights. A clear message to Cubs owners: somewhere other than Wrigley Field.
Neighbors in Wrigleyville were against the lights because they thought the lights would bring more traffic. After fighting in the legislature for years, the Cubs were at the point of moving their park to the suburbs. The Tribune Company finally convinced Mayor Harold Washington to back an ordinance allowing 18-night games a season.
When the day arrived, the stands were filled with, who’s who of Chicago politics and the WGN Broadcast led with, “Night and Day” by Frank Sinatra.
While the exact time might be lost to history, sometime between 6:05 pm and 7:00 pm a 91-year-old Cubs fan named Harry Grossman (no former Chicago Bears QB relation) counted down the pressing of the button that lit up six towers of lights, Grossman and fans yelled, “Let there be light!” and then it as game time.
Chicago Cubs pitcher, Rick Sutcliffe pitched the first ball amid flashbulbs blasting away the evening sky at the first pitch of a night game in Wrigley Field. By the fourth pitch, Phillies outfielder Phil Bradley pounded the first-night game home run into the Wrigley bleachers.
It was about that time that the darkened skies above Wrigley Field started pouring buckets of rain. Although the midwest had been under drought conditions most of the summer, the game went into a rain delay, and the field was covered.
I remember watching the historic game on television and the coverage of Cubs players diving into the pools of water on the tarps covering the field. Wrigley Field had become one giant slip & slide. The game was called after two hours, and the Cubs that were slid on the field all received fines for their water-park stunt. Either way, the first night game in Wrigley Field was pretty memorable. The “Let there be light” game ranks as the fourth-best Cubs game in the last 100 years.