Lights go on at Wrigley

Lights go on at Wrigley

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On August 8, 1988, the Chicago Cubs host the first night game in the history of Wrigley Field.

The first-ever night game in professional baseball took place nearly 60 years earlier, on May 2, 1930, when a Des Moines, Iowa, team hosted Wichita for a Western League game. The match-up drew 12,000 people at a time when Des Moines was averaging just 600 fans per game. Evening games soon became popular in the minors: As minor league ball clubs were routinely folding in the midst of the Great Depression, adaptable owners found the innovation a key to staying in business. The major leagues, though, took five years to catch up to their small-town counterparts.

The first big league night game took place in Cincinnati, Ohio, on May 24, 1935, and drew 25,000 fans. The crowd stood by as President Franklin D. Roosevelt symbolically switched on the lights from Washington, D.C. To capitalize on their new evening fan base, the Reds played a night game that year against every National League team–eight games in total–and despite their lousy record of 68-85, paid attendance rose 117 percent. Over the next 13 seasons, the rest of the major league parks followed suit, with one exception, Wrigley Field, which by 1988 was the second oldest ballpark in use after Boston’s Fenway Park. For 74 seasons, the Cubs played only day games at home. Finally, on August 8, 1988, the Cubs played the Philadelphia Phillies in the park’s first night game. Ninety-one-year-old Cubs fan Harry Grossman was chosen to turn on the lights. After counting to three, he flipped the switch, and announced “Let there be light.”

Rick Sutcliffe started the game for the Cubs, and gave up a home run to Phil Bradley of the Phillies on his fourth pitch. The Cubs’ star second baseman Ryne Sandberg answered with a two-run home run in the bottom of the first inning, and with the Cubs leading in the bottom of the fourth inning 3-1, the game was called due to rain. Because the five innings needed for the game to be official were not completed, Wrigley’s first night game is officially recorded as a 6-4 win over the New York Mets on August 9, 1988.

READ MORE: Who Invented Baseball?

Wrigley Field

Wrigley Field / ˈ r ɪ ɡ l i / is a baseball park located on the North Side of Chicago, Illinois. It is the home of the Chicago Cubs, one of the city's two Major League Baseball (MLB) franchises. It first opened in 1914 as Weeghman Park for Charles Weeghman's Chicago Whales of the Federal League, which folded after the 1915 baseball season. The Cubs played their first home game at the park on April 20, 1916, defeating the Cincinnati Reds with a score of 7–6 in 11 innings. Chewing gum magnate William Wrigley Jr. of the Wrigley Company acquired the Cubs in 1921. It was named Cubs Park from 1920 to 1926, before being renamed Wrigley Field in 1927. It is actually the second stadium to be named Wrigley Field, as a Los Angeles ballpark with the same name opened in 1925.

In the North Side community area of Lakeview in the Wrigleyville neighborhood, Wrigley Field is on an irregular block bounded by Clark and Addison streets to the west and south, and Waveland and Sheffield avenues to the north and east. Wrigley Field is nicknamed "The Friendly Confines", a phrase popularized by "Mr. Cub", Hall of Fame shortstop and first baseman Ernie Banks. The oldest park in the National League, the current seating capacity is 41,649 [6] it is the second-oldest in the majors after Fenway Park (1912), and the only remaining Federal League park. [7] The park was designated a National Historic Landmark in 2020. [8]

Wrigley Field is known for its ivy-covered brick outfield wall, the unusual wind patterns off Lake Michigan, the iconic red marquee over the main entrance, the hand-turned scoreboard, its location in a primarily residential neighborhood with no parking lots and views from the rooftops behind the outfield, and for being the last Major League park to have lights installed for night games, in 1988. Between 1921 and 1970, it was the home of the Chicago Bears of the National Football League, and was also the home of the Chicago Cardinals (now Arizona Cardinals) of the National Football League from 1931 to 1938. The elevation of its playing field is 600 feet (180 m) above sea level.

Wrigley lights -- pro and con

CHICAGO -- To hear the Chicago Cubs tell it, there is nothing bad about bringing lights to Wrigley Field. To hear Wrigleyville neighborhood residents tell it, there is nothing good about lights at Wrigley.

The truth, of course, is somewhere in between.

Tribune Co. started talking about putting up lights at Wrigley Field when it bought the club in August of 1981. The talk ends Monday, Aug. 8, when the Cubs play the first night game in the history of the ancient ballpark.

The reasons Wrigley Field needed lights, club officials said, included:

-- Post-season play. When the Cubs took the National League East title in 1984, they held their two playoff games on Tuesday and Wednesday and the television broadcasts interrupted daytime programming. The networks prefer prime time broadcasting of playoff games and after 1984 said they would not broadcast midweek day playoff games.

The seriousness of the threat was never tested because the Cubs failed to make the playoffs in 1985-87. If the Cubs had made the playoffs again and the network holding the playoff contract refused to broadcast an afternoon game at Wrigley, another network, including several of the cable outlets, would probably have jumped at the chance. Baseball should have just negotiated that possibility into its contract with the networks.

It will no longer come to that, because Wrigley has lights and midweek playoff games will be held at night. Television wins.

-- Attendance. Attendance was a problem in 1981 when the Tribune bought the club. But after 1984, when the Cubs became the yuppie dream team, attendance was the least of their worries. Originally it was thought there was a limit to the number of people who could get off work to see a midweek day game, but the numbers of recent years indicate the problem is not that difficult to get around. Cubs tickets, especially ones without large poles obstructing the view, are difficult to get any day of the week.

-- Competitiveness. Legend says the Cubs burn out late in the season from playing all of those games under the hot summer sun. Of special concern is the day games following night road games. 'It would be ideal if they would put the night games after road trips,' says second baseman Ryne Sandberg. 'It would be smart because our team could have the extra rest.'

Except that is not the time the Cubs are expected to use their 18 night game limit each year. Most observers think the Cubs will schedule night games early and late in the season when kids are in school, either elementary or secondary, and attendance lags a bit.

Those are also the times when, after the sun goes down, Wrigley Field gets very chilly. Early season weather has been used as an excuse on occasion and the excuses will really fly if they play night games in April or September.

The negative effects on the neighborhood have been voiced by groups including C.U.B.S., Citizens United for Baseball in Sunshine. Their concerns include:

-- Parking. When the Cubs play a midweek day game, thousands of cars line the neighborhood streets where parking is available because residents have driven their cars to work. Those parking spots supposedly won't be available for night games because the city has instituted a parking system whereby residents have parking stickers and cars without stickers will be towed.

There are two ensuing problems. If hundreds of fans are willing to risk being towed, how will the city remove all of those cars? It would take dozens of tow trucks and police for every night game.

And where are the fans who obey the law supposed to park? There has been very little increase in parking around Wrigley, although the club has promised to build a parking garage eventually.

-- Vandalism and trash. The neighborhood groups think the night game crowds will be more disruptive to the area than the day crowds, which can be fairly disruptive in their own right. Vandalism might increase by cover of darkness, they say.

The Wrigleyville area is surrounded by taverns and restaurants which could benefit by night games, although they benefit plenty from day games. In fact, a case could be made that more fans will patronize the businesses after day games because night game patrons have to go home to get ready for the next day's work. Unless there is a day game the next day and they skip work to go.

Here are the points the wait-and-see crowd must watch:

-- Do the Cubs schedule the night games to benefit the team competitively, and does the team indeed perform better as a result?

-- Is there a positive effect on attendance and how much of it comes from April and September night games?

-- Does the city protect the interests of the neighborhood residents? Are they able to find places to park and are there homes kept safe?

-- Do the Cubs keep their promises regarding parking, trash pickup and late inning curfew on beer sales?

A final point to remember is that, never in the history of baseball has a ballpark taken down lights because of problems they caused. The lights at Wrigley are here to stay.

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What if Cubs fans had seen this on the marquee in 1942 instead of 1988? Photo by: Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

You’ve heard the story before, no doubt — P.K. Wrigley, owner of the Cubs, had decided to join his fellow team owners in installing lights at his ballpark. Wrigley Field was going to be lighted artificially in 1942, and Wrigley had gone so far as to have blueprints drawn up and steel ordered.

But then the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, and Wrigley called off the project in favor of proving his patriotism by donating the steel to the war effort’s defense plant. However, it ironically likely ended up as lighting for the local race track, which had begun holding nighttime events.

Now, that latter part I hadn’t heard. There were more attempts to play Cubs games under the lights during the war, as I chronicled in this article here in December 2013. A deal with the White Sox to play some night games at Comiskey Park in 1942 fell through, and an effort to install temporary lights on wooden standards was abandoned, as Wrigley told the Tribune:

“We anticipated the installation of a modern lighting plant as far back as a year ago,” Mr. Wrigley said. “Our intention then was to make it the finest of its kind, but the war situation naturally made it difficult to obtain materials and we abandoned the plan temporarily. The stories that we were opposed to night baseball, because it would destroy the beauty of the park for daytime baseball are without foundation. It’s our job to give the fans what they want, and if we find they want night baseball, they’ll have it.

“The entire national picture in relation to sports may shift to such an extent in the case of work hours that night baseball may yet become a demand. As yet I can’t see the night side of the game as a wartime measure. I was raised to regard baseball as an outdoor, daylight game where you went out and bought a bag of popcorn and absorbed fresh air and sunshine.”

As you know, as time went by Wrigley hardened his stance against night baseball at Wrigley Field, claiming he wanted to be a “good neighbor,” and it wasn’t until 11 years after his death and seven years following his family’s sale of the Cubs to Tribune Company that lights were finally installed at Wrigley Field in 1988. Night games have now been played at Wrigley for more than three decades and are part of the fabric and culture of Cubs baseball. Frankly, the city restrictions on the number of night games and days they can be played on are anachronistic and should be lifted.

But that’s not what I’m focusing on here today. Instead, I ask: What if Wrigley had decided to keep the steel he had bought for light standards and had proceeded with the installation of lights for the 1942 season?

One thing you have to remember about night baseball in the 1940s was that it was still somewhat of a novelty. It had only been in existence in the major leagues for seven seasons, since the Reds became the first team with lights in 1935 at Crosley Field. Many owners — as you can see by Wrigley’s quote above — still felt that baseball was mostly meant to be played in sunshine.

Teams were limited to seven night games a year by 1941, and an effort by some teams to expand to 14 the following year was opposed by many who thought it would “kill night baseball.” It eventually passed, and over time teams began to increase the number of home night games, discovering that fans who worked during the day wanted to come to games at night. Incidentally, in the early years of night games most of them started at 8:30 p.m. local time — the less-efficient bulbs didn’t light the field well and so it was felt better to wait until after it was nearly dark. Of course, you could do that in the 1940s with most games running two hours or a bit longer.

Mike Bojanowski, who grew up in the neighborhood around Wrigley Field and still lives there, and I have discussed this topic on many occasions. We agree that if Wrigley Field had night games beginning in 1942, the buildings on Sheffield and Waveland would likely have been torn down after World War II for parking for newly-mobile fans who had cars and lived in the suburbs, the new type of baseball fan rather than the stereotypical working-class guy who lived in the city and took the streetcar to the game. If that had happened, it would have changed the entire character of the neighborhood.

Night games might have made the Cubs a better team in the late 1940s and through the 1950s, as there’s a school of thought that says the Cubs suffered from day games in the summer heat while their competitors played in the evening when it was cooler, but it also would have made them a team with a ballpark very much like Ebbets Field, Crosley Field, the original Busch Stadium and others that were located in neighborhoods much like Wrigleyville. A Cubs team playing night games in a park surrounded by parking lots might have begun seeking a new ballpark elsewhere, as many teams began to do in the early 1960s. The lack of “neighborhood charm” would have likely become obvious by the late 1960s and there would likely have been pressure on the Cubs to move. As I noted earlier this week, there was at least one serious proposal to have them move downtown in 1967.

Banned from the World Series? It almost happened . to Wrigley Field

It was just after midnight when Anthony Rizzo caught the final out. The Cubs -- a franchise so long synonymous with day baseball -- celebrated their 108-years-in-the-making World Series glory not beneath the sun at iconic Wrigley Field but beneath the glow of Progressive Field’s distinctive “toothbrush lights.”

History was made at night. Such was bound to be the case when the Cubs finally killed the “Curse of the Billy Goat,” because Fall Classic games have long been a made-for-primetime television special.

History was also made on the road. In 2016, this was a matter of happenstance. Chicago had the superior regular-season record that year, but Cleveland was hosting Game 7 because of the American League’s victory in the All-Star Game (the final season in which this awkward arrangement was employed).

What few know is that, had the Cubs managed to make that history in 1985, not 2016, the long-anticipated final out still would have been recorded on the road, no matter which game they clinched the title. The Cubs could have been the “home” team in this ’85 scenario and, regardless, been playing in a ballpark other than Wrigley.

We’ll spare you the trouble of rummaging through the record books and go straight to the spoiler: The 1985 Cubs did not reach the World Series. Or the postseason. They went 77-84 and finished fourth in the National League East.

But because of their juxtaposition to a legitimately good Cubs club in 1984, and because of their own first-place standing as late as the morning of Father’s Day, the ྑ Cubs created an almost unthinkable dialogue between their own front office and Major League Baseball. And had they not fallen victim to rotation injuries and a mammoth second-half slide, they could have made history of a very different sort, long before a global pandemic forced MLB to place the World Series in the protective wrap of a neutral site in Arlington, Texas:

The Cubs could have been the first homeless home team in World Series history.

“I played all my home games under one light, God’s light.” -- Ernie Banks, 2008

Ivy and infamy. For decades, the Cubs were known for day baseball and losing baseball. In 38 seasons from 1946 to 1983, they had just three second-place finishes, five third-place finishes and a whole lot of black-cat-quite-literally-crossing-your-path bad luck.

The awful outcomes weren’t entirely attributable to curses, coaching and club construction. It’s reasonable to speculate that the schedule had a little something to do with it, too. Wrigley Field was a source of both affection and affliction.

“The Friendly Confines” were lightless confines. Major League Baseball’s first night game was held in Cincinnati in 1935. The Cubs had plans to add lights for ས, but those plans were scuttled by the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. By ཀྵ, when the Cubs reached the World Series, they were in a minority of unilluminated teams.

By 1948, they were the lone holdouts.

In clinging to a simpler past, the club refused to add lights that would allow them to play at night. While considered charming by purists, this was both delightfully out-of-step with the times and a step behind. Day baseball inspired possibly the greatest managerial rant of all-time (Lee Elia’s 1983 lament that “85 percent of the [expletive] world’s working, the other 15 come out here”).

But the clock and the heat took their toll on North Side teams, most notably the ཱྀ club that collapsed in September.

“For a family man, it was ideal,” former Cubs pitcher Rick Sutcliffe says of playing day games at Wrigley. “You get up in the morning, you take your kid to school, you play a game, you come home and have dinner with your family.

“But if I would throw a complete game at night at Dodger Stadium, I might lose anywhere from two to maybe four or five pounds. When I would pitch a typical complete game at Wrigley, I would lose anywhere from eight pounds to … I lost 14 pounds one time in a nine-inning game. I literally had to get IVs because of all the weight I lost.”

I lost 14 pounds one time in a nine-inning game [at Wrigley].

Rick Sutcliffe

It wasn’t until the 1981 sale of the Cubs from the Wrigley family to the Tribune Company that the attitude toward the team -- and the lights -- began to change. Merely selling the Wrigley Field experience was not enough. Tribune wanted to win games and build revenue.

The first acquisition toward that end was the hiring of general manager Dallas Green away from the Phillies, where he had been the field manager in Philadelphia's 1980 run to the World Series title.

“[Green] had a presence,” says Bob Ibach, who was the Cubs’ director of public relations at the time. “He was like John Wayne. That guy walked in a room, and everybody turned their head. He had that shock of white hair, and he was a gunslinger.”

Under Green, the “lovable losers” schtick was no longer tolerated internally.

Neither was the lack of lights.

“As soon as Dallas got to town, he campaigned for lights,” says Ned Colletti, who, long before his tenure as Dodgers GM, worked in media relations for the Cubs. “Dallas was doing what he thought was right. And initially, his passion for building the franchise and making it competitive rankled a lot of people.”

Especially the residents of Wrigleyville.

In the 1980s, it was the Cubs vs. the C.U.B.S. -- as in, Citizens United for Baseball in Sunshine. Representatives of the Wrigleyville neighborhood banded together to fight the Tribune Company at every turn in its plans to install lights at Wrigley. They were already irked about the parking problems, traffic and noise caused by 81 day games. They worried that rowdy, inebriated fans would cause even more havoc at night.

“They can play night ball,” C.U.B.S. member Charlotte Newfeld told an Illinois House committee in 1982, “but not in our neighborhood.”

Green’s cantankerous and coarse tone only emboldened the C.U.B.S., who would come to games wearing T-shirts that said, “No Lights in Wrigley Field” and stage rallies outside the ballpark. They were organized enough to get both the Illinois legislature and the Chicago City Council to effectively ban night games at Wrigley. And perhaps that’s how things would have remained for many more years if not for an interesting wrinkle.

Green might not have known much about proper discourse in public meetings, but he knew how to build a baseball team. And with the emergence of Ryne Sandberg as an MVP and Green successfully rebuilding the pitching staff with trades for Dennis Eckersley, Scott Sanderson and Sutcliffe, the 1984 team, which won 96 games and the NL East, became a viable threat to reach the World Series.

That would have made for a great story in baseball, if not for one big problem: Just the previous year, the league had signed a $1.2 billion television pact with ABC and NBC that called for primetime World Series games. Day baseball at Wrigley threatened to tarnish the golden goose.

This was back in the days when home-field advantage in the World Series alternated each year between the AL and NL. In 1984, it was the NL’s turn, which meant if the Cubs could get past the San Diego Padres in the NL Championship Series, they were due a distinct competitive advantage in the Fall Classic.

Because of the lights issue, Commissioner Bowie Kuhn came up with a compromise: If the Cubs reached the World Series, they could have their home games. But those games would be Games 3, 4 and, if necessary, 5 -- wrapped around a weekend. This would allow MLB to preserve the primetime weeknight TV slots for the other games.

“It shows you the power that TV was starting to have inside the game,” Colletti says. “I’m old enough to remember all the World Series games in the daytime. Suddenly, now you’re going to change a venue because of the influence and the partnership of television.”

This all turned out to be moot. The Cubs lost the NLCS to the Padres in five games. (The home-field factor turned out to be moot, too. The Padres had the advantage in the World Series but lost in five games to the Tigers.)

Yet by actually fielding a competitive club, the Cubs had pushed the lights issue to the forefront. And that meant a more serious discussion was looming in 1985.

The letter begins with brief baseball banter, bemoaning the injuries and poor execution that contributed to a summer swoon in the standings.

Then Green gets down to business.

“The Chicago Cubs will not be able to play its [sic] World Series home games in Chicago this year because of the light situation in Wrigley Field,” he writes. “It is also possible that our League Championship games will also be moved.”

This letter to Cubs season-ticket holders -- dated July 19, 1985 -- goes on to explain the financial limitations of Wrigley, the national television contract that allowed the networks to insist on night World Series games and the warning the Cubs had received from the new Commissioner, Peter Ueberroth, that MLB was prepared to take the drastic action in ྑ (moving the Cubs’ home games away from their home park) that it had avoided in ྐ.

How much of this letter was an exaggerated attempt to curry favor for lights from the fan base? Well, at the time it was written, the Cubs were in the midst of a 10-23 funk that had dropped them from first to fourth in the NL East. So it didn’t appear realistic that the Cubbies would be playing October games at Wrigley, either way.

Then again, 7 1/2-game midseason deficits had been erased before. And with the Cubs in the midst of a court battle over the ban on night games that had reached the Illinois Supreme Court, and with MLB and the networks pushing hard for the lights situation to get settled, a greater sense of urgency was in the air.

The Cubs had conversations with MLB about at least two possible postseason “home” sites -- Milwaukee County Stadium and St. Louis’ Busch Stadium. The former had appeal in that it was close enough to be a relatively easy commute for Cubs fans, but the Brewers were still an AL club at the time in the days before Interleague Play, so most of the Cubs players were unfamiliar with the ballpark’s clubhouses, dimensions and quirks. For that reason, St. Louis had appeal in that Cubs players were well acquainted with the home of their NL East rivals.

“The one place I know we were never going to go would be over to the White Sox ballpark [Comiskey Park],” Ibach says. “Because the Cubs fans would have killed us!”

Of course, Cubs fans wouldn’t have been happy with Milwaukee or St. Louis, either. It’s one thing to have the Toronto Blue Jays playing “home” games in Buffalo in 2020 because the Canadian government did not deem it safe for them to play in Toronto during the COVID-19 pandemic. Or for MLB to put the Division Series, League Championship Series and World Series at neutral sites to reduce the risk of an outbreak.

The one place I know we were never going to go would be over to [Comiskey Park].

Bob Ibach, former Cubs director of public relations

It’s quite another to envision Sandberg playing World Series home games on Ozzie Smith’s field merely because of a TV schedule.

So how serious did these conversations get? Former Cubs president Donald Grenesko told ESPN in 2017 that the club had signed a contract to play postseason games at Busch. This claim could not be corroborated, and Grenesko did not respond to messages seeking a follow-up interview.

“I think it was more threat-oriented than anything,” Colletti says. “Because the team had such a difficult time with the neighbors and aldermen.”

That difficulty continued for two more years. The Cubs lost their Illinois Supreme Court case in October 1985, which meant that they were still barred from staging night games at Wrigley. And when the threat of an all-road World Series ultimately didn’t move the needle, the Cubs went to the next level:

They threatened to move to the suburbs.

Night games at Wrigley posed challenges for local residents, but those challenges were nothing compared to the threat of not having any games -- and the accompanying economic boost -- at all. A WGN documentary, “The Ivy Walls May Fall,” aired in October 1985 (when the Cubs might otherwise have been donning their home whites at Busch) and helped sway public support away from the C.U.B.S. and to the Cubs.

When Green left the Cubs in 1987, the icy relationship between the residents and the team began to thaw. Ultimately, the Chicago City Council voted in February 1988 to allow eight night games at Wrigley that season and 18 in future seasons. (The unique 2020 season became the first in which the Cubs got the OK to have weekend night games at Wrigley.)

By the time the Cubs returned to the NLCS in 1989, they were no longer in danger of having to play World Series home games away from home. Unfortunately, it was still many years before they played in any World Series games at all.

The wait, though, proved worth it in 2016. Celebrating such a historic final out in Cleveland, not Chicago, wasn’t optimal. But it was a heck of a lot better than the thought of celebrating it in St. Louis.

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August 8, 1988 would have been the perfect night for the first game under Wrigley Field lights. “8-8-88” and all, the Cubs’ best pitcher on the mound, a full house. it wasn’t to be, as you know, because of one of the fiercest thunderstorms in recent Chicago history.

So instead, a humble little game the next night between the Cubs, who were floundering around .500, and the visiting Mets, running away with the N.L. East, would go into the record books as the first official Wrigley Field night game.

Instead of Rick Sutcliffe on the mound, it would be Mike Bielecki as the starting pitcher. That, in itself, was notable: Bielecki had been used off-and-on as a reliever early in 1988 after being acquired by trade just before the season started for a minor leaguer you’ve never heard of. This game was the first start Bielecki made in a Cubs uniform.

And it began as a good one. Here’s the first official night-game pitch and at-bat of the game, from the national NBC broadcast with Vin Scully on the call:

Bielecki shut out the Mets for the first four innings, allowing four singles. Mets starter Sid Fernandez also allowed the Cubs no runs, on only one hit, through the first four.

Then the Mets took the lead in the fifth. Wally Backman led off with a single and one out later, Lenny Dykstra homered.

Thus it’s Dykstra who has the record-book notation as the first player to homer in an official night game at Wrigley Field.

The Cubs got one of those runs back in the last of the fifth. Vance Law singled and Rafael Palmeiro tripled (!) him in. The Cubs tied the game in the sixth on an RBI groundout by Andre Dawson. Meanwhile, Frank DiPino was turning in two shutout relief innings.

Then the game got broken open in the bottom of the seventh. With two out and Palmeiro on first, Jody Davis doubled him in to give the Cubs a 3-2 lead. Roger McDowell replaced Fernandez at that point, but that only made things better for the Cubs. McDowell gave up four straight singles, and Ryne Sandberg, Mark Grace and Dawson’s hits all drove in runs to give the Cubs a 6-2 lead.

If this sounds like a pretty dry description of an historic game, it’s because after the festivities the previous night, this simply felt like an ordinary baseball game, just played at a different time of day than any previous in Wrigley Field history.

The Mets scored a run in the eighth on a solo homer by Howard Johnson, and then Goose Gossage entered in the ninth for the save. He allowed a run, but wrapped up the game for his 12th save of 1988, a 6-4 Cubs win. He would save only one more game as a Cub before departing as a free agent at the end of the season. Fun fact about the Gossage save:

Goose Gossage got the save for Chicago in:
-1st #WhiteSox shorts game (8/8/1976)
-1st official #Cubs game under lights at Wrigley (8/9/1988)

— Christopher Kamka (@ckamka) August 8, 2018

The game wasn’t sold out — 36,399, even in those pre-Wrigley expansion days, was a couple thousand short of a sellout, and more than 2,500 fewer than had paid for the previous night’s rainout. And it was much cooler that evening than it had been on August 8, 80 degrees under partly cloudy skies.

The Cubs had been permitted eight night games in 1988 by the city ordinance passed to allow night baseball at Wrigley (and then 18 every subsequent year until 2002, when the ordinance was revised). Just seven were scheduled, and with the August 8 rainout made up as an afternoon game (part of a doubleheader September 5), that 1988 number was reduced to six.

Here are the other five night games played at Wrigley in 1988.

August 22, Astros 9, Cubs 7: The first Cubs home run hit in a night game came in this one, a two-run shot by Damon Berryhill in the second inning. Berryhill hit another homer in the game, but the Cubs came up short. Another homer in this game was hit by future Hall of Famer Craig Biggio — his first MLB home run.

August 23, Cubs 9, Astros 3: The Cubs broke open a 2-2 tie with a seven-run seventh, highlighted by another home run from Berryhill.

September 6, Phillies 3, Cubs 2: Andre Dawson homered, but the Phillies defeated the Cubs and Jamie Moyer .

September 7, Cubs 9, Mets 8: The Cubs entered the ninth with an 8-3 lead, but Jeff Pico and Drew Hall blew it and the Mets tied it with a five-run inning. Rafael Palmeiro tripled leading off the bottom of the ninth and one out later, Berryhill singled him in for the win.

September 20, second game, Expos 9, Cubs 1: This game was notable not only for being the first doubleheader game played under the lights (Game 1 was scheduled for 3:05, the DH resulted as a makeup for a rainout the previous day), but for being the first Wrigley Field appearance for future Hall of Famer Randy Johnson . It was Johnson’s second major-league start and he dominated, throwing a complete game and striking out 11.

But what was most memorable about that game was this: In the seventh inning, Johnson led off with a single, his first big-league hit. Manny Trillo was playing first base for the Cubs that night. Johnson had just become the tallest player in MLB history at 6-11. Trillo’s listed at 6-1. I don’t think that’s accurate, because the TV shots of Johnson standing next to Trillo at first base made Manny look like a little kid. I wish there were video of this I could show you, because I will never forget watching that (I wasn’t at this game).

The Expos would trade Johnson to the Mariners the following year in a deal that brought Mark Langston to Montreal in an attempt to win the N.L. East, which didn’t happen.

The Cubs never did defeat Randy Johnson in his career he made 15 appearances (14 starts) against them and went 13-0 with a 1.91 ERA and 0.984 WHIP.

At the turn of the 20th century, the block bounded by Clark, Addison, Waveland, and Sheffield streets was home to the Chicago Lutheran Theological Seminary, with the Hildebrandt Coal Factory across the street to the west. William Passavant, a prominent Lutheran missionary, had inherited the land decades before. Passavant began to develop the land as early as 1868, including the construction of St. Mark's Church by 1874. In 1891, Passavant helped establish the Chicago Lutheran Seminary on the site. [1] [2]

At the time the seminary was established, the area was located in a quiet, relatively undeveloped section of the Lake View District of Chicago's North Side. [1] The seminary started small, holding classes in a small chapel facing Addison Street. The following year, the president's house was constructed at the corner of Sheffield and Waveland. In 1893, the seminary spent $25,000 to construct the four-story Eliza Hall housing the library, chapel, lecture and student rooms further to the west along Waveland. By 1899, four homes were built for professors from the northwest corner of the block (at Waveland and Stella) stretching south along Stella. The seminary had ambitious plans for expansion. In 1905, it announced plans to build additional buildings on the southwest corner of the block housing dining halls, a gymnasium, and more lecture and student rooms, along with additional professors' homes on either side of Eliza Hall. The buildings were to be arranged around a central quadrangle. [3]

The seminary, however, was attempting to flourish in the context of a changing community. The extension of the elevated system into the area in 1900 led to rapid development of the surrounding neighborhood. [4] As the area started taking on an increasingly urban character, the seminary abandoned its plans to develop the site and instead sought to sell its land and find a quieter location. [1]

Meanwhile, other developments were coming together to chart a very different future for this plot of land. As early as 1905, rumors had been swirling that minor-league American Association was seeking to locate a franchise in Chicago as part of a strategy to achieve major league status on par with the National League and the recently established American League. The Chicago market was one of the most lucrative in the country, and was already occupied by the NL's Cubs and the AL's White Sox. Charles Havenor (owner of the AA Milwaukee Brewers), and brothers Joe Cantillon (manager of the Washington Senators) and Mike Cantillon (owner of the AA Minneapolis Millers), saw an opportunity to make profit by snapping up choice property in the event that the AA decided to move into the Chicago market. Since the White Sox played on the South Side at South Side Park, and the Cubs were firmly ensconced on the West Side at West Side Park, Havenor and the Cantillons looked to the rapidly developing North Side as the best place to situate a team. The seminary's location represented the best open land on the North Side. In 1909, the seminary, eager to move, sold the property to Havenor and the Cantillons for $175,000 and relocated to the suburb of Maywood, Illinois, where it remained until 1967. Havenor and the Cantillons brought in additional investors in 1910, including E.T. Harmon and Edmund Archambault, wealthy Milwaukee businessmen. [5]

The new owners had intended to keep the sale out of the news, but those plans were foiled when members of the seminary board complained that the seminary could have obtained $200,000 in the sale. Havenor was forced to publicly deny any intention on invading the Chicago market. Other AA team owners got cold feet at the prospect of a war with the major leagues, and elected a president that was unwilling to countenance such a scheme. Over the next couple years, Havenor gradually gave up hope of developing the property, selling out his interest to the remaining investors shortly before his death in April 1912. The former seminary site was not developed any further, and the former seminary buildings were converted into residential units. [6]

The Federal League began its existence as a minor league in 1913, locating franchises in six cities, including Chicago. The Chicago franchise, known as the Chi-Feds, played its home games at the baseball grounds at DePaul University.

John T. Powers, founder and president of the new Federal League, had ambitions of building the new organization into a premier minor league, on par with the American Association. By the middle of the 1913 season, however, the owners had forced Powers out of his job, sensing that the Federal League had the potential to become a viable major league. Replacing him as president was James A. Gilmore, a wealthy Chicago businessman who had made his fortune in coal. Gilmore had the organizational and political skills necessary to mount a serious challenge to the established major leagues.

Gilmore brought on board two partners to control the key Chicago franchise. One was William Walker, a fish wholesaler. The other was the flamboyant Charles A. Weeghman, known as "Lucky Charlie", who had made a quick fortune in local lunch counters (a predecessor to fast food). Weeghman became the club president and the main force behind the team from that point onward, with Walker willing to remain in the background, and Gilmore tending to League issues. Weeghman made headlines by landing star shortstop Joe Tinker from the Cincinnati Reds in December 1913. The Tinker acquisition was the shot in the arm that gave the franchise the momentum to think big for the upcoming 1914 season.

Weeghman chose to relocate the franchise from DePaul to the former seminary grounds at Clark and Addison owned by Archambault and the Cantillons. Although the major leagues threw up a number of roadblocks, including an attempt to secure rights to part of the land on the block, in late December 1913 Weeghman secured a ninety-nine year lease on the property. The lease stipulated, among other things, that improvements on the property could not exceed $70,000. Within several months, however, Weeghman would spend several times that amount in erecting his new ballpark.

Weeghman hired Zachary Taylor Davis, architect of Comiskey Park (which became the home of the White Sox in June 1910), to design the new ballpark. Weeghman wanted the park to rival the Polo Grounds in New York, but in the end the single-decked grandstand as designed bore little resemblance to it.

Work on the property didn't begin until February 23, 1914, exactly two months before the Chi-Feds' scheduled home opener. After the grounds had been cleared, groundbreaking ceremonies took place on March 4. Under the guidance of the Blome-Sinek company, the lead construction contractor, the park came together over the remainder of March and the first half of April. Despite a brief strike by construction workers in early April, the new park was ready for baseball by the date of the home opener on April 23, 1914. [7]

The new ballpark, known as Weeghman Park, was a modern steel and concrete baseball plant (in the industrial lexicon of the day). It featured a single-decked grandstand sweeping from right field behind home plate to near the left field corner. Perched on top of the grandstand roof behind home plate was a small area for the press.

A modern-day visitor to the original Weeghman Park would have difficulty recognizing the outfield aside from the familiar buildings on the opposite side of Waveland and Sheffield Avenues (which haven't changed much at all). The dimensions of the original playing field along the foul lines were quite short. The distance from home plate to the right field brick fence along Sheffield Avenue was around 300 feet at the foul line. Left field was not much better, partly because several old seminary buildings stood between the wooden left field fence and Waveland Avenue. The left field fence also featured a large scoreboard. Like most of the parks of the day, the field was essentially angular, as it was shaped by the surrounding grid street pattern. The right and left field walls converged in a corner in deep center field, nearly 450 feet from home plate. Because of the constricted size of much of the outfield near the corners, bleachers were limited to a small jury box in right-center field. All told, Weeghman Park had a seating capacity of 14,000, but this was frequently exceeded by the many standing room only crowds of the day.

After an unusual number of home runs were hit during the Chi-Feds' first home series against Kansas City in April, Weeghman decided the left field wall was too cozy a target, and had the entire fence moved back some 25 feet. To do this, the front porch had to be removed from the old seminary building beyond the wall.

Before the start of the 1915 season, Weeghman made additional changes to the outfield. Gone were the jury-box bleachers in right-center field. The old seminary buildings beyond left field were finally demolished in March. In their place, Weeghman had wooden bleachers erected from the left-field corner to center field, raising the park's capacity to roughly 18,000. The scoreboard was relocated to center field, where it has remained in one form or another since then (with the exception of the latter part of the 1937 season during construction of the current bleachers).

On the field, the Chi-Feds were renamed the Chicago Whales for the club's sophomore season. Weeghman Park was fast becoming the best place to watch baseball in Chicago, as the Whales fought their way to the Federal League pennant in one of the closest races in major league history. Additionally, fans enjoyed Weeghman's high standards for cleanliness and promotion. He was an early champion of Ladies' Day (every Friday) and in 1916 would become the first baseball owner to allow fans to keep foul balls. And as a successful restaurateur, his food was top-notch. Long before the Wrigley family entered the scene, the park was already famous for its hospitality.

Despite the exciting pennant race and generally high quality of baseball played in the Federal League, the League was hemorrhaging money. In December 1915, the League capitulated to the other major leagues and disbanded. But all was not lost for Weeghman, however. He was allowed to purchase the Cubs franchise for $500,000, and promptly moved his new club out of the dilapidated West Side Park and into his Weeghman Park for the 1916 season. The purchase was in reality a merger between the Whales and the Cubs, as a number of former Whales stars, such as Max Flack and Claude Hendrix, found themselves playing in the same park as Cubs the following season.

The Cubs played their first game at Weeghman Park on April 20, 1916, besting the Cincinnati Reds 7–6 in eleven innings. This proved to be the highlight of an otherwise unremarkable season. After another year in the bottom half of the standings, the Cubs won the National League pennant in 1918 under manager Fred Mitchell. The victory was not without a little outside help, as wartime conditions during the height of American involvement in World War I caused major league baseball to end the regular season on September 1. With the Cubs struggling for cash, Weeghman reluctantly rented the larger capacity Comiskey Park for the Cubs' home games in the World Series. For the Cubs, the experience was a bust, as the club lost the series to Babe Ruth and the Boston Red Sox in six games to relatively anemic attendance. Such losses may have provided the final push forcing Charlie Weeghman out of management following the season.

Although Weeghman was clearly the most dominant figure in the revamped Cubs organization in 1916, a number of investors had taken up minority shares in the club. One of the new investors was chewing gum magnate William Wrigley. Over the next couple years, as Weeghman's financial fortunes off the field entered a sharp decline, Wrigley acquired an increasing number of shares in the club and took on a growing role in the team's affairs. In November 1918, Weeghman gave up his remaining interest to Wrigley, resigned as president, and left baseball for good. Wrigley would acquire complete control of the Cubs by 1921.

With Weeghman out of the picture, starting in 1919 the park was generally referred to as Cubs Park. Although the Cubs featured stars such as pitchers Grover Alexander and Hippo Vaughn, along with a young catcher named Gabby Hartnett, over the next few seasons Cubs Park was the setting for largely also-ran teams.

The fans had even more to be frustrated about off the field. Rumors of thrown games plagued the Cubs during the latter part of the 1920 season gave impetus to the criminal investigations which eventually led to uncovering the infamous Black Sox Scandal across town with the White Sox. In addition, 1920 marked the beginning of prohibition, meaning fans would have to find some other way to quench their thirst during the many hot summer afternoons at Cubs Park.

Although the Cubs teams of the early 1920s were little more than also-rans, the fans still flocked to Cubs Park. In 1922, 542,283 fans went through the turnstiles—the second-highest attendance in the National League—to watch a fourth-place club.

Major renovations (1922–23) Edit

By 1922, William Wrigley had decided that after nine seasons, both the seating and the playing field of cozy Cubs Park were ready for a major expansion. Rather than rebuilding the grandstand from scratch, Wrigley hired original architect Zachary Taylor Davis to make the expansion around the existing structure. The grandstand would be sliced into three pieces, with the home plate section placed on rollers and moved roughly 60 feet west (away from right field), and the left field section about 100 feet northwest. Both gaps were to be filled in with more seating, resulting in a significantly longer grandstand and the noticeable "dog leg" shape of the stands on the first base side visible to this day. Additionally, the foul ground and the height of the fence in front of it would be reduced by additional rows of box seats added in front of the existing grandstand. The diamond and the foul lines would be rotated 3 degrees counterclockwise from their earlier orientation, allowing for those extra box seats. Home plate was moved with the center section of the original grandstand in the current configuration, the original location is in the vicinity of the first base coaches box.

The relocation of the grandstand would make right field far more spacious than before, even with the addition of new bleachers in right field from the corner to the center field scoreboard. The old wooden bleachers in left field were to be dismantled and replaced with newer steel-framed wooden seats like those being installed in right field. The renovations would boost the park's capacity from roughly 18,000 to 31,000. Its dimensions would be roughly 320 feet in left field, 318 in right, and 446 feet to straightaway center.

Work on the renovations began in December 1922 and were completed in time for the 1923 season opener. The changes were of such magnitude that many publications of the time referred to the "new" Cubs Park. Fans flocked to the park, and attendance shot up to 703,705 for the 1923 season, although this was once again only good for second-best in the National League. On the field, however, the Cubs remained also-rans. The team drifted aimlessly through the middle of the standings in 1923 and '24. By 1925, the Cubs found themselves commemorating their fiftieth season in the National League by finishing last for the first time (which in 1925 meant eighth place).

The recently renovated Cubs Park, while a hit with the fans, was not without its critics. Their main objection was that the new left field bleachers were simply too easy a target for right-handed hitters. By late July and early August 1925, reporters were frequently griping about games lost to fly balls which would have been easy outs without the left field bleachers. During the Cubs' first road trip that month, the half of the left field bleachers closest to the foul line was dismantled, leaving a "jury box" of seats running from deep left-center to the center field scoreboard. The change cost the Cubs over a thousand seats, although that left-field area was sometimes filled with standing-room-only spectators behind ropes, as was the custom of the day. With the left field line now at a substantial 364 feet from home plate, home run production dropped.

Double decking the grandstand (1927–28) Edit

By 1926, the Cubs were benefiting handily from the peak of the Roaring Twenties. Nearly 900,000 fans went through the turnstiles at a park with a capacity of just over 30,000. After the close of the season, work began on adding a second deck to the grandstand. The original idea was to have the job completed by the opening of the 1927 season, but by April, only the third-base side of the upper deck had been completed, temporarily giving the park a startlingly asymmetrical appearance.

Cubs Park was formally renamed Wrigley Field prior to the start of the 1927 season.

Despite the half-finished state of the upper deck expansion, the 1927 Cubs drew over 1.1 million fans, becoming the first National League team ever to do so. In addition to the increased capacity of the park, the Cubs helped their own cause by becoming an increasingly competitive team under manager Joe McCarthy.

The upper deck was finally completed in time for the 1928 season, which saw the Cubs break the million mark in attendance yet again. The timing couldn't have been more fortuitous. In 1929, the Cubs put together one of the most potent lineups in major league history, and easily walked to the National League pennant with stars like Hack Wilson, Rogers Hornsby, Kiki Cuyler, Charlie Root and Pat Malone. Season attendance soared to nearly 1.5 million fans. This would remain the major league record for seventeen years, a record aided in large part by declining major league attendance during the Great Depression and World War II. The Cubs themselves would not top this mark for another forty years.

As the World Series approached, Wrigley sought to provide even more seating at the park. He contracted to have temporary wooden bleachers erected on both Waveland and Sheffield Avenues, raising the park's capacity to roughly 50,000. Both streets were closed to traffic. In the end, the bleachers were only needed for games one and two of the 1929 World Series, both of which the Cubs lost on their way to a five-game defeat at the hands of the underdog Philadelphia Athletics.

By the early 1930s, distance markers were posted: left field line, 364 feet left-center against the outer wall, 372 left center, corner of bleachers, 364 deep center field corner, 440 right center, 354 right field line, 321.

During the 1968–1970 off-seasons, the concrete in the upper deck was stripped and replaced. After 40 years of harsh Chicago winters, the original concrete was showing signs of wear and tear it was replaced with precast concrete installed over the 1927 steel framework. [8] In 2004, nearly 40 years later, this precast concrete itself began to show deterioration as several chunks of the precast concrete fell, leading to increased safety inspections and the installation of protective netting. [9]

Construction of the bleachers (1937) Edit

Wrigley Field is known for the Boston ivy (Parthenocissus tricuspidata) planted against the outfield wall in 1937 by Bill Veeck, whose father had been team president until his 1933 death. If the ball is hit into and lost in the ivy, then it is ruled a ground-rule double, provided that the defensive outfielder raises his hands to signify that the ball has been lost in the ivy if the player attempts to search for the ball, the play is considered live, and no ground-rule double is ruled. Wrigley is also known for the manual scoreboard Veeck also erected. No batted ball has ever hit the scoreboard indeed, very few home runs have even landed in the "upper deck" of the center field bleachers. However, Sam Snead did manage to hit the big board with a golf ball teed off from home plate, on April 17, 1951, just prior to the Cubs home opener. [10]

In 1937, the Cubs announced plans to rebuild the bleachers in concrete instead of wood, to be fronted by brick that would soon be covered in ivy, and to build a new scoreboard. To make the outfield look more symmetrical and graceful, the plans called for extending the left field bleachers to a point closer to the corner. The gentle curves between the ends of the left and right field bleachers would become popularly known as the "wells". That summer, the Chicago Tribune ran a series of articles about major league ballparks, and the writer sharply criticized the Cubs for a remodeling that he suspected would result in too many "cheap" home runs. The writer later retracted when he saw that the final plan was somewhat more spacious than originally announced. [ citation needed ]

Be that as it may, construction went on behind a temporary fence during the summer, and the finished product was unveiled on September 4, in time for the last month of the season. Bill Veeck's famous ivy was planted not long after, but it would be another year before it fully took hold. According to his own autobiography, Veeck as in Wreck, he planted Bittersweet, which would grow quickly, and also the more famous Boston ivy, which would eventually take over. Another part of the arboretum was to be a series of Chinese elms on the large "stairsteps" up to the scoreboard, as well as one apiece in the little triangle at the top of each "well". According to Veeck's biography, that plan did not fare so well as the winds kept blowing the leaves off. Management finally gave up "after about twenty tries", so the trees are long gone, leaving just the large bare steps and (until 2006) the little flat triangular supports at the tops of the "wells". According to Veeck, the trees themselves were inexpensive, but the special construction for them in the bleachers cost about $200,000.

Another mistake was constructing bleachers in straightaway center field: The batters could easily lose sight of the ball in the white shirts worn by spectators on sunny days, because the wall was not high enough to provide a full batter's background by itself. Various methods were tried to get around this. At one time a flat canopy was extended over the area, to try to put the spectators in shadow, but that was ineffective (the 2005–2006 reconstruction would to some extent revisit that concept). For a while in the mid-1960s, a screen was attached to the top of the wall and the ivy twined its way up. Batters and bleacher fans disliked it, and it was removed after a couple of seasons. Later, for a number of years, a green tarp covered those seats.

After generally being closed to spectators sometime in the late 1940s or early 1950s, the last time those three problem sections were used for baseball was during the 1962 All-Star game. The seats continued to be used for other events such as football and soccer, during the years when the Chicago Bears and the Chicago Sting played their games here.

By the 1990s, the area was occupied by juniper plants, which nicely complemented the ivy. Also, the layout was tweaked a bit, to open up a few seats on either side of the straight center field area while still providing a rectangular background from the perspective of the batter.

After the 2005 season, the plants were temporarily removed during reconstruction (see below). Over the following winter, a lounge was constructed in the upper part of this area and new rows of juniper bushes were placed in the lower part.

By the end of 1937, the dimensions were set: 355 feet to the left field corner, a few feet behind where the corner wall tangents the foul pole 368 to fairly deep left-center 400 to the deepest part of center (at the right edge of the batters background area) 368 to right center and 353 to the right field foul pole. There are other intriguing distances that have never been posted. In the original Encyclopedia of Baseball, by Hy Turkin and S.C. Thompson, 1951, measurements of 357 feet to the left field "well" and 363 to the right field "well" were revealed. That would put the closest point of the left end of the bleachers no more than about 350 feet from home plate, a fact many pitchers have cursed over the years. Left-center in general is shallow. Straightaway center is probably about 390. Deep center and the right field area in general are better balanced. But the shallowness of the left-center power alley, really too cozy for major league standards, and the resultant increase in home runs in the decades since 1937, suggest that the Chicago Tribune's original skeptical assessment was correct.

The "basket", an angling chain-link fence that runs along the top of the outfield wall, was installed at the start of the 1970 season. During the 1969 pennant race, there were several incidents of fans interfering with fly balls and even falling onto the field. There was also the first and only incident of a fan running the field and escaping without prosecution. A famous photograph was taken of the incident and published in the Chicago Sun-Times. [11] The basket was intended to deter or prevent that kind of problem. Security cameras were also installed at that time. The "basket" angles away from the wall, and is also higher than the wall in order to provide some balance for the pitchers. However, over the years a number of baseballs have been hit "into the basket" for home runs that previously would have been outs, or off the wall, or possibly interfered with by fans. The basket only exists where there is seating. During the 1980s, when the bleacher seating was extended over the "catwalks", i.e. the bleacher ramps in extreme left and right fields, the basket was likewise extended.

First attempt at lights (1941) Edit

Lights were scheduled to be added to Wrigley Field in 1942, but after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, then-owner Philip K. Wrigley (son of the late William) donated the necessary materials to the war effort. Founded by P.K. Wrigley, the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League (known for the first half of the 1943 season as the All-American Girls Softball League) began their inaugural season of play in the spring of 1943. On the evening of July 1, 1943, teams from the All-American League played an exhibition game at Wrigley Field as part of a Women's Army Corps (WAC) recruiting rally, attracting approximately 7,000 fans. With temporary lighting set up behind home plate along the first and third base lines, this would be the first night game to be played at Wrigley Field. The All-American Girls Baseball League would play the second ever night game at Wrigley the following year in another war drive exhibition.

Baseball boomed after the war, allowing P. K. Wrigley to procrastinate on the issue of permanent lighting. He eventually decided never to install lights for a variety of publicly stated reasons, so Wrigley Field remained a bastion of day baseball until the Chicago Tribune Company era, which began in 1981 the first night game with permanent lighting was not until 1988.

Night baseball (1988) Edit

The Cubs had been run almost like a hobby by the Wrigleys, but the Tribune Company was interested in the Cubs strictly as a business. The new owners started talking lights and began stirring debate on the matter. One of P. K. Wrigley's stated reasons for not installing lights was that it would upset the neighborhood, and the initial negative reaction to the Tribune Company's intentions validated P. K.'s prediction.

Resistance to the installation of lights was not limited to those who lived nearby and opposed the lights on the practical grounds of bothersome brightness or the noise and crowds from night games. Many Cubs fans who lived outside Wrigleyville opposed the idea simply due to the fact that the Cubs' stance as the last team to resist night baseball was a point of pride, as it was seen as a vestige of baseball's heritage as a pastoral game, played in natural sunlight. Some Cubs fans also had fond associations with Gabby Hartnett's famous "Homer in the Gloaming," in which Hartnett hit a crucial home run in the bottom of the ninth of a game on the verge of being called for darkness, helping the Cubs to win the 1938 pennant.

The City of Chicago had passed an ordinance banning night events at Wrigley Field, due to its presence in the residential Lakeview neighborhood, so Tribune was unable to install lights unless the ordinance was repealed. They compromised by scheduling a significant number of 3:00 starts, which typically carried games into the evening but did not require lights for games that completed within three hours or so.

This debate continued for several years, and became more intense as the Cubs returned to competitiveness during the early 1980s. When the Cubs won the National League Eastern Division title in 1984, then-commissioner Bowie Kuhn announced that the Cubs would lose home field advantage should they advance to the World Series (home field advantage alternated between the champions of the National League and American League until 2003), since by this time nearly all World Series games were played at night in the Eastern and Central time zones. After winning their two scheduled home (day) games in the National League Championship Series, the Cubs lost all three games in San Diego, so Kuhn's threat became moot. But the following year, new commissioner Peter Ueberroth announced that because Wrigley Field had no lights, the Cubs would have to play all future postseason games at another ballpark, likely Comiskey Park, Soldier Field, or possibly even St. Louis' Busch Stadium, or Milwaukee County Stadium. The Cubs fell out of contention for the next several years, however, and the possibility of playing post-season "home" games in other cities did not arise.

The Cubs, under team president Dallas Green, quickly changed the issue from lights or no lights to Wrigley Field or move out of town. With typical bluntness, Green said, "if there are no lights in Wrigley Field, there will be no Wrigley Field." Green seriously considered shuttering Wrigley and playing at Comiskey Park as tenants of the White Sox for a year, in hopes that the neighborhood would feel the loss of revenue and back down. The Cubs also explored moving to several suburban locations, including a site adjacent to Arlington Park in Arlington Heights and another in Schaumburg. There was even talk of a drastic move which involved selling the stadium to local college DePaul University, who would likely tear down Wrigley Field to host its indoor sports or convert it to a full-time football stadium in hopes of returning football to the campus. The Cubs would then likely build a new ballpark near the Rosemont Horizon (now the Allstate Arena, where DePaul plays its home games currently) in suburban Rosemont.

The Cubs' new stance quickly changed the context of the debate, as even the most adamant opponents of adding lights didn't want to see the Cubs leave for the suburbs. Schaumburg officials were so convinced that the Cubs were actually coming that land was purchased by investors hoping to build a new ballpark off the Elgin-O'Hare Expressway west of I-355. When the Cubs and the city of Chicago came to an agreement to keep the team on the North Side, the site spawned a ballpark anyway, with field dimensions and shape identical to Wrigley Field, even mimicking the "wells" along the outfield wall, and the 'dogleg' in the visitor's dugout along the first base line. That stadium, Boomers Stadium (formerly known as Alexian Field), is now home to the (non-affiliated) minor league Schaumburg Boomers.

In the fall of 1987, Chicago mayor Harold Washington proposed a compromise ordinance to the Chicago City Council which allowed the Cubs to install lights, but limited the number of night games. Washington died a week after the compromise was proposed, but the city eventually approved a compromise in February 1988 under interim mayor Eugene Sawyer. Major League Baseball responded by awarding the Cubs the 1990 All-Star Game.

The first major league night game at Wrigley was attempted on August 8 against the Philadelphia Phillies, but was rained out after 3½ innings. During the rain delay, several Cubs players, imitating a scene in the recent film hit, Bull Durham, played "slip-and-slide" on the tarp. One source says the group included Greg Maddux, Al Nipper, Les Lancaster and Jody Davis. Manager Don Zimmer was not amused, and they were fined $500 apiece.

The first official night game was played the following night, August 9 against the New York Mets (in front of a nationally televised audience watching Vin Scully and Joe Garagiola call the game on NBC), ending a streak of 5,687 consecutive home day games. However, this was not the first night game of any kind at Wrigley, as in the 1940s, some AAGPBL night games were played in Wrigley Field using temporary lighting structures specifically, the All-Star Game held in July 1943, was the first night baseball game there, according to the Lowry book and the movie A League of Their Own.

Starting with their first full season with lights, in 1989, as part of the compromise with the city, the Cubs were limited to 18 night games within their 81-game regular season schedule, plus any post-season games that might have to be played at night for TV scheduling reasons. The timing of the lights' installation proved fortuitous, as the Cubs reached the post-season in 1989. Their first two post-season night games were the first two games of the NLCS, on October 4 and 5. They lost the first game against the San Francisco Giants 11–3, and won the second game 9–5.

The Cubs' post-season appearances since 1988 (as well as their one-game regular-season playoff with San Francisco in 1998) have featured mostly night games, the exceptions (as of 2007) being the fourth game of their 2003 NLDS matchup with the Atlanta Braves and third game of the 2007 NLDS against the Arizona Diamondbacks, both of which were Saturday afternoon contests.

In recent years, the Cubs have successfully lobbied for additional regular-season night games (up to a potential 30 per year, as of 2007). However, per their agreement with the city, they still play most of their games during the day. Due to the limited night schedule, night games at Wrigley Field are considered an "event" and are almost always sold out well in advance. Some observers compare the atmosphere of a Wrigley Field night game to that of Rush and Division streets, the longtime epicenter of Chicago's nightclub scene.

Wrigley Field has continuously evolved over its 90-plus seasons. There is relatively little left of the original that is visible to the casual viewer. One of the more obvious originals were the brick portions of the outer bleacher wall, visible in the "back of Wrigley Field" photo. The Cubs' bleacher expansion resulted in removal of those bricks, which were later sold to the public individually at a "garage sale" at the start of the 2006 season.

Cubs Classics: The first night game at Wrigley Field

As part of 1980’s Week, Marquee Sports Network is airing the first night game in Wrigley Field history Tuesday night at 7 p.m. The first few innings of the rained-out contest from Aug. 8, 1988 and the tarp-sliding fun will air first, with the full official game on Aug. 9, 1988 following immediately after.

The first Chicago Cubs night game was set to be played on Aug. 8, 1988, under the lights installed early that season.

As we look back on that historic event, we remember the game was started but rained out in the early innings due to a summer downpour that lasted all evening. The opponent was the Philadelphia Phillies (the Cubs were leading 3-1 with Rick Sutcliffe pitching in the 4th inning). Subsequently, the first official Cubs night game was moved to Aug. 9 with the Cubs hosting the New York Mets.

“I had hundreds of people asking for tickets to that game,” said Sutcliffe, now a contributor to Marquee Sports Network and ESPN. “I remember it was like 100 degrees that night. Watching the way the ballpark looked, it just magically lit up.”

The broadcasters wore tuxedos (except Harry Caray, who said “no”) and Bill Murray, George Will, commissioner Peter Ueberroth, and Mayor Edwin Sawyer were all in attendance.

The 8/8/88 rainout included players Greg Maddux, Al Nipper, Jody Davis, and Les Lancaster all doing belly flops in full uniform on the Wrigley Field tarp during the two-hour delay. Although the fans loved it at the park and on TV, it incensed manager Don Zimmer and all four were minimally fined by GM Jim Frey.

“This was the biggest event in my career the build-up was like a World Series game,” said Sutcliffe, who gave up a home run to Phil Bradley, which was wiped out. “I had some foundation seats that I bought back from the Cubs and took care of maybe 50 friends.”

What many do not know is that the Cubs, who were the last team to get lights in their ballpark, had planned to install those standards under the direction of Owner Philip K Wrigley in early 1942.

The Cubs planned to have their first night game in 1942, but Dec. 7th, 1941 changed that thinking and history for the Cub franchise. The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in Hawaii was the literal game-changer.

Baseball under the lights was a new concept in the early 󈧬s. The 16 teams played a maximum of 7 night games until World War ll began. At that point, for moral purposes, President Roosevelt and his staff felt baseball should continue and believed more night games would be a nice diversion after people worked 12-hour shifts for the war effort.

Mr. Wrigley, noting our country’s need to make ships and munitions for the battle that eventually included war with Germany and Italy as well, pivoted and sent all the steel and transformers he had acquired to Great Lakes Naval Base in North Chicago. The $155,000 worth of material (present value close to $3 million) was repurposed for the greater good of the country.

MLB continued to increase night games after the war. In 1948, the Detroit Tigers became the second-to-last club to install lights at Briggs Stadium. Wrigley stubbornly decided that day baseball for the post-war families and the eventual baby boomer generation was better entertainment during the day in the sunshine. With the advent of television, he allowed all his home day games to be seen by young children and mothers at home attending to their growing families. He was very concerned about the neighborhood and its nighttime peace and quiet, as well.

Returning to 1987: I was having a conversation with one of the carpenters at Wrigley Field on a September day in 1987. After talking about the team for a while, he told me he needed to go up on the Wrigley roof to take some measurements. I asked for what purpose and he casually said, “oh, the Tribune company is considering putting lights up next year.”

Going into shock and reporter mode at the same moment, I made the proper moves to preserve this scoop and confirm the story without it getting out or leaked by Tribune sources. The $5 million dollar project was started in April of 1988 and completed in time for a Tribune company preview event in mid-July.

8/8/88 was the event of the decade for the Cubs who were able to schedule 18-night games beginning in 1989, as an initial deal with the city of Chicago and the neighborhood was for 7 night games in 1988. Wrigleyville was just going through regentrification. Five hundred sixty media credentials were printed and tickets went for as high as $1400 a seat in the club box area. Movie and TV stars converged on the Friendly Confines.

Right-handed pitcher Mike Bielecki made his first start as a Cub, facing the always difficult-to-hit Mets left-hander Sid Fernandez in front of a less-than-capacity crowd of 36,399 fans on Aug. 9. Lenny Dykstra flew out to Mitch Webster on an 0-1 pitch for the first official at-bat in a Chicago Cubs night game. Dykstra was the man to drive in the first runs and hit the first home run, with his longball off of Bielecki in the 5th into the right-field bleachers. That home run scored Wally Backman ahead of him.

Rafael Palmeiro’s 5th-inning triple plated Vance Law with the Cubs’ first run. Chicago broke the game open in the bottom of the 7th with 4 runs. The rally included 4 RBI hits: Jody Davis’ double and run-scoring singles from Ryne Sandberg, Mark Grace and Andre Dawson. The final score was 6-4 in favor of the Cubs, with Frank DiPino the winner in relief. Fernadez took the loss while Goose Gossage (in an abbreviated season with the North Siders) registered his 12th save.

The first night game was anti-climatic after the build-up of 8/8/88 and the rain out. Since that night almost 32 years ago, the Cubs now have the OK for 48 nighttime events. That number includes concerts and games with a new agreement from the city and Alderman Tom Tunney.

8/8/88 is the biggest game that never occurred in Wrigley Field history.

Bruce Levine is a contributor to Marquee Sports Network and a baseball analyst for 670 The Score.

Share All sharing options for: A History Of Wrigley Field Changes

The Cubs not only have plans to renovate Wrigley Field, now approved in a deal with the city of Chicago, but they will be celebrating the 100th anniversary of the park next year, and the 100th anniversary of the Cubs' first game there two years after that. (Here's hoping that they can get the Cincinnati Reds to be the visitor on April 20, 2016, 100 years to the day after they were the opponent for the Cubs' very first Wrigley game.)

Here's a timeline of how Wrigley Field (Weeghman Park when it was first built) was constructed, and the various changes that have been made to it over the years.

  • 1914: Opened April 23 as the home of the Federal League Chicago Whales, with a single deck that seated 14,000. Total cost: $500,000 ($11,608,300 in 2013 dollars), the park was constructed in just six weeks. It was the first baseball stadium to have permanent concession stands, something Weeghman was particularly interested in, as he had made his fortune in the restaurant business.
  • 1915: Seating capacity increased to 18,000.
  • 1923: By then the ballpark was known as "Cubs Park" new owner William Wrigley increased the seating capacity to 30,000 by by separating the grandstand into three parts, and moving the center section from behind home plate back toward the corner of Clark and Addison. Those gaps were then filled in with more seats, which explains the slightly crooked nature of the grandstand still visible when you look down the first base line.
  • 1927: An upper deck was added only the third-base side was completed that year, when the Cubs became the first major-league team to draw one million fans (1,159,168).
  • 1928: The first-base side of the upper deck was completed in 1929 the Cubs drew 1,485,166 fans to the park. That record stood until after World War II when the Yankees broke it the Cubs would not draw more fans in a season until 1969.
  • 1932: The ballpark was renamed "Wrigley Field" to honor William Wrigley, the team owner who passed away at age 61.
  • 1937: The now-iconic bleachers were constructed, while the season was still in progress, and opened in late July. The scoreboard that still exists atop the center-field bleachers was completed at that time.
  • 1952: Due to complaints from opposing hitters (notably Ralph Kiner, then with the Pirates, and also from the Cardinals), the center-field bleachers were closed to provide a hitter's background. They were opened on just one occasion since then -- for the 1962 All-Star Game. In the mid-1960s this area was covered with Astroturf.
  • 1965: Before this year, the area now known as the Club Boxes had folding chairs for seating in '65, permanent seats were installed. This upset Bears owner George Halas, who had stuffed extra folding chairs in that area for a larger capacity for football games. Also this year, the iconic marquee at the corner of Clark and Addison was painted red before this it had been an aqua-blue, as shown on the photo at the top of this post (that photo is from 1962).
  • 1968: The entire lower bowl was demolished, in sections, and the concrete repoured. At the same time, seating in the lower corners was curved to face home plate -- it had previously gone in a straight line down the foul lines, facing the outfield. As a result, seating capacity was actually lowered by about 5,000. Concrete in the upper deck was also replaced at this time.
  • 1982: The Cubs changed the seat-numbering system from an arcane system of tiers and boxes to the current section-numbering system. Also at this time, with the takeover of the team by Tribune Company, the Cubs' practice of selling grandstand seats on a day-of-game basis only ended all seats except bleachers were now sold in advance, on a reserved-seat basis.
  • 1984: New dugouts were constructed and the home clubhouse was moved from the left-field corner (players used to traipse across the field to it after games) to behind the third-base dugout. The visiting clubhouse was renovated, but not enlarged to this day, it remains in its mid-1980s configuration.
  • 1988: Lights were installed and the Cubs became the last of the Original 16 teams to play home night games, 40 years after the last previous convert to night baseball (Detroit Tigers). Eight night games were played in 1988 a city ordinance limited the Cubs to 18 night games a year through 2002, and that was revised to a limit of 30 after 2002.
  • 1989: Mezzanine suites were constructed on what had been a catwalk below the upper deck, where the old press box was located. The press box was relocated to the upper deck behind home plate. Both the suites and press box remain there to this day no changes have been made to those areas.
  • 2005-06: The bleachers were completely reconstructed, adding about 1,800 seats and a suite in center field, which replaced the old hitter's background. Juniper bushes, which had been planted in the entire area in the late 1990s, continued in front of the suite.
  • 2007-08: The entire field was dug up and resodded the "crown" that had made it difficult to see from the dugouts was removed, the field flattened, and a new drainage system installed that made it much easier to dry off the field after rainstorms.
  • 2012: A party patio was built in right field, replacing the old "bleacher box" seats that had been added in the 2005-06 renovation. In front of the patio, a large LED scoreboard was added, showing statistics, video, and advertising.

And now, starting next offseason, probably the largest and most extensive changes will come to Wrigley Field you've read about them earlier Monday after the team's deal with the city was announced. They will add to the long history of the ballpark and make it suitable for Cubs baseball, hopefully for another century or beyond.

H/T to Miriam Romain's article about Wrigley Field in the 2008 Maple Street Press Cubs Annual for many of these details.

Share All sharing options for: A Day In Wrigley Field History: January 20, 1942

You all likely know the story, often told, that P.K. Wrigley was ready to install lights at Wrigley Field for the 1942 season, only to donate the steel for the light towers to the United States' war effort in World War II after the Pearl Harbor attacks.

January 20, 1942 was the date this decision was revealed, as reported by Irving Vaughn in the Tribune, along with a proposal you probably didn't know about:

The Cubs may play night baseball "at home" next season, but their home for such events would be Comiskey park, domicile of the White Sox. This scheme, as yet in the infant stage, was unfolded yesterday by James Gallagher, Cubs' general manager, who at the same time revealed that contracts had been let for a Wrigley field lighting plant, but the rights to the material had been waived in behalf of national defense.

In making the announcement Gallagher explained that it grieved him to think of moving away from Wrigley field even for a few games, in fact, that he is not a night baseball addict, but that if President Roosevelt, as indicated by his letter to Commissioner K.M. Landis, favors expansion of the after-dinner program during the war period, the Cubs are more than eager to join the parade.

The Wrigley field lighting plant on which preliminary work had been done, was to have cost approximately $155,000 and was to have been completed by next April. Specifications called for 165 tons of steel, 35,000 feet of copper wire, and 800 aluminum reflectors. The lights were to be clustered on six towers, two in the outfield and the others in the grandstand.

Just imagine how that might have looked -- far different than the light standards that were eventually constructed in 1988. Taking out the inflation calculator again, we learn that $155,000 in 1942 is the rough equivalent of $2.2 million today.

To explain further the "expansion" mentioned above, in 1941 there had been a limit of seven night games per team. Night games were seen as a "novelty" and no one thought they would become a staple of baseball as they are in 2013. The expansion was to give 14 per team (21 in Washington, likely due to the larger number of people there connected with war work). Negotiations went on between the Cubs and White Sox until March, when the teams and the American and National Leagues issued this joint statement:

Our city is divided into sections, and there is as much rivalry between the north side and south side of Chicago, in fact more than there is, for instance, than between Chicago and New York, and inasmuch as rivalry and competition is the spirit of baseball, managements agree that it would be better not to use the same ball park, even for a limited number of night games.

In fact, this is an agreement to disagree, and the rivalry between the two clubs will continue not only between the teams themselves but on the part of the managements, each to cater to their own fans and do the very best they can for them.

Just 24 years earlier, of course, the Cubs had played World Series games at Comiskey Park due to its larger capacity. But times change.

The Cubs still considered putting in lights, even temporary ones, as late as March 21, according to interview with P.K. Wrigley published in the Tribune:

"We anticipated the installation of a modern lighting plant as far back as a year ago," Mr. Wrigley said. "Our intention then was to make it the finest of its kind, but the war situation naturally made it difficult to obtain materials and we abandoned the plan temporarily. The stories that we were opposed to night baseball, because it would destroy the beauty of the park for daytime baseball are without foundation. It's our job to give the fans what they want, and if we find they want night baseball, they'll have it.

"The entire national picture in relation to sports may shift to such an extent in the case of work hours that night baseball may yet become a demand. As yet I can't see the night side of the game as a wartime measure. I was raised to regard baseball as an outdoor, daylight game where you went out and bought a bag of popcorn and absorbed fresh air and sunshine."

Mr. Wrigley then pointed out that a supply of lumber for light standards is already en route here, and that transformers and lights also are available for immediate use.

"Eight 120 foot poles are on the way from Oregon now, for use in the outfield. The battery of lights directed at the Wrigley building, which were removed from their place on the southeast corner of the Michigan avenue bridge, would be used in lighting the park. They're now being used in construction work at Great Lakes, and should be ready for use soon. The transformers at Catalina, which haven't been used since the Casino was closed down, can be loaded on flat cars and shipped here on short notice. The actual installation would probably require only a couple of weeks."

But this never happened. James Gallagher had been quoted as saying the Cubs might try to play "twilight" games, starting at 6 p.m., when days were at their longest in June and daylight saving time was in effect. This did, in fact, happen once, in 1943 -- I wrote about this a year ago in the "Game From Cubs History" series.

Why didn't night baseball happen at Wrigley in 1942, after P.K. Wrigley strongly hinted it would? The only clue is this un-bylined article from the Tribune dated June 1, 1942:

Which didn't happen until long after Wrigley had passed away and his family sold the team. What would have happened if Wrigley Field had lights in the 1940s? Very possibly, the residential character of the neighborhood might have changed with cars becoming more plentiful after World War II, perhaps some of the buildings which now line Waveland and Sheffield would have been demolished for parking lots -- that was happening all over Chicago in that era.

Chicago Cubs’ Owners History

To-day is the day set for the “official transfer” of the Chicago National League baseball club from Charles P. Taft to Charles H. Weeghman and associates. And the transfer will be made at high noon, or shortly thereafter. The stage is all set, the actors are ready—and so is the money. Charles Schmalstig of Cincinnati will represent Taft, while the local syndicate’s part of the program will be looked after by Weeghman. The Taft representative arrived yesterday and is ready lor the ordeal, it accepting half a million dollars is an ordeal.

Weeghman asserts there will be no hitch in the deal. And it is hard to see how there cotild be when folks like J. Ogden Armour ard William Wrigley, Jr., are interested- It was rumored on the West Side yesterday there was a hitch somewhere. But the West Side was all wrong, according to Weeghman. “We didn’t close the deal to-day simply because we couldn’t get to it,” said Weeghman last night. He added the transfer positively will be’ made to-day.

Chicago Tribune January 21, 1916

Left to right—J. C. Wakefield, Harry Ackerland, Al Plamondon, Chas. Weeghman, Charles H. Thomas, C. Schmalstig, John K. Tener, Wm. Walker.

Chicago Tribune, June 6, 1925

Lasker Sells Cubs Stock to Wrigley

A. D. Lasker, former chairman of the United States shipping board, has sold his large holdings in the Cubs, Chicago’s National league ball team, to William Wrigley Jr., the other majority stockholder, It was learned yesterday.

The transaction took place some time ago (about 1921), but there was no announcement at the time. Mr. Lasker made it clear that there had been no misunderstanding between himself and Mr. Wrigley in any degree.

Lasker Still a Director.
“Mr. Wrigley und I have been warm personal friends for many years,” Mr. Lasker said. “We still are the warmest of frlenda and, although I have sold him all but a few of my shares in the Cubs, I still hold a place on the board of directors and am a trustee of the club.”

In connection with the sale it wan reported that a perfectly friendly difference of opinion existed between Mr. Wrigley and Mr. Laskcr concerning the methods of training the Cuba.

Mr. Wrigley, it was said, was for the less formal ways of whipping the players into shape annually, although ho demanded when they got on the field that they must exhibit championship baseball.

Sought Rigorous Training.
This, it was reported, was not Mr. Lasker’s method. The former chairman of the shipping board, believed In the more Spartan training, the rigorous, denying, self-sacrificing grind was what he thought built up the fiber and sinews of the playero until they were invincible on the field. This reported difference of opinion was denied, however.

“Please make it plain that that is not so,” said Mr. Lasker.

“It was all very amiable,” explained Mr. Lasker. “I simply went to Mr. Wrlgley and I said to him: ‘Bill, I’m not a baseball man and I don’t understand thLs stuff the way you do. Maybe, my views are all wrong. You buy me out or I’ll buy you out. Let’s one of us run this ball team to suit himself.'”

Sold Slock at $150.
Mr. Lasker then said he made Mr. Wrlgley a proposition. He offered to buy all Mr. Wrigley’s stock in the Cubs for $200 a share or to sell all his holdings to the latter for $150 a share. He said he knew that Mr. Wrigley was highly interested in baseball and that he would rather buy Mr. Lasker out at $150 a share than to sell to him at $200 a share, and that was why he made Just such a proposition to his friend, Wrigley.

Mr. Wrlgley could not be interviewed on the matter he is on the high seas on his way home from Europe on tho Leviathan. He is said now to hold about 75 per cent of the stock In the Cubs, and although the team has not been a pennant winner in recent years, it la said to be one of the most popular In the league, a drawing card always, and a money maker.

William’ L. Veeck, president of tho Cubs, and Adolph Splelmann and W. M. Walker, merchant and commission men. are the minority stockholders.

New York Times June 17, 1981



The Chicago Cubs, one of major league baseball’s least successful franchises on the field in recent years, were sold yesterday for $20.5 million by William Wrigley to the Tribune Company, parent of The Chicago Tribune and The Daily News in New York.

In announcing an agreement for the transfer of his 81 percent ownership and all remaining 1,900 shares in baseball’s only publicly owned corporation, Mr. Wrigley, a Chicago chewing gum manufacturer, ended a family association with the National League team that began when his grandfather became a minority shareholder in 1916.

That family tie, which was strengthened when the grandfather acquired a majority interest in 1921, was the oldest in major league baseball.

The sale of the Cubs, which includes Wrigley Field and all the team’s debts, was the second involving a Chicago baseball franchise this year. Last January a Chicago-based group purchased the White Sox for $20 million.

The record price for a baseball franchise was paid a year and a half ago by a group headed by Nelson Doubleday which bought The New York Mets for $21.1 million.

Mr. Wrigley cited as factors in the sale estate tax problems following the death of his parents in recent years and attempts to find a solution to the long-term financial needs of the Cubs. The Cubs lost $1.7 million last season and are reportedly headed for even greater losses this year.

“Baseball is becoming more demanding of tremendous financial capacities,” William J. Hagenah Jr., the president, chief operating officer and treasurer of the Cubs, said by telephone from Chicago. “You’ve got to just have an awful lot of money to play ball these days. That’s what prompted these changes.”

Mr. Hagenah said negotiations for the Cubs’ sale began long before the current strike that has idled the sport’s 26 major league teams. The Cubs have the worst won-lost record in the National League this year.

The sale is subject to the approval of the club’s directors, its 600 stockholders, the National League and the Securities and Exchange Commission. The Cubs’ stock was valued yesterday at between $1,400 and $1,500 a share. If the sale is approved, the stockholders, some of whom have held their shares for generations, will receive about $2,000 a share. pick up first ad cubs.

Commissioner Bowie Kuhn, who objected to one attempted ownership chnage for the White Sox last year, issued a statement yesterday that praised the role of the Wrigley family in baseball. Mr. Kuhn offered no comment on the Tribune Company’s purchase, but last year he supported the sale of the Oakland A’s to executives of another corporate giant, Levi Strauss & Company, for $12.7 million.

“The Wrigley family, first with Phil and later with Bill, has been very dedicated to the best interests of the game,” Mr. Kuhn said, referring to William Wrigley and his father. “For over 60 years, indeed from the time of the first commissioner, Judge Landis, they have vigorously supported the integrity of the game. While they have gone through thick and thin days on the field, their franchise has produced some of the game’s premier players—people like Gabby Hartnett, Billy Herman, Hack Wilson, Billy Williams and Ernie Banks. They have always been first-class executives for baseball.” Team Can Be Highlighted

The Tribune reported last month that first-quarter earnings had fallen 25.8 percent from the first three months last year despite a 13.2 percent revenue increase.

The Cubs lost $1.7 million last year, according to Mr. Hagenah. But the ”intrinsic value” of owning a professional sports franchise has drawn renewed interest by corporations in recent years. Although mired with a losing record, the Cubs play in a populous market, and they have a long baseball tradition. Further, the Tribune Company’s ownership of cable television subsidiaries, in addition to newspapers and radio and television stations, offers opportunities to highlight the team.

The purchase is not the first of a baseball team by a communications company. CBS purchased 80 percent of the New York Yankees for $11.2 million in 1964 and maintained the controlling interest until George Steinbrenner led a group of investors who purchased the club for $10 million in 1973. In addition Ted Turner, owner of the Atlanta Braves, is the head of cable television network. Conflict of Interest?

William Jones, the managing editor of The Tribune newspaper, said yesterday that he saw no potential conflict of interest over coverage of a baseball team owned by the parent company.

“It is not going to affect our coverage in any way whatsoever,” Mr. Jones said. “The Tribune owns WGN, and there’s never been any pressure on our television columnist.”

Radio station WGN has been the flagship station for the Cubs’ radio network since 1924. WGN-TV began televison coverage of the Cubs in 1948.

Stanton R. Cook, the president and chief executive officer of The Tribune Company, said in a prepared statement that the newspaper and WGN would continue an independent coverage policy.

“As a life-long resident of the Chicago area, I am aware and respectful of the great tradition of the team and the National League,” Mr. Cook’s statement said. Will There Be Lights?

Tribune Company officials were not available to comment on whether the shift in ownership would bring the installation of lights to 37,000-seat Wrigley Field. The Cubs are the only team without lights at their home ball park, and Mr. Wrigley had resisted efforts to install them, an addition that critics contend might have improved home attendance figures that fell from 1,648,587 in 1979 to 1,206,776 last season.

Andrew J. McKenna, a director of the Chicago White Sox from 1975 through 1979, was named as chairman of the Tribune’s new subsidiary that will operate the Cubs.

The Wrigley identification with the Cubs was almost legendary. William Wrigley Jr. became a partner in the club in 1916 and a majority stockholder in 1921. After his death in 1932, his son, Philip K. Wrigley, became majority stockholder. The younger William Wrigley assumed control upon Philip’s death in 1977.

The Cubs won the World Series in 1907 and 1908 and National League pennants in 1929, 1932, 1935 and 1938. But they have not won a pennant since 1945, and, with the free-agent market driving up player salaries in recent years, the Cubs have not finished higher than third since 1972.

President Reagan, who as a young man was a broadcaster of Cub games, was quoted by an aide as having said yesterday,

It’s the end of an era, but hopefully the beginning of another era.

The following table reflects the performance of the team based on ownership. Since the process of selling a team can take several months, the records are tabulated based on the previous owner’s last and the new owner’s first completed season. The Avg. Position column is a weighted position calculation based on the percentage of teams finished below of the rest of the teams in the league/division. For example, a first place team would have finished 100% above the rest of the league/division, while a last place finish, the team finished 0% above. Since the number of teams in each league/division varied through the years, a weighted calculation was performed using the units as shown on the right.

Watch the video: Lights turn on for first night game at Wrigley


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