In this edition of This Week in Cubs History, we take a look at August 8, 1988, when the Chicago Cubs played their first game at Wrigley under the lights after 5,687 consecutive day games.
The history of the Chicago Cubs not having lights dates back to 1942, when team owner Philip K. Wrigley intended to install lights. However, the metal from the standards was used to aid the war effort, so the ballpark went another 40 years with nothing but day baseball. There was actually one night game at Wrigley prior to 8/8/88, when the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League played their 1943 All-Star Game at Wrigley under temporary lights.
Fast-forward nearly half a century to a few changes that prompted the Cubs to proceed with installing lights. A city ordinance that had prohibited night games in the city was amended — the White Sox were grandfathered in because they had had lights since 1939 — was amended to allow limited night games the Cubs can play per season. The neighborhoods around Wrigley had feared night games would bring unruly fans, crime, and traffic to the congestion to the area.
Cubs management was also threatening to leave the Friendly Confines for the suburbs if lights were not installed. Major League Baseball would not allow the Cubs to host playoff games without lights. They would make the Cubs play their postseason “home” games in St. Louis if proper lighting was not installed. So, in 1988 the Cubs were finally able to move into the modern age of baseball.
The first night game at Wrigley was played on Agust 8, 1988 against the Phillies. The game was called in the 3rd inning due to rain. As Mark Grace described, “It rained and wouldn’t you know it, of course, because God didn’t want lights at Wrigley Field.” The Cubs would play their first official night game the next day against the Mets, winning 6-4.
The Cubs have continued to push the city for more night games and they still sit 11 games shy of the rest of the league. The league average last year was 54 home night games, but the Cubs played 43. Nevertheless, 1988 marked a historical moment for baseball fans when Wrigley was the last stadium to play at night.