On This Day: MLB Plays First Ever Night Game

by Katie Maloney
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Can you imagine a summer without nighttime MLB games?

There’s something poetic about a nighttime baseball game. The stadium lights feel magical. And the sounds of fans cheering against the quiet night sky can be breathtaking. So, it’s difficult to imagine a time when night games weren’t a thing. But, until May 24th, 1935, MLB games were held strictly during the day. And it makes sense – most fields didn’t have lights prior to that date. So, it was almost impossible (and dangerous) for athletes to play at night.

But, Cincinnati Reds/Philadelphia Phillies game played 86 years ago today changed all of that. Lights were installed at Crosley Field in Cincinnati and the two teams battled it out like they had during prior day games. The Reds beat the Phillies 2-1 during that first-ever night game. The game drew 25,000 fans. Even President Roosevelt participate in the festivities by symbolically switching on the lights from Washington, D.C. After the night’s success, the Reds played a night game that year against every National League team, for a total of eight games. And although they had a pretty terrible record that year, (68-85) attendance at the games rose 117 percent.

The Chicago Cubs Refused to Host Night Games Until 1988

However, that was only the first MLB night game. The first official baseball game ever played at night occurred five years earlier on May 2, 1930. A Des Moines, Iowa team hosted Wichita for a Western League game. The Des Moines team usually averaged about 600 fans per game. But this first night game brought in 12,000 people! After that, it was undeniable that fans liked night games. However, it took major league teams five years to catch on and start hosting evening games.

Night Games Are Now an MLB Tradition

Following the Iowa game, MLB teams began upgrading their fields to include lights for night games. But not every team embraced the new tradition. Wrigley Field in Chicago –the second oldest MLB park after Boston’s Fenway–was the last of the parks to start hosting night games. In fact, they only hosted day games for 74 seasons until August 8, 1988. On that day, the Cubs hosted the Philadelphia Phillies for the very first night game at Wrigley. However, the game was rained out in the third inning. So, technically, Wrigley’s first-ever night game is officially recorded as a 6-4 win against the New York Mets on August 9, 1988. 

Regardless of when each MLB team started including night games at their parks, we’re just happy it’s now part of the baseball tradition. We can’t imagine a summer without a cold beer under the stadium lights.

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