"There is no chance of night baseball ever becoming popular in the
bigger cities. People there are educated to see the best there is and
will stand for only the best. High-class baseball cannot be played at
night under artificial light. Furthermore, the benefits derived from
attending the game are largely due to fresh air and sunshine. Night air
and electric light are a poor substitute."
Those were the words of Clark Griffith, the one-time Cincinnati Reds
pitcher and manager who later owned the Washington Senators. He was commenting about night
baseball being introduced
into the major leagues in 1935 by the Cincinnati Reds.
The first documentation of a night game is June 2, 1883, in Fort Wayne,
Indiana, but not one official professional league game was played under the arcs until
1930 when lights were installed at the
Independence, Kansas, ballpark. Within weeks other clubs began
installing lights, including the Columbus, Ohio, franchise which was
owned by Larry MacPhail.
MacPhail, one of the greatest
innovators baseball has ever seen, recognized from the beginning that
night ball would improve attendance. And when he became general manager
of the Reds in ]933, he began an immediate drive to put lights into the
Cincinnati ballpark. When Powel Crosley Jr. purchased the club, MacPhail
put the bug in his ear.
first, other baseball owners refused to listen. They insisted that
MacPhail had a screw loose. But when Cincinnati's attendance kept
declining, baseball's other owners relented and granted permission for
the Reds to install lights at
Before the 1935 season, lights went up: 632 lamps turned the Redland
Field darkness into near-daylight, and the machinery was in motion for
the first major league game under lights.
was scheduled for May 23 when the Reds were to meet the Philadelphia
Phillies. ]t was a historic occasion. Special electrical arrangements
were made for President Franklin D. Roosevelt to throw the switch that
would turn darkness into light.
came time for the first scheduled night game, Mother Nature upstaged
MacPhail and the Reds. Day-long rains caused postponement for 24 hours.
Finally, on May 24, 1935, major
league baseball's first night game was played.
crowd of 20,422 was on hand.
The attendance was some 10 times more than could have been expected had
the two clubs played a day game.
Paul Derringer was the winning pitcher, out-dueling the Phillies Joe
Bowman, 2-1. Baseball ushered in a new era.
wasn't long before Clark Griffith was eating his words. In less than 13
years all major league parks with the exception of Chicago's Wrigley
Field had lights.
Night baseball had arrived.
Today, it's as much as part of the game as a strikeout or a home run.