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The Night The Lights Came On MAY 24, 1935, GAME

         

"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.

At 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 Redland Field.

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.

 

It 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.

 

When it 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.

A 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.

 

It 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.

         
       

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