May 24, 1935: First Night Game in Major League Baseball

Eighty-two years ago the first major league baseball game was  played under the lights, adding a new dimension to the game of Summer, and making it more accessible to most people who work for a living during the day.  The first baseball game under artificial illumination was played in 1880, the year after Thomas Edison invented the light bulb.  However the major league teams did not embrace this innovation for over a half century.  Economic need, as usual, was the driver involved in making major league night ball a reality.  Almost all ball teams struggled during the Great Depression and attendance at games was a matter of life or death for the teams.  Some minor league teams and teams of the Negro League had been playing ball under the lights since 1930.

 

Leland “Larry” MacPhail and Powel Crosley, the general manager and the owner of the Cincinnati Reds, noticed that minor league teams were drawing big crowds playing night games.  The Reds were averaging 2000-3000 fans a game, their loyal followers being simply unable to miss a precious day of work during the hard times in the middle of the Depression.  They took the bold stance of putting in lights at Crosley Field, hang the expense despite the precarious financial condition of the Reds.  The first night game was set for May 24, 1935 against the Philadelphia Phillies.  The Reds won two-one and 20,000 fans witnessed it, as 632 flood lights illumined the field.  Night ball was here to stay.

Red Barber, the bard of baseball, announced that game and he recalled it in 1988:

“I know most of the people in baseball did not think night ball would be successful. They didn’t think the lights would be good enough. There were a lot of old liners who said baseball was meant to be played in the daytime. The moment the lights came on, everyone was convinced.”

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Published in: on May 24, 2017 at 4:32 am  Comments Off on May 24, 1935: First Night Game in Major League Baseball  
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