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Let There Be Light(s)

By Phil Hecken, with Ronnie Bolton

Night baseball, made possible by the addition of floodlights to a stadium’s roof, is not a new phenomenon — in fact the first night game in Major League history took place in Cincinnati, at Crosley Field, on May 24, 1935 — with the final stadium to receive lights (Chicago’s Wrigley Field on August 8, 1988) coming some 50-plus years later. You’re probably familiar with the first and last MLB stadia to receive lights, but night baseball was first pioneered in the Negro Leagues.

I’m joined again by Ronnie Bolton (who you should follow on twitter @OTBaseballPhoto), who will take a look today at several “first” night games in the big leagues. Enjoy! Click on any photo to enlarge. Here’s Ron…

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Muehlebach Field, Kansas City, April 28, 1930

Kansas City Monarchs owner J.L. Wilkinson knew he had to do something, the Great Depression was hemorrhaging the bottom line of his Negro League team and he wisely chose night baseball to save the Monarchs. His ingenious plan called for portable lighting system that Wilkinson reportedly invested $50,000-100,000 of his own money in. Not only were they going to have night baseball at the Monarchs home field Muehlebach Field but they were going to bring night baseball to other ballparks as they barnstorm the Midwest. And it was a smashing success as Wilkinson and his caravan of players and portable lights drove to Enid, Oklahoma for the first night game test against Phillips University Haymakers.

The game attracted more than 3,000 and from there the concept of playing under lights took off not just for Monarchs and Wilkinson but baseball in general. Wilkinson, who made back his investment by mid-May, became known as “The Father of Night Baseball” and would be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2006.

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Crosley Field, Cincinnati, OH, May 24, 1935

Cincinnati Reds GM Larry MacPhail receives the ceremonial signal from the White House and flips a switch to turn on 632 floodlights for the Major Leagues first night game in history. The Reds hosted the Philadelphia Philles for the historic night that McPhail pushed for in claiming games under the lights would generate more revenue – and it did.

The Reds beat the Phillies 2-1 in what seem otherwise dull game with just ten hits between both teams and only one extra base hit being a double by the Reds Billy Myers. Nevertheless, it was the first time baseball fans watched a night game and must have been a very memorable experience for the 20,422 that came out that very chilly Cincinnati night.

You can read more about this game, and see some great photos, from Ronnie here, here, here, here, here, and here.

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Polo Grounds, Manhattan, NY, 1940

Boxes are laid out over the playing field as final tests on lighting goes on before the New York Giants first night game at the Polo Grounds on May 24, 1940, five years to the day that the first MLB night game took place at Crosley Field in Cincinnati.

And 22,260 showed up that night to see the Giants stomp the Boston Bees 8-1 behind three home runs and 13 hits. As for what the players thought about the lighting, for the most part they gave the thumbs up on the conditions and seeing the ball. Despite a crowd size that might be considered a disappointment to some, you have to take into account that since 1935, all the Friday games in May had averaged just 5,975 a game and they only hit the 10,000 mark once (12,242 on 5/7/37). So the 22,000+ that showed up had to make the night game considered a success.

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Forbes Field, Pittsburgh, June 4, 1940

When Pirates skipper Frankie Frisch selected journeyman pitcher Joe Bowman to take the rubber in the first night game at Forbes Field, it was with good reason as Bowman just happened to be the starting pitcher for the Philadelphia Phillies when the first ever major league night game took place at Crosley Field on May 24, 1935. Bowman and the Phillies lost 2-1 on that historic night but he was not to blame as he pitched a solid game in giving up just two earned runs and four hits over seven innings but took the loss thanks to Phillies bats that went to sleep that might mustering only six hits.

But on this night Bowman got all the support he needed and then some as 20,310 sat under the new lights (installed at the cost of $125,000) and witnessed the Bucs rout the Boston Bees 14-3, the whipping was also the doing of the Bees gloves as they committed five errors on the night. Nonetheless, Bowman got the compete game win and a little redemption in giving up just five hits and two walks.Forbes Field,

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Ebbets Field, Brooklyn, June 15, 1938

Baseball fans who were fortunate enough to have tickets for this Wednesday game unexpectedly get a two for one deal in the historical aisle:, for one it’s the first night game at Ebbets Field, and two, the Reds’ Johnny Vander Meer would throw his second no-hitter in a row in a 6-0 win, a major league first and still to this day unmatched.

Ebbets Field would become the second ballpark to play ball under the lights and it was no real surprise since the man behind the plan was Dodgers GM Larry MacPhail, who as Reds GM three years earlier was the architect of the first night baseball game in major league history. The innovator he was knew the Dodgers as a franchise were in a rut coming into 1938, with five straight years of losing baseball and needed to become relevant again, so like in Cincinnati, lights were installed at Ebbets Field and on the night of June 15, 1938 in front of a crowd of 38,748 history was made — times two!

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Briggs Stadium, Detroit, MI, June 15, 1948

The lights are finally on at Detroit’s Briggs Stadium for the first time as team owner Walter Briggs finally relents on his stand of no night games.

Being a traditionalist, Briggs felt baseball shouldn’t be played at night, as a result the Tigers were the last American League team to have all their games played during the day. But after seeing the success night games were having across the league, Briggs finally gave the green light for eight towers to be installed.

As for the game itself, 54,480 were on hand to see the Tigers beat the Philadelphia Athletics 4-1, highlighted by two Detroit home runs in the 8th inning by Dick Wakefield and Pat Mullin, both coming off A’s pitcher Joe Coleman. Tigers pitcher Hal Newhouser went the distance for the complete game win giving up only two hits and improving his season record to 8-4.

And with Briggs Stadium now playing night ball there stood just one major league ballpark that still hadn’t flicked the switch and it would stay that way for forty years.

• • • •

Wrigley Field, Chicago, August 8, 1988*

On August 8, 1988, for the first time ever, night baseball came to Wrigley Field as the Chicago Cubs hosted the Philadelphia Phillies and ended Wrigley Field’s 40-year run as the only major league ballpark not to have games under the lights.

While most baseball fans remember that the Chicago Cubs were the last team to play night baseball at home, what they might not be aware of is the Cubs were ready to install lights for the 1942 season! But instead they went the patriotic route and quietly donated the material (165 tons of steel, 35,000 feet of copper wire, and 800 aluminum reflectors) earmarked for the project to the war effort on December 8, 1941, the day after Pearl Harbor was attacked by the Japanese.

The Cubs noble deed only came out the next month in January when President Franklin Roosevelt made the request for more night baseball and the Cubs had to come clean, as if they did something wrong. After the war they were was discussion but nothing ever materialized until the 1980’s.

* The 8/8/88 (how bout that date!) game, scheduled to be the first night game in Cubs history, never made it into the record books as an official game (read more about it here), as the Cubs/Phils tilt was ultimately rained out after big pre-game festivities. The “first” official night game actually took place the following evening, August 9th, against the New York Mets. — PH

• • • • • •

Thanks, Ron! Great look back at some of the first night games in MLB history, always replete with great factoids!

The Uniforms Costumes of the 10 Commandments

[In the spirit of the holiday weekend, today we have a special look at a classic movie playing on TV tonight, from our own Brinke — Enjoy! — PH]

By Brinke Guthrie

One of my favorite annual events is the playing of The Ten Commandments on TV. It’s on ABC tonight (check local listings!) at 7pm. This is a true special effects spectacle, with state of the art stuff for 1956. (Parting the Red Sea, anyone?) There is a uni angle to this one- although Paul opines that they are more like costumes. Well, pro leagues like the NBA and NFL are getting more costume-like every year, so let’s just wade in here for some Ten Commandments uniform costume highlights.

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1) Moses’s Identity Crisis.

He’s all suited up with a really cool multi-colored collar thing there, but oops! He discovers the cloth that he was wrapped in as a baby. A….Hebrew baby. (Key line: “Am I not Moses?”) No, not the Prince of Egypt version, anyway. Crimson red with a black/white stripe. There is a definite class distinction at play here.

Let’s just say he won’t be getting the preferred corner table at his favorite Egyptian restaurant anytime soon.

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2) Men With Kilts.

Even though he’s totally misguided in this movie, Yul Brynner carries his part as Rameses with panache and swagger. Note the standard desert attire, please. He’s hot in that zip code, and you need to dress accordingly. He’s got a…a what, I don’t know, on his head- maybe it’s there just to keep the sun off. Accessorized with a gold band, no less. And I think that’s a snake in front. To announce one’s presence with authority. The necklace is a bit gaudy. Rameses and the word “discreet” don’t often enter the room at the same time. Then we come to the kilt. The last time I checked, Egypt was nowhere near the Scottish Highlands. Pair this with some of those burnished sandals, and you’re- sing it with me- walking like an Egyptian. This scene is where Dathan The Weasel (R) tells Rameses that the Deliverer is … Moses. Dathan’s movin’ on up to the east side with that gem of intel.

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3. Dance, You Mud Turtles.

Now, Charleton Heston/Moses gets hauled before Pharoah (Rameses’s work) and as you can see, his royal uniform costume is long gone. The clothes often do make the man.

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4. Rameses: Under Armour.

He’s got his Battle Head Hanky on, color-matched with some glittery outfit that just screams “Look at me. I own all of this.” You have to wonder who makes this stuff. Savile Row? No, too fancy. Some Italian tailor in Milan, perhaps.

+ + + + +

5. Weasels Wear Fur.

Edward G. Robinson plays the duplicitous weasel Dathan. The guy that (see #2 above) rats out Moses. While the navy and gold robe is an elegant touch, he’s got some tacky jaguar faux jaguar print draped over it. Definite #fail.

+ + + + +

Thanks, Brinke.

Zero, Zip, Zilch, Nada, Nothing…

There’s nothing good (or bad) about this.

UW reader/friend Walter Young tipped us wise to the above tweet, which asks whether this is the first time a pitcher with the number “0” has faced a hitter who is also wearing the number “0”. I don’t have the answer (anyone out there want to try to check on this???), but to quote Paul, “the visual is striking” (pun not intended?). Actually, there’s no need to look it up: it is a MLB first.

Uni Concepts & Tweaks

After being dormant for a while, the Uni Tweaks/Concepts have returned!

I hope you guys like this feature and will want to continue to submit your concepts and tweaks to me. If you do, Shoot me an E-mail (Phil (dot) Hecken (at) gmail (dot) com).

• • •

Got an e-mail this week from reader Vincent Van Zile who wasn’t completely happy with the new New York Jets redesign:


I wasn’t a fan of what they gave us, so I decided to give it some small tweaks that I personally think reflect a more professional team…and overall better looking uniform.

– Smaller “New York”
– Shorter shoulder stripe
– The alternate…and better, JETS logo on the helmet
– Custom NYJ Bumper logo

Vin Van Zile

• • •

Thanks Vin. OK readers (and concepters). If you have some tweaks or concepts, shoot ’em my way with a brief description of your creation and I’ll run ’em here.

The Ticker
By Anthony Matthew Emerson

Baseball News: Phillies IF César Hernández mis-buttoned his jersey (from Frank McGuigan). And it didn’t take long for him to fix it. … For the second consecutive start, Astros P Justin Verlander has colored-in the New Era logo on his cap (from @bucksantiago). … The Indianapolis Indians, Triple-A affiliates of the Pirates, will wear Pirates-inspired unis today. … Also posted in the hockey section: a Twitter account campaigning to bring an MLB team to Raleigh, N.C., created an “old school baseball” logo for the Hurricanes (from Blake Pass and James Gilbert). … The Down East Wood Ducks, Class-A Advanced affiliates of the Rangers, will wear these jerseys, featuring a collage of fans’ pets, for Pet Appreciation Day next weekend (thanks, Phil). … The Pulaski Yankees will wear these jerseys, and rebrand as the Moo-laski Yankees, for Agriculture Night (thanks again, Phil). … Oregon State’s Joe Casey Gets It™. … Marshall softball players are wearing different-colored T-shirts during their games this weekend, each one corresponding to a different type of cancer. Each shirt also includes the name of someone affected by cancer that the player knows (from Ben Stroup). … A seamstress shop in West Virginia made a quilt out of a customer’s old baseball jerseys (from Brice Wallace). … Tecumseh (In.) High has poached the Braves wordmark and the Rangers’ cap logo. More images here (from John Moore). … It’s a shame the A’s don’t have kelly green jackets to wear on Fridays, when the team wears kelly green caps & jerseys (pic from Johnny Crotty). Looks off. … The Brewers Hernán Pérez was still wearing his Jackie Robinson day batting gloves last night (from Craig Van De Kreeke). … “The freshman pitcher for Vandy was interviewed (last) night and Eli Gold asked about his number (80),” says Griffin Smith. “Kumar said that coach assigned it and ‘I wouldn’t prefer it’ and ‘You don’t the right [to wear the number you want] as a freshman on this team’.”

NFL & College Football News: Steve Anderson found this absolutely beautiful NFL-branded dresser-and-desk set at a consignment shop in Lincoln, Ne. “I should have bought them,” he says. … Georgia teased black unis yesterday (thanks, Phil).

Hockey News: Avalanche LW Matt Nieto wears No. 83 to honor his sister Erin, who has Down syndrome and autism. “Eighty-three” is one of only 20 words she can say. Touching article here (paywalled) (from Mark Coale). … Cross-posted from the baseball section: a Twitter account campaigning to bring an MLB team to Raleigh, N.C., created an “old school baseball” logo for the Hurricanes (from Blake Pass and James Gilbert). … The Flyers have covered up the statue of disgraced singer Kate Smith that’s outside of Wells Fargo Arena (from Frank McGuigan).

NBA News: Mark R. Hirschfeld noticed that the athletics logo for his alma mater Marietta College is very similar to the 1997-2010 Warrios logo. … Here are some of the Suns’ rejected logos from 1991. … Lakers PG Lonzo Ball has permanently covered his Big Baller Brand tattoo with a tattoo of a pair of really misshapen and inconsistent dice (from @troy_evra). … The shirts the Jazz are placing on seats for their home game tomorrow will match the team’s City Edition uni (thanks Phil). … Speaking of, the Thunder had fans dress in “sunset” — orange T-shirts to contrast with the teal-blue unis the team will wear — for their game (thanks again Phil). It was pretty brutal looking, and the fans almost looked liked the opposition (from Steven and Young Depression). … Oh man, check out the unis for this 1932 Omaha women’s basketball team! More info here (many thanks to Gregory Mays).

Soccer News: AS Monaco, which is of course based in the independent city-state of Monaco but plays in the French league, will wear a patch depicting the patron saint of Monaco, Sainte-Dévote, and Notre-Dame de Paris for their Easter Sunday match in Paris against Paris St-Germain (from @nmaloney27). … FC Cincinnati and Real Salt Lake wore their ugly Parley jerseys for their match last night. At least they’re made from recycled plastic, right? (from Dustyn Richardson).

Grab Bag: Here’s something you don’t see everyday: Roman numeral uni numbers for this rugby 7s team (from Justin Simmons). … James Gilbert shared the @Emblemetric Twitter account with us, which is an account devoted to data analysis of logos. … A Passover Seder was held in the Carrier Dome (from Blake Fox).

To All Who Are Celebrating Easter and Passover this weekend, best wishes to you. And for those of you who are simply celebrating 4/20, enjoy today as well ;).

Comments (24)

    But the (two, maybe more?) songs she sang and her endorsement of a doll with racist overtones is a disgrace.

    It’s unfortunate. It’s regrettable. But the statue must be remembered in context. As much as her rendition of God Bless America fired up the Flyers, it must be remembered that the team has not won a Stanley Cup in 45 years.

    Time for a new lucky charm? Perhaps Gritty?

    I used to teach HS history and I would remind by students with the statement. “Right or Wrong, you can’t judge the past with Today’s eyes.”

    There’s a lot I can say here but I’ll leave it at this: Why is this only coming to light 70-80 years after the fact? Why didn’t the Flyers pick up on this in 1974? Why didn’t the Yankees pick up on this in 2001? And how fair is it that Kate cant defend herself and has no descendants to do it on her behalf?

    Is that fair?

    Incredibly enough, sometimes things don’t come to light right away, or they’re largely forgotten after the fact. Nothing unusual about that, in any phase of life. Hence the phrase “You learn something new every day.”

    Simple uni-related example: The reason for the Dodgers’ red numbers was reported in 1952 but then largely forgotten. Generations later, nobody knew the full story until Todd Radom uncovered the original 1952 Sporting News report a few years ago.

    Also: Incredibly enough, sometimes things that seemed OK at a given moment stop seeming OK as societal standards evolve.

    Point well taken. I get how that happens. It happens all the time. But this is a fairly big deal. If it wasn’t known, it should have been. We are talking about someone’s legacy and life’s work here.

    I would like to think if she were around today Kate would be extremely embarrassed and remorseful about this. And if she were presented this in 2019 there’s no chance she’d do it. At the very least, George Preston Marshall she was not.

    As always, keep up the good work, and giving us all something to think about. That’s why I keep coming back.

    this is a fairly big deal. If it wasn’t known, it should have been.

    I think a big part of the story is that it didn’t seem like a big deal at all when she recorded the songs. And even if the Flyers should have known, that’s really neither here nor there. What matters is that they (and we) know now, so the question becomes how are they (and we) going to respond to it. Reasonable people can answer that question in different ways, but “Why didn’t they know before?” is not particularly relevant to that point.

    Always good to hear from you, Pete!

    Was not just FC Cincinnati and Real Salt Lake in the Parley kits last night. All teams wore them in MLS games Friday night. Makes for some dull highlights with every game featuring teams wearing the same uniforms.

    Conversely, Major League Baseball highlights looked great last night as they can can Fridays. Why?

    -Brewers in the white pinstripe throwbacks featuring royal blue.
    -Athletics in kelly green.
    -Padres in brown.

    The Cubs were sued in the mid 60s by a minority shareholder named Shlensky because they didn’t have lights. He claimed that was why the team lost and was less profitable. Wrigley won. It is an important case.

    The Cubs tried many times to install lights. An organization called Citizens United for Baseball In Sunshine (CUBS, natch) fought it and won. In ruling for CUBS the judge famously said ‘Justice is a southpaw, and the Cubs don’t hit lefties.’

    Finally, when the National League threatened to move any Cubs playoff games to St. Louis and MLB threatened to pull the 1990 All-Star game a compromise was reached. The Cubs still have more day games than anyone, and have all the night games they need.

    Is JV covering New Era logo due to factory laying off workers I heard on Collin McHugh podcast?

    I liked the color on color game..mostly because I think that OKC set is one of the best in the league. Def their best uni.

    Yeah at first I thought it was a home game for Portland because of the color of the fans shirts. I do really like the color on color with these lighter blue uniforms of OKC.

    Kate Smith’s statue should be removed ASAP. The Flyers should have an event where fans are invited to come together to denounce the hatred that exists in this world. What better way than to have a public event where the statue is removed to cheers from the crowd? I’d be there.

    Next, the University of Virginia needs to remove all tributes and references to Thomas Jefferson. And we probably need to rename the nation’s capital so it doesn’t honor the disgraced slave owner George Washington.

    Let’s face it, America has a lot of history that needs to be forgotten so we can repeat it later.

    Verlander needs to be sent the technique that appeared in this blog on how to totally remove the New Era logo from the side of his cap. I do wonder what MLB and:or New Era reaction would be if he went that far? Is this a hard requirement for players to display manufacturer logos if those players aren’t paid for it but the league has a contract?

    IMO, this is a perfect solution. You can still see the maker’s mark (to satisfy the maker) but it is not so garish that it attracts the eye. I don’t begrudge New Era for wanting credit but it can be visible and subtle.

    Seems a bit misleading to have an article about first night games that doesn’t include a more thorough review of facts.

    The first night game with a pro team was in Fort Wayne. In the ’80s…the 1880s! Not sure the “Major League” designation is all that relevant going back THAT far, since pro leagues were a mixed bag. A lot more games under the lights prior to 1930, though.


    How the heck is it misleading? 15 comments and the only one directed at my piece is criticism!

    Sorry if you took it personal. That’s not my intention. I think I was very clear. There are numerous examples of night baseball games by “pro” teams well before the ones you indicated.

    And referencing just lights in the Majors is kinda nebulous, since there were lots of pro leagues in the late 1800 and early 1900s. Night games took place 50 years prior!

    I’m very well aware of the games mentioned in that link as you can see here:


    And here:


    I have my reasons to post the ones I posted, they were Major League ballparks and that was the theme and I posted the Monarchs because many of those players should have been in the Major Leagues

Comments are closed.