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…
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.
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.
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.
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,
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!
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!
Uniforms Costumes of the 10 Commandments
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Zero, Zip, Zilch, Nada, Nothing…
Is this the first time in baseball history that 0 faced 0? pic.twitter.com/RB8VjGzOsy
— Andrew Harts (@AndrewHarts) April 20, 2019
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.
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 ;).