Thank you former Mayor Harold Washington for saving the Chicago Cubs and Wrigley Field.
The neighborhood surrounding Wrigley Field adamantly refused to have night lights installed in their community. They were backed up by a city ordinance prohibiting installing night lights in the Lakeview Neighborhood where the Cubs are located.
Now enter Dallas Green, a cantankerous baseball manager and former player who was brought into the Wrigley Organization as team president. And the fireworks and war of words and will began. Green, a strong proponent of night lights in Wrigley Field declared “If there are no lights in Wrigley Field there will not be a Wrigley Field.” At that point he seriously considered shutting down Wrigley Field and playing at Comiskey Park, the home of the Chicago White Sox.
Green felt the loss of revenue in the area would force the city to reconsider and install night lights. And then the uproar really began. The Cub Fans were stunned when Green considered moving the Cubs to another site somewhere in the suburbs, possibly Schaumburg or Arlington Heights. So you thought the recent uproar about razing Wrigley Field was new! To the diehard cub fans it was a nightmare relived. It went so far as the possibility of selling Wrigley Field to DePaul University and converting it to a full time college stadium. This was in hopes of reestablishing their football program.
Then the rumor mill began that a group of investors were so positive the Cubs would relocate to the Schaumburg area they purchased land to build a new Wrigley Field just in case.
If you thought the recent uproar about Wrigley Field was raucous it was a whisper compared to the outrage during Green’s tenure as team President. The pressure to the Chicago City Council was so intense that the council and Mayor Harold Washington approved a change in the ordinance to approve night lights. They were installed to tremendous fanfare in 1988. Unfortunately the Mayor who saved Wrigley Field died a week later after approving the new ordinance.
The fans were scrambling for tickets to be part of history and see the night lights at Wrigley Field light up the night scheduled for. Aug 8, 1988 or 8-8 -88 as it was called. The media around the country gave this event unending publicity. So 8-8-88 came and the ball park was jammed with fans and officials. However, the evening was spoiled by rain and the game was called.
So to fans the official first night game was 8-9-88. So dear Cubbies, we owe a great debt of gratitude to Dallas Green and in particular Mayor Harold Washington. If there is not a plaque somewhere in Wrigley Field then there should be.
Play ball at night Cubbies. And happy 25th anniversary to the lights.