When 'Simple' Was Killed; the End of Cubs Day Baseball: August 8th,1988

When 'Simple' Was Killed; the End of Cubs Day Baseball: August 8th,1988

I have this picture in my top drawer that I adore.

It's a picture of me at my first baseball game.  June 5th, 1987.  Cubs vs. Cardinals.  I'm wearing the ole Cubs solid blue road jersey and my brand new Wilson glove.  You can see me squinting; probably trying to figure out what all those numbers on the scoreboard were. It took a while to compute.  Well, I was six years old.  What can you expect?

The picture is innocent and embodies this purity of the game that we all adore.  Yet, with all of this romanticism, the corner of the picture hits me the hardest.

The background of the picture captures the top of the balcony.

No lights.

It's odd to think that as late as 1987, a Major League Baseball team could play without lights.  But the Cubs' defiance to play day baseball was just as much their identity as Wrigley Field itself.

The Cubs were the champions of the night workers: third shift workers, cabbies, waiters, waitresses, actors, musicians...anybody with a night gig found daytime solace with the Cubs.  They were also the heroes of schoolchildren; these were kids that regularly ran from the bus and into the living room whenever the Cubs were at home. 

Every day was 'getaway day'.  The Cubs were the best excuse to be sick, miss school, miss work, or lie to your current significant other.

These are the thoughts that rush into my head whenever I look at the picture.  Not my face, not the innocence of a first ballgame...but all of the peace that comes with day baseball.

When the Tribune bought the club in 1981, they were adamant about stating that their intentions were not to put lights in Wrigley Field.  Shortly after their opening press conference, my uncle (a photographer for the Tribune at the time) caught Tribune workers on the roof discussing how inputting lights would work in the ole ballpark.

That purchase of the Cubs was the death knell for day baseball.  When Dallas Green was hired in 1982, the push for the end was nearly complete.

However, with the public relations master Harry Caray working the mic, and the Cubs' resurgence in 1984, the romanticism of the Cubs and day baseball returned.  This was quickly deterred by Commissioner Ueberroth's ruling that the Cubs would not play the 1984 World Series in Wrigley Field if they refused to install lights.  (The matter would of course become moot when the Cubs lost to San Diego in five games.)

The battle between the neighborhood, the fans, and the Cubs heated up in 1984 and lasted three strong years before everything caved in.

By 1987, it was becoming obvious that the Chicago Cubs were going to join the ranks of every other team by playing night baseball.  The city would limit the amount to only 18 games a year, but the damage was done.

In 1987, day baseball had significant importance in my life.  My father was one of those third shift workers when I was a child.  I was lucky enough to sit down with my dad and watch the Cubs play day games in 1987.  It was my first real year grasping the game and the Cubs themselves.

It's crazy.  I really don't think about it know.  I'm not sure anybody does.  The Cubs still play the majority of their games in the daytime, but have upped their night schedule years ago to satisfy increasing demand.

I remember watching on August 8th, 1988 as those lights went on for the start of a game for the first time.  For a seven year old, it was the coolest thing in the world.  Yet, it was the oddest.  For one, my dad wasn't there.  He was already on his way to work.  I remember wanting to be excited...and then feeling let down.

Apparently my seven year old self was smarter than I thought.  I knew that one picture from my first ballgame, something I kept on my drawer when I was a kid, held something different.  Nothing was ever going to be the same.

It only took a couple more years before I realized...nothing ever really is going to stay the same. 

Maybe that's why I still keep the picture to remind me.

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  • Nice piece. I'm tweeting this one out.

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