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Today in Cubs history: 30 years ago, they tried to play the first night game at Wrigley

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“Tried,” because Mother Nature said: “Not on this night.”

Diamond Images/Getty Images

Several years ago, in an offseason “Game from Cubs History” series, I wrote the story here of the attempt to play the first night game at Wrigley Field August 8, 1988, 30 years ago today.

In re-reading that article, I decided I couldn’t have re-written the story of that night any better than I had posted it here in January 2013.

So below is the text from that article, with a couple of minor edits.

Tomorrow, I’ll have the story of the real first night game at Wrigley Field, played August 9, 1988.


After many years of discussion, debate and city ordinances limiting the number of games that could be played, the Cubs installed lights to play night games at Wrigley Field beginning in 1988.

The summer of 1988 was one of the hottest and driest in Chicago history; the 47 days that year with a high temperature of 90 degrees or above remains the record for such things (the sticky summer of 2012 missed tying that by one day). The Cubs finished construction of the lights in July, had a charity event under those lights later that month, and were permitted, by city ordinance, eight night games the rest of 1988 and then 18 per year through 2002.

The first of those was a game originally scheduled for 3:05 p.m. Monday, August 8 against the Phillies. The ticket I had for that game, purchased April 19, long before the schedule was changed, shows that game time. (I never did turn that one in for a refund, which was no big deal — the cost was $4.)

August 8 dawned hot and humid; the temperature that day in Chicago would reach 99 degrees. A capacity crowd gathered at Wrigley Field for pregame hoopla; all the while, television station radars began showing a cluster of thunderstorms beginning to form in northwest Illinois, headed for Chicago. Weather forecasting was somewhat less accurate then than now, and of course no one had anything resembling a modern smartphone where incoming weather could be followed. Still, someone following weather conditions ordered the start of the game moved up several minutes from its 7:05 p.m. scheduled time.

Rick Sutcliffe threw the first pitch in a game under the lights (you’ll remember from an earlier post in this series that a “night” game was played June 25, 1943) at 6:59 p.m.

Sutcliffe ran a 2-1 count on the Phillies’ Phil Bradley; Bradley then sent Rick’s fourth offering onto Waveland Avenue. Bradley will never be remembered in any record book, since this game never “officially” happened, but he thus became the first player to hit a baseball out of Wrigley Field during a game with the lights on.

Sutcliffe got out of the rest of the first inning without incident, and Mitch Webster led off the bottom of the inning with a single. That’s when the sideshow began. Back in the 1970s and 1980s, a woman styling herself “Morganna the Kissing Bandit” used to try to run onto fields at various sporting events, and kiss the participants. According to her Wikipedia page:

By 1990 she had kissed 37 Major League baseball players, 12 National Basketball Association players and dozens of minor league baseball, basketball and hockey players, plus various umpires, managers and owners and, on one occasion, The San Diego Chicken. She confined herself to kissing them on the cheek, commenting: “It’s more sanitary than the lips, and that way their wives don’t get upset. Besides, who wants tobacco stains all over your teeth?”

On this night, Ryne Sandberg, standing at the plate ready to hit, was her target. As you can see by the photo below, she was thwarted by Cubs security, who led her off the field to the bemused looks of Webster, Phillies first baseman Ricky Jordan and Cubs first-base coach Jose Martinez.

Al Yellon

Sandberg stepped back into the batter’s box and slammed Kevin Gross’ next pitch onto Waveland, giving the Cubs a 2-1 lead. As the wind picked up, the humidity increased and those of us gathered at Wrigley Field could see clouds gathering to the northwest, the Cubs pushed across another run in the bottom of the third on a walk, a sacrifice and a single. It was one of those nights you could “smell” the rain in the air.

The skies darkened, both from the clouds and the official clock sunset at 8 p.m. The Phillies threatened in the top of the fourth on a triple by Jordan with two out, but Steve Jeltz struck out to end the inning; the Cubs still led 3-1.

At 8:14, with the bottom of the fourth inning set to begin, it started to rain. And when I say “rain,” I mean the skies opened up in a way that I don’t think I have seen in Chicago more than once or twice in the 30 years since. Thunder and lightning abounded. It rained really, really hard; lakes of water began to appear on the hurriedly-pulled tarp, which prompted Cubs Greg Maddux, Les Lancaster, Al Nipper and Jody Davis to go out and do body-surfing on it. About a dozen fans tried the same stunt and were hauled off by team security.

If only the Morganna stunt hadn’t happened; if only the teams had played just a bit faster, they’d have managed to get in an official game and “8-8-88” would be in the official books as the first game under artificial light at Wrigley Field. They tried to resume, but it never did stop raining that evening, not till well after midnight, and the Phillies had to leave town, headed home; at 10:25 p.m. the umpires gave up and called it off, six outs short of history. It hadn’t rained in Chicago in more than a month, until that night.


EPILOGUE 1: It was noted at the time of this game that only a handful of tickets were unused. In those pre-barcode days, the ticket stub was actually ripped off the ticket and handed back to you. Mike Bojanowski saved one full ticket as a souvenir (worth it at only $4). At the time he bought it (noted at the bottom left, April 25), the game time was shown as 3:05:

EPILOGUE 2: The rained-out August 8 game was made up on Labor Day, Monday, September 5, as part of a doubleheader. Rick Sutcliffe was again on the mound for Game 1, which the Cubs won 14-3. The Cubs blew a 3-0 lead in the seventh inning of Game 2 and lost 4-3.