A BRIEF HISTORY OF WRIGLEY FIELD (BEFORE THE LIGHTS)
Stephen Green/Chicago Cubs
The lights first came on August 8, 1988.
Throughout this week, we'll be rolling out a package dedicated to the first night game at Wrigley Field, which took place on August 8, 1988 (twenty years ago this Friday). Why is this so important? Wrigley, which opened as Weeghman Park in 1914, was the last of the old-school major stadiums to play night baseball. For five days, we'll investigate what that meant to the members of the '88 Cubs, the city of Chicago, the economics of baseball, and maybe even a few surprise guests. This seems a logical place to start, though: a brief history of Wrigley Field through the summer of 1988. For a look (with video) at some classic moments in Wrigley Field history, please go here.
Construction begins on Weeghman Park; the chief architect is Zachary Taylor Davis, who previously designed the original Comiskey Park (which opened in 1910).
Groundbreaking ceremonies occur at Weeghman.
APRIL 23, 1914
First home opener at Weeghman Park.
After an unusual amount of home runs are hit in the first series at the park, owner Charles Weeghman decided the left field was too cozy and had it moved back 25 feet.
Weeghman purchases the Chicago Cubs, who at the time were playing on the west side of Chicago, and moves them into Weeghman Park for the 1916 team (the team playing there the first two seasons of its existence was called the Chifeds).
APRIL 20, 1916
The first Chicago Cubs game is played at Weeghman Park (a 7-6 win over the Cincinnati Reds).
1918 WORLD SERIES
During the Cubs' six-game loss to Babe Ruth and the Boston Red Sox, they actually played their "home" games at the larger Comiskey due to financial issues.
The ivy was first seen at Wrigley in 1937.
Weeghman sells his remaining interest in the club to William Wrigley and departs the team for good.
Original architect Zachary Taylor Davis begins work on expanding the park around its original structure; the grandstand would be sliced into three pieces and the gaps were to be filled in with more seating, creating the "dog leg" effect on the first base side of the park still seen today. The renovations are finished in time for the 1923 season opener.
PRIOR TO THE 1927 SEASON
Cubs Park—the name the stadium was using since Weeghman left—is officially renamed Wrigley Field.
Despite a plan to double-deck the grandstand that wasn't compeleted by the beginning of the season - giving the park an odd asymmetry - the Cubs draw over one million fans, becoming the first NL team to ever do that.
Distance markers are finally posted at Wrigley: 364 down the LF line; 372 is left-center against the outer wall; 364 to left-center and the corner of the bleachers; 440 to the deep CF corner; 354 to right center; and 321 down the RF line.
Bill Veeck plants two types of ivy on the outfield wall: a Bittersweet kind, designed to grow quicker, and Boston Ivy, which eventually takes over and represents the ivy most associated with Wrigley to this day.
Lights were scheduled to be added in Wrigley for the 1942 season; after the attack on Pearl Harbor, owner Phillip K. Wrigley donated the necessary materials to the war effort. Because baseball ended up booming after the war, Wrigley (the original Wrigley's son) was able to hold off on the issue. One of his long-stated reasons for not installing lights is that it would upset the neighborhood.
THE LIGHTS ISSUE
The city of Chicago had an ordinance banning night events at Wrigley, due to its location in the residential Lakeview neighborhood. For night game to occur, the Tribue Company (who assumed ownership of the Cubs in 1981) would need the ordinance repealed.
The Cubs advance to the NLCS; Bowie Kuhn announces that if they make the World Series, they'll lose home field advantage because of the need to put World Series games at night. The Cubs lose to the Padres, though.
New MLB commissioner Peter Ueberroth states that because of the lack of lights at Wrigley, all future Cubs postseason games must take place at another ballpark—options include Comiskey, Soldier Field, or even St. Louis.
Dallas Green was an important figure in the lights coming on.
The Cubs, who had fallen out of contention and made the playoffs-lights issue somewhat moot, were led by team president Dallas Green. He remarked, "If there are no lights at Wrigley Field, there will be no Wrigley Field," seriously contemplating shutting down Wrigley and playing at Comiskey for a year. His hope was that the neighborhood's loss of revenue would force the issue.
Various plans are floated involving the Cubs leaving Wrigley Field over the lights issue. Schaumburg (IL) investors were so convinced Wrigley WOULD actually move, they purchased land off I-355 to host a new ballpark. When Wrigley eventually stayed put, that land eventually became the site of Alexian Field and the Schaumburg Flyers.
Chicago Mayor Harold Washington proposes a compromise ordinance to the Chicago City Council allowing the Cubs to play a limited night schedule.
The compromise is approved by interim Mayor Eugene Sawyer (Washington had passed away).
AUGUST 8, 1988
The lights come on at Wrigley Field for the first time.
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