28 years ago today the Chicago Cubs joined, or attempted to, the modern era.
When Rick Sutcliffe threw out the first pitch that night the last vestiges of day baseball as the rule ended. It took a long time after the team’s first attempt at playing night baseball.
Of course, as we all know, the game was rained out after three innings of play. An omen, perhaps?
Few know that after the attack on Pearl Harbor owner Philip K Wrigley, who had bought the raw materials for a lighting system and had them stored under the bleachers donated them to the war effort.
The Cubs were going to have lights, although not in the traditional sense. The plan was to have early evening, or ‘twilight’ games. As usual for the Cubs back then, they didn’t want to spend the money. When Wrigley was told of the cost for a fancy lighting system, including ‘telescoping’ light standards, was $70,000 he blanched and passed on it.
So they came up with this half assed attempt, which the war effort fortunately tabled. The postwar era, which brought the advent of television coverage made the Cubs what they currently are. 81 home games, all televised, and all during the day gave generations of Cub fans something to watch after school.
You could always catch the last couple of innings and then go outside and play fast pitch or whiffle ball, adopting the stances of the players of the time, be it Ernie Banks with his bat wiggle, or Willie Stargell with his three pump warmup, or even Phil Regan’s funky delivery.
Dick Tidrow catapulting himself off the mound with his violent sidearm action. Boog Powell and Frank Howard’s uppercut. Pete Rose’s slashing style. All of this the lasting legacies of life before computer consoles and Pokemon Go.
The legacy of Day Baseball. Which came to an end 28 years ago today. Perhaps things are better; you can now watch games all day depending on your time zone and access to MLB’s package on cable.
But the raw innocence of that time had far more in common with Tom Sawyer than it did with chasing electronic gremlins with your cell phone…