The first night baseball game

The novel sight of a game of baseball in the evening was recently witnessed at Nantasket Beach, Mass., it being the first public experiment in illustration of a new system of illuminating towns by electricity. An idea of the effect produced by the illumination may be best conceived by stating the fact that a flood of mellow light thrown upon the field enabled the ballplayers, between eight and half-past nine o’clock, to complete a game of nine innings. The contestants were amateurs, and the game ended in a tie. It cannot be said that baseball is likely at present to be played extensively at night, for the players had to bat and throw with some caution, and the errors due to an imperfect light were innumerable. Fly-balls, descending nearly perpendicular could be caught easily, but when batted a long distance it was easier and safer to get the ball by chasing it after it struck the ground. To the spectators the game proved of little interest, since in general only the players’ movements could be discerned, while the court of the ball eluded their sight. Source:  New York Clipper October 2, 1880

This was a PR stunt by the electric company.  I enjoy the irony that the first night game ended in a tie.  The Clipper was that electric lighting wasn’t ready for the Show.  Minor league clubs would gradually adopt lights in the early 20th century, in response to financial pressures to increase attendance.

The majors resisted, partly because lighting still wasn’t very good, partly because they could attract relatively large crowds even with day games, and partly because the earlier adoption by the minors gave the technology a bush league feel.  Then the Depression came along, changing the middle part of that calculus.  The first major league night game was in 1935, and by 1950 or so nearly all major league parks had lights.  (Insert joke here about it being all of them, if we don’t count the Cubs as being major league.)

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2 thoughts on “The first night baseball game

  1. The owners of the Cubs resisted day games so much that minority shareholders sued to institute night games. The Wrigleys won. The defendant’s famously said “Baseball is a day game”

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