Sunday, February 23, 2014

Chicago Cubs Install Lights

On Feb. 23, 1988, the city of Chicago gives the MLB team the Cubs the right to install lights and play up to 18 night games a season.

The Chicago Cubs were the last team in Major League Baseball to get lights installed to play night games.

Wrigley Field was a holdout against night games, not installing lights until 1988 after baseball officials refused to allow Wrigley to host any post-season games without lights. Before then, all games at Wrigley were played during the day. Night games are still limited in number by agreement with the city council.

In 1942, then-owner P.K. Wrigley had planned to install lights, but instead, the lights and stands were scrapped for the war effort. Though Wrigley was the last Major League ballpark to get its lights, the first night game was scheduled for August 8, 1988; a 91-year-old Harry Grossman flipped a switch and Wrigley Field joined the modern era in a game against the Philadelphia Phillies, but the game was rained out after three and a half innings.

A snapshot of Wrigley Field in Chicago after the lights had been installed in 1988.

The first official night game at Wrigley was held the following day, August 9. The All-American Girls Professional Baseball League's first All-Star Game during the 1943 midseason, was played under temporary lights at Wrigley Field, between two teams composed of South Bend Blue Sox and Rockford Peaches players versus Kenosha Comets and Racine Belles players. It was also the first night game ever played in the historic ballpark (July 1, 1943).

Currently the Cubs are one of only a few teams in baseball that do not have a video board as part of their in-game festivities.

Along with Fenway Park, Wrigley is one of the last parks to maintain a hand-turned scoreboard. Unlike the home of the Red Sox, the scoreboard at Wrigley is mounted above the center field bleachers, rather than at ground level, making it harder to hit during play. No players have hit the current scoreboard, although several have come close. The scoreboard was installed in 1937, when Bill Veeck installed the new bleachers. The scoreboard has remained in place ever since, and has only seen minor modifications. The clock was added in 1941, a fifth row of scores was added to each side in 1961 and later a sixth. A set of light stands facing onto the scoreboard was added in 1988 with the introduction of night games. An electronic message board was also added below the scoreboard.

The scoreboard is still manually operated, with scores coming in through a computer (a ticker tape machine was used in the past); a number turner watches the score changes closely, and updates scores by manually replacing the numbers from within the scoreboard. The scoreboard is made out of sheet steel. The numbers that are placed into the inning windows are steel, painted forest green, and numbered with white numerals. The box for the game playing at Wrigley uses yellow numerals for the current inning. The clock, which sits at the top center of the scoreboard, has never lost time in its 71-year existence. Standing over the clock are three flagpoles, one for each division in the National League. There are 16 flags, one for each National League team, and their order on the flagpoles reflects the current standings. The entrance to the scoreboard is a trap door on the bottom. On the reverse of the scoreboard, visible from the CTA elevated trains, is a blue pennant, with the words "Chicago Cubs", in white outlined in red neon. The scoreboard was extensively rehabilitated for the 2010 season.

In 2010, the Cubs toyed with the idea of adding a video screen to the stadium, but the presence of the hand-turned scoreboard (which cannot be moved due to the park's landmark status, which also prohibits even simple facelifts such as adding two more games on either side 15 teams (seven games on each, plus the one interleague game), respectively, in the leagues; the 12-game, 24-team scoreboard reflects MLB from 1969 to 1976, so up to three games (one NL, one AL, and the inter-league) each day cannot be posted) has hampered efforts to do so. Most Cubs players support the addition of a Jumbotron, but it is unknown whether the team will proceed with plans to add one.

Those games may eventually be part of the auxiliary video board currently on the right field that may also be added in left field also.

The Cubs have not won the World Series in 104 years, the longest championship drought of any major North American professional sports team, and are often referred to as the "Lovable Losers" because of this distinction. They are also known as "The North Siders" because Wrigley Field, their home park since 1916, is located in Chicago's north side Lake View community at 1060 West Addison Street (as opposed to their cross-town rivals, the Chicago White Sox, who play on the city's South Side).

The club played its first games in 1870 as the Chicago White Stockings. This makes the Cubs, along with the Braves who were founded in 1871, one of the two oldest active teams in major North American sports. There is an argument as to whom is actually older because although the Cubs are a full season "older" they lost two seasons to the Great Chicago Fire, thus the Braves have played more seasons.

The Cubs have won two World Series titles in 1907 and 1908. They have won 16 National League pennants, their last being in 1945. They have won two National League Central Division Titles in 2003, 2007 and 2008.

Before the rezoning of teams in the National League the Cubs had won two East Division Titles in 1984 and 1989.

The Cubs have also earned one Wild Card berth in 1998, since the inception of the Wild Card.