Wrigley Field illuminated night lights 30 years ago today

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Let's take a look back at a seriously momentous day, one that's changed the face of what was once East Lakeview into Wrigleyville forever. Thirty years ago today, lights made their debut at the friendly confines.

It was electric. On August 8, 1988, the Cubs played their first home baseball game after the sun set as six light towers roared to life and with them the crowd.

"Before I let the ball go, there must have been 40,000 flash cubes go off," said starting pitcher Rick Sutcliffe, a.k.a. "the Red Barron," as he recounted the pivotal first pitch. "And you know I've had people screaming and yelling and hollering and none of that has ever affected me. I had no idea where that first pitch went. I knew I was going to throw a fastball, I knew I was going to try and throw a strike with it, and all of a sudden, poof, everything disappeared. About the time my eyes cleared up was the time I turned and watched the ball sail out of the stadium."

Not the best opening salvo, but it's a game Congressman Mike Quigley remembers vividly.

"To me it was a disappointment from a nostalgic point of view," Quigley said.

At the time, he was vehemently opposed to night games as part of Citizens United for Baseball in Sunshine - or CUBS.

"It's not always progress when you move forward from a neighborhood like Lakeview was to today," he said.

Anti-night game advocates said in such a compact neighborhood, night games would change the dynamic.

Look anywhere in Wrigleyville, and you'll see that they have.

Not one block is the same as it was 30 years ago, but, "probably within a block area here, you're seeing a billion dollars' worth of development. I appreciate that," Quigley said pointing to the area just outsider of Wrigley Field. "All I'm saying is we lost a little something special."

That's exactly what the neighborhood feared at the time.

"This is the saddest day in the history of this city," one resident said at the time. "You will never see another one like it. Tradition is dead."

But the man, the myth, the legend, Harry Caray, dropped some real talk that night.

"Fifty three years of other people playing night baseball hasn't ruined the game any, so why should this?" he asked.

East Lakeview just wasn't used to seeing hundreds of police controlling crowds and city tow trucks taking cars left and right. But lights had been in the works at Wrigley decades before. Philip K. Wrigley had the materials by the 1940s to put up electric lights in the ballpark, but as World War II broke out, all of that precious metal and material was used in the war effort.

And on 8/8/88, answering the hottest question in Chicago baseball - "Should Wrigley have night games? - Quigley said the big guy upstairs may have offered his opinion in the form of a rainout.

"Many of us felt that God was wreaking havoc on the notion of what they were trying to do here," he said.

It was the end of a tradition, but the beginning of what is one of the biggest draws to Chicago, a state-of-the-art Wrigleyville.
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