Today marks a quarter century since the Chicago Cubs finally turned on the lights at Wrigley Field. The Cubs were poised to install lights following the 1941 season, but then the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor and all of the materials were donated to the war effort. So, Cubs games were a daytime affair for almost a half century beyond that.
As a kid who grew up on day games only, I initially had an adjustment period. Lights at Wrigley Field looked wrong to me somehow, all lit up like that. But I adjusted in time, and now night games are a fact of life for games played on Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. Day games are the rule for Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays, unless the game is televised.
To commemorate this event, I made a list of some of my favorite events under the lights at Wrigley Field. This is based on my experiences only, so things like the 1990 All-Star game, and that unfortunate game 10 years ago when, well, you probably know what happened, are left off the list. These are moments that I was a part of. With that said, let’s start the list …
#5: 2013: Pearl Jam plays (until) two
The rains came about seven songs into the show. I wrote about it on my blog, but basically the band left the stage, and the fans took cover as a storm system blew in from the west. We rode the storm out, and lots of beer was sold in the meantime. The band tweeted their intention to play a full show, so nobody left. Cubs fans don’t walk away like that. When they returned to the stage around midnight, Eddie Vedder played “Go all the Way” and brought Ernie Banks onto the stage. It was a moment that nobody in attendance will ever forget. And then the band rocked on for another two hours after that. I still can’t believe I was a part of it.
#4: 2012: The Boss pays tribute to Ron Santo
I was fortunate enough to get tickets for the first of Bruce Springsteen’s two concerts under the lights at Wrigley Field in 2012. Eddie Vedder was a surprise guest at both shows, and I’m sure that set the wheels in motion for the Pearl Jam show at Wrigley. The show started late because Bruce and his band were caught in Wrigley’s horrific traffic, but he rewarded our patience by playing until almost midnight. And during the song “My City of Ruins” he paid tribute to the late Ron Santo. I spotted this hidden tribute and wrote about it. The story appeared online the next day, and as a result it wasn’t hidden when it happened again the following night. I felt that I played a role in bringing some attention to it, and I’ll probably be telling that story for as long as I can speak or write.
#3: 2001: The Cubs are patriotic to a fault
I was at the first night game after the 9/11 attacks. In those days, any expression of patriotism was appropriate, and the Cubs took it to the extreme when they paused their game against the Houston Astros at 9:11 PM and asked the crowd for a moment of silence. We all complied, and thought about the events of that day and our love for America and everything else, but when the PA announcer said “thank you” it was time to get back to baseball. So, when Kevin Tapani — who had apparently been as reverential as the rest of us were — delivered his first pitch to Vinny Castilla, it was crushed into the night. Apparently no one had considered that possibility. I don’t know if the reverent paused was ever tried again, but let’s say it didn’t end up well that night.
#2: 2012: The Wave is broken
The wave doesn’t happen too much at Wrigley Field. It goes back to the 1984 playoffs, and all of the Padres fans who kept doing it over and over again. The wave has all kinds of negative associations in Chicago, and a Cubs fan wouldn’t think to desecrate Wrigley like that. So, when an attempt at starting a wave began during the late stages of an otherwise unremarkable game at the end of the season, I felt duty bound to put a stop to it. No, I didn’t punch the guy out, but I did yell and make my displeasure known. He sat down after a number of failed attempts, and I felt like I had honored a Cubs non-tradition.
#1: 1998: Cubs win a one-game playoff
I once lived in a high-rise building with a view of Wrigley Field. It was always clear when a big game was going on, because blimps and other flying machines would circle over Wrigley for hours on end. And the blimp was there on that night, as well. In fact, the stars were out in force, as Scottie Pippen threw out the first pitch and Bill Murray sang the seventh-inning stretch with more passion than I have ever seen, before or since. The game was a barn-burner, with Steve Trachsel taking a no-hitter into the late stages of the game, Gary Gaetti hitting a fly ball that turned into a home run, and a series of pitchers — capped off by the late Rod Beck — getting it done in the ninth. There was jubilation after the game, but the Cubs were promptly swept by Atlanta in the first round of the actual playoffs. But it was a great night all the same.
Here’s looking forward to 25 more years of memories under the lights at Wrigley Field!