From the Archives: A timeline of the fight for lights at Wrigley

SHARE From the Archives: A timeline of the fight for lights at Wrigley

This week, we’re celebrating the 25th anniversary of the first night game at Wrigley Field. Below are two pairs of stories from our archives during the lead-up to that historic event.

Day-by-day account of night lights battle

By: Bill Braden, August 8, 1988

In the beginning: God creates day and night, setting the stage for night baseball.

June 16, 1981: Tribune Co. acquires the Chicago Cubs, setting the stage for night baseball at Wrigley Field.

Sept. 1, 1981: Tribune Co. says there are no plans “at this time” to install lights at Wrigley.

Dec. 13, 1981: The Chicago Sun-Times discloses the Cubs have taken the first step toward lights, ordering a feasibility study. A source reports general manager Dallas Green is convinced lights are a necessity and Green “is prepared to weather the storm of negative response.”

Aug. 23, 1982: Gov. Thompson signs legislation passed by the Illinois General Assembly that imposes noise pollution standards on any pro sport played in a city with more than 1 million inhabitants in a facility in which night sports were not played before July 1, 1982. The only such facility in Illinois is Wrigley Field.

Sept. 27, 1983: The Chicago City Council enacts an ordinance that bars night athletic contests in any playing field that is not totally enclosed, has more than 15,000 seats and is within 500 feet of 100 dwelling units. The only such field in Chicago is Wrigley.

Oct. 2, 1984: Having won their division, the Cubs open the National League playoffs against the San Diego Padres in the first of two home day games at Wrigley Field. They win both games, then fly to San Diego – where they lose three games and the playoffs. If they had had lights, they could have played three home games instead of two.

Dec. 18, 1984: Baseball Commissioner Peter Ueberroth tells the Cubs to install lights or face the threat of having home playoff games played elsewhere if they make the playoffs or World Series.

Dec. 19, 1984: The Cubs file suit asking the Cook County Circuit Court to enjoin the City of Chicago and Gov. Thompson from enforcing the city and state laws that ban night baseball at Wrigley.

March 25, 1985: Circuit Judge Richard L. Curry rejects the Cubs suit in a whimsical 64-page opinion that scolds the team’s management for placing their business interests above community interest. Curry says the previous ownership had “worked relentlessly to shape public opinion and to inculcate unwavering support among their fans in favor of the `no lights’ theory of baseball.” He says one “Homer in the Gloamin’ ” is worth a hundred hit into the blackness of night, and “future generations should not be deprived of seeing the shadows creep across the infield.” He says lights would trash a residential community to enrich sports moguls and would be “repugnant to common decency.” The Cubs appeal the ruling.

April 11, 1985: The Illinois Supreme Court announces it will hear the Cubs’ appeal.

May 30, 1985: Baseball commissioner Peter V. Ueberroth announces that all 1985 World Series games must be played at night to satisfy network television commitments.

May 31, 1985: Cubs attorney Don H. Reuben asks the Illinois Supreme Court to toss out the lights ban.

June 7, 1985: The Sun-Times discloses Tribune Co. has launched a lobbying campaign in the Legislature to repeal the anti-lights law.

June 20, 1985: Both the Illinois Senate and House reject proposals to repeal the laws against Wrigley lights.

June 26, 1985: A Tribune Co. lobbyist, Lawrence Gunnels, warns the Cubs are “seriously considering” abandoning Wrigley Field for a suburban home if the Legislature won’t permit night games. “To stay, we have to be able to play,” he says. “It’s as simple as that. Anything else is unacceptable.”

June 27, 1985: Mayor Harold Washington says he will guard Chicago’s border “like Horatio at the bridge” to prevent the Cubs from moving to the suburbs.

June 30, 1985: The House refuses to allow limited night baseball at Wrigley after the Senate also rejects limited play.

Oct. 3, 1985: The Illinois Supreme Court, without dissent, upholds state and city laws prohibiting Wrigley lights. “Simply, the Cubs have failed to meet the burden of showing the unconstitutionality of the legislative actions,” writes Justice Daniel C. Ward. “One more nail in the coffin,” says general manager Dallas Green. “When we keep getting banged around by the courts, the Legislature and the neighborhoods, we have to look at alternatives.”

May 9, 1986: The National League announces if the Cubs win their division, they must play their home playoff games at Busch Stadium in St. Louis. The situation does not arise.

March 23, 1987: Cubs executive Don Grenesko tells an Illinois Senate committee the Cubs are willing to make a long-term agreement to limit night games to post-season play and to 18 regular season games.

June 29, 1987: After an earlier 106-0 vote in the House, the Illinois Senate votes 55-1 to exempt playoff and World Series games from the state’s noise pollution law. Cubs officials say it would not be economically feasible to install lights only for postseason games, and they oppose temporary lights as unsuitable for major league play. Gov. Thompson signs the measure Sept. 24.

July 2, 1987: Mayor Washington says the proposed 18-game limit on regular season night baseball at Wrigley seems “a reasonable adjustment.” The mayor had set up a task force to work out a compromise between the Cubs and Wrigleyville residents.

Oct. 16, 1987: A city-sponsored survey indicates a majority of Wrigleyville residents and 83 percent of all Chicagoans favor Wrigley lights if regular season night play is limited to 18 games.

Nov. 13, 1987: Mayor Washington endorses installation of lights with an 18-game regular season limit on night baseball. He says he will ask the City Council to repeal the city ordinance banning night games at Wrigley. A Sun-Times survey of aldermen indicates more than enough votes to win passage.

Nov. 25, 1987: Mayor Washington dies unexpectedly of a heart attack.

Dec. 3, 1987: Newly installed Mayor Sawyer endorses limited night baseball at Wrigley. But hearings on the 18-night game proposal bog down in the Council.

Jan. 25, 1988: Cubs officials again threaten a move to “another municipality.”

Feb. 10, 1988: A Chicago Tribune editorial lashes out at political “boneheads” and “political bums” who are blocking installation of Wrigley lights. The editorial accuses politicians of trying to use the lights issue to soften Tribune criticism of them. And it says some old Washington supporters who were for lights are now against them because they don’t want to make Mayor Sawyer look good. The editorial concludes: “If the Tribune editorial board had any say in Cub policy,

the team would long since have had enough of political rebuffs and runarounds, and be ready to move into a new Wrigley Field replica in the suburbs. And the opponents of lights would be trying to figure out whether to pave over the hole in the ground left at Clark and Addison.” Angry aldermen accuse the Tribune of “putting a gun to their heads” and threaten to kill the lights proposal.

Feb. 25, 1988: Aldermen vote 29-19 to approve a 14-year agreement that will let the Cubs install lights and play eight night games in 1988 and 18 starting in 1989.

Feb. 26, 1988: Officials say the Cubs have agreed to sign a contract promising to stay at Wrigley Field until 2002, with an escape clause in case the precinct that includes the field is voted dry.

March 15, 1988: Wrigleyville residents, in an advisory referendum, vote 3-1 against night baseball.

April 7, 1988: With the help of a helicopter, workers attach steel girders that will hold lights on the roof of Wrigley Field.

April 29, 1988: The Sun-Times discloses the Cubs have hired former Illinois House Majority Leader Gerald W. Shea to lobby for an exemption in the state law that permits neighborhood residents to vote dry their local precincts. Such a vote could ban beer sales at Wrigley.

July 7, 1988: Wrigley lights are turned on for the first time at 9:10 p.m.

July 25, 1988: Wrigley lights illuminate a dress rehearsal team practice attended by 3,000 spectators who each paid $100 to charity. Andre Dawson hits the first homer under the lights – a drive into the left field bleachers off coach Larry Cox. The ball will be sent to the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y.

Aug. 8, 1988: The Cubs play their first Wrigley Field night game, against the Philadelphia Phillies.

Oct. 17, 2045: Wrigley Field hosts its first night World Series game. The St. Petersburg Yankees take the opener and go on to sweep the next three. Cubs fans declare: “Wait’ll the next millenium!”


Mike Schmidt didn’t like being “a guinea pig”

Bill Murray, Harry Caray, and the first night homer (that didn’t count)

Prepping for the big night with more cops, TVs in Grant Park

Rick Telander on how the fight for lights prepped the Cubs for what’s to come

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