This week, we’re celebrating the 25th anniversary of the first night game at Wrigley Field.
Cub lights make big splash
By: John Jeter; Maudlyne Ihejirika
The Cubs’ lights went up and God’s rains came down, but there was joy in Wrigleyville Monday as the first night game was struck out.
“We’ve been contemplating a rain dance,” said Charlotte Newfeld, president of Citizens United for Baseball in Sunshine (CUBS). “One of our members was doing a rain prayer.
“The rain was God” – then Newfeld used a word not fit to print – “on the lights.”
By the fourth inning, as the skies opened and the Cubs were literally sliding around the puddled infield tarp, the historic first night game was itself history.
But Newfeld and others who have fought against lights in Wrigley for years knew that Monday’s rain would’nt last through October and six more night games – one of them tonight.
“We think, because of the extra amount of police protection and all the resources poured on here, the eyes of the world were on here… What happens in the fifth and sixth (night) game when all the resources leave?”
In addition to some 200 policemen patrolling the area, the anti-lights group had 200 of its own on the lookout, checking out reports that guest parking spots were being sold, which is illegal, and that some parking permits were being photocopied. That’s illegal, too.
Charlie Holzner and his four German shepherds were ready for anything. “Ninety-five percent of the people are fine,” said Holzner, who has lived for 40 years at 3545 N. Sheffield, two doors from the park’s southeast corner. “The other 2 to 5 percent, whatever garbage comes out of their hands winds up on our lawn.”
The dogs, one of which has had experience in going after a fan who answered nature’s call in Holzner’s gangway, “figure they (the fans) are fair game,” Holzner said.
While Holzner’s hounds were champing at the bit, the City of Chicago was filling up a pound of a different sort.
The Streets and Sanitation Department had hauled 62 cars from the neighborhood to the southwest corner of Greenview and Belmont. There, illegal parkers would be asked for Visa, MasterCard or cash to the tune of $105 apiece to get their cars back.
By 10 p.m., when fans had poured out of the ballpark as the rain continued to pour in, police had made 13 arrests, 10 for disorderly conduct and three for ticket scalping. The latter carries fines of up to $100 and the others could be slapped with $25 to $100 citations, police said.
A bitter Don Rosen, 53, a resident of the 3700 block of North Fremont, prowled Addison two hours before game time with his home movie camera, filming Streets and Sanitation tow trucks taking away those non-permit cars.
Rosen, a CUBS member wearing the group’s distinctive yellow T-shirt, said he was documenting enforcement of the neighborhood parking ban.
Jeff Nichols, 31, whose apartment deck overlooks left field, was deluged by the curious who wanted a peek from his roof. His apartment was packed.
“They are all anti-lights, but we’re enjoying this evening,” he said. “I know, it’s an oxymoron.”
Under the lights, Nichols said, his first-floor apartment “takes on sort of a lunar glow inside, which is bad or good depending on what you’re doing.”
But he still fretted about the cleanup crews that would vacuum the stadium until perhaps 2 or 3 a.m.
“I guess I’ll wear stereo headphones to bed,” he said.
Jerry Christianson sat on her porch at 1117 W. Patterson looking pretty dejected. “They should have kept Wrigley a day park,” she said. “I’ve got to get up at 4:15 in the morning. A heck of a lot of sleep I’m going to get.”
But 80-year-old Josephine Vetrano, who has lived in the neighborhood since 1966, said, “To be honest, I think it’s wonderful. Live and let live, what the heck. I don’t have no problems. We don’t have no fights.”
Not yet, at least.
Newfeld, the anti-lights chieftain, said the group plans to keep up the pressure.
“We didn’t see fans leave in the normal way,” she said. “The biggest problem with a baseball game is fans leaving all at once, and that didn’t happen tonight.”
For that, Tim Bernero, of 3725 N. Waveland, said he was grateful.
“It hasn’t been that bad, but I know the police are not going to be here forever,” he said.
Tonight, the Cubs meet the New York Mets and the neighbors go into the second inning of night baseball.
“Come back in a little while when it’s not a novelty anymore,” said Hank Hartzell, as he sat on an Addison Street stoop with resident John Crowe. “And the neighbors will start getting tired of it.”
Tom Brune, Don Hayner and Neil Steinberg contributed to this story.