Wrigley 100 August 8: 8/8/88

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first night game at Wrigley

Andre Dawson: The first night game was something everyone was looking forward to, especially to be a part of history. We had the rain on the first night and had Sutcliffe going for us. I was excited to be a part of it. The park was a little bit dark to me at the outset and it took some getting used to. The lights were only so high and in the outfield, I didn’t feel you found the brightness you had at the other ballparks. Around home plate it was fine. A lot of hype surrounded that game and I enjoyed it for a short time, but from there, you started to add night games here and there over the years.

Rick Sutcliffe: It was by far the biggest event I was ever involved in. I pitched a lot of Opening Days. There was always going to be another Opening Day. We didn’t think there was ever going to be another Opening Night.

John McDonough (Cubs marketing head): The first night game at Wrigley Field was the single biggest event I have ever attended, that I ever felt. I’ve been to six or seven Super Bowls and I’ve been to the World Series, but there’s really only one first night game. All of the details about getting Harry Grossman to hit that button and getting Jack Brickhouse involved in the ceremonies and the 40,000 caps that people received, hearing the Phil Collins music when people came in “Tonight, Tonight”. It had the feeling almost of you were walking into a heavyweight fight, that you’re going to see something tonight that you’ve never seen before. For me, it was the most memorable night in my years with the Chicago Cubs.

Ryne Sandberg: I thought it was a happening event and a happening night as if everybody, like all baseball fans wanted to be there. I did the pregame interviews and even in the pregame, there was a buzz that was going on like a playoff game.

Greg Maddux: You know, the first night game was very special. It got rained out and we slid on the tarp and all that, but just seeing Wrigley at night for the first time was very special. You know I spent a couple years there and never had to worry about a night game, and to finally get one it was pretty special.

 The WGN announcers (except of course, Harry Caray) were clad in tuxedoes to mark the occasion, not the most comfortable attire for the hot, humid evening. 

Steve Stone: I’ve had cooler nights. The good thing was as hot as it was, the humidity was in the 90% range.

Harry Grossman

91-year-old Cub fan Harry Grossman was chosen to turn on the lights and with Jack Brickhouse at his side, he asked the crowd to say these words: “Let there be lights!” At 6:06pm, Grossman pushed down the ceremonial red button and seconds later, the newly-installed fixtures came to life.

Rick Sutcliffe (starting pitcher): That was by far that was the biggest event I was ever involved in. Everybody from Bill Murray to Mark Harmon to Brooks & Dunn to Alabama, all my buddies, everybody wanted tickets to that game.

 Once he got to the mound, Sutcliffe wished he had borrowed a pair of sunglasses from his celebrity pals in order to survive the barrage of flashbulbs that accompanied the first pitch. 

Sutcliffe 1st pitch

Rick Sutcliffe: As I’m warming up in the bullpen, I’m thinking fine, everybody’s got their tickets, I’m in. I go out on the mound and I’ll never forget the Hall of Fame said “hey whatever you do, don’t let them put the first ball in play.” So I was told to just miss the outside corner, they wanted to take the ball to the Hall of Fame. So I try do that, but as I turn to go to home, I thought the stadium exploded. I went “what in the world was that?” Nobody had ever taken pictures of me not like that. Everybody in the ballpark took a picture. I was kind of blinded, I was blurred and I went, “c’mon, you’ve pitched in big games before. What’s the problem with this one?’ I mean, the next thing you know, I’m trying to settle down and figure out what just happened.  It was special, I’m sure it was a great night for the people at Kodak. I’m sure they sold a lot of film that night.

Two pitches later, Sut found himself on the short end of a 1-0 deficit after Phil Bradley launched his offering onto Waveland Avenue.

Bill Murray in background of the WGN-TV booth as Bradley rounded the bases: “TURN OFF THOSE DAMNED LIGHTS!”

Bill Murray Harry Caray

In the bottom half of the inning, the spotlight turned to Sandberg, who got a lot more than he bargained for in his first trip to the plate under the Wrigley lights.  

Ryne Sandberg: My first at-bat, I’ll never forget, because you know I was excited, it was a big moment and the first guy got on base. Then on the PA, “now to bat, Ryne Sandberg”.  There was a huge roar all of a sudden and I was thinking “wow, this is kind of cool.” And I looked up and Morganna the Kissing Bandit is running toward me from right field. She’s the lady that went around and kissed Pete Rose when he got his big hit, Nolan Ryan with no-hitters, and George Brett when he was trying to hit .400. So now she chose the first night game and I was on her list at that time. I looked up and here she is, running at me. As it happened, the crowd was going nuts and she was running so slowly that by the time she got to first base, security took her off and everybody booed. And there I am trying to get my first at-bat under my belt under the lights. I actually hit the second pitch for the first (Cub) home run under the lights so that was a big thrill.


Mark Grace: Morganna the Kissing Bandit came out and and tried to kiss Ryno in the first inning. I was on deck and I was jealous because I wanted her to come and kiss me.

This being the Cubs, Mother Nature was not about to let 74 years of uninterrupted baseball under the sunshine go without a fight. In the fourth inning as lightning flashed all around the park, the skies opened with a cataclysmic fury that exceeded even the wildest dreams of the anti-lights faction, while chasing spectators under the stands. 

Jim Frey – Cubs General Manager: I thought the ballpark was going to blow down. I thought we could lose the lights, everything. Within two hours I went from a high to feeling as bad as I could possibly feel. When we lost that night, it was a terrible storm. It turned out to be a terrible evening. I didn’t like that at all.

Jody Davis: It was torrential. I mean I remember the first time I dove on the tarp into second base I went under water. That’s how much water was actually on the tarp.

 As the rain delay progressed, the spotlight moved back onto the field when four Cubs decided to entertain the fans with some good old- fashioned belly slides on the tarp. Greg Maddux blamed his veteran catcher for starting things. 

Maddux slide on tarp

Greg Maddux: Jody Davis started talking about, “let’s go slide on the tarp”. I was young, I bit. I went out there and I remember sliding on the tarp. It was Jody, Al Nipper, Les Lancaster, and you know that was what I remember about the first night game.”

Jim Frey: If I was a young player, I’d have done the same thing.

 The downpour continued throughout the night and the game was finally called at 10:25p after a two-hour and ten minute delay. The next night, the Cubs beat the New York Mets 6-4 in the first official night game, but 8/8/88 will forever be known as “The First Night Game” in Cub history.

Mark Grace: When we had the first night game in ’88, it rained. It rained and wouldn’t you know it, of course, because God didn’t want lights at Wrigley Field. And then the rains came and it was washed away so we did it again the next night against the New York Mets and we ended up winning that game. Mike Bielecki pitched for us and Sid Fernandez pitched for the New York Mets and I ended up getting the first base hit in that game. It was awfully cool. That ball is in the Hall of Fame. It should be in my house, but it’s not. No, it’s in the Hall of Fame and that’s where it should be.

-Bob Vorwald



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