How Baseball Made Its Transition From Daylight Pastime to Nighttime Fun

May 26, 2017

The brightest idea in major league baseball first occurred in the minors.

This was back in the great depression when baseball fans didn’t have a ton of discretionary income to spend to see games and often had to work through the afternoon when games were played.  Minor league attendance tanked.

So, faced with extinction, the minors made a big investment: They outfitted their parks with electric lights and played games at night.  The concept was, pun intended, a hit.  The first night games brought in up to 20 times more fans than the average day game, though one catcher did complain shadows from the lights made it look like the pitcher was throwing half a ball.

Five years and some technical improvements later, a major league team took a swing. On May twenty-fourth, nineteen thirty-five, the lights went on at the Cincinnati Reds’ Crosley Field for the majors’ first-ever night game, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt threw the switch.

The Reds beat the Philadelphia Phillies that night and then launched into a dismal losing season, finishing thirty-one games out of first place. Even so, thanks to their spiffy electrified field, they more than doubled their ticket sales. Soon, major league ballparks across America took the hint and started lighting up.

Except, of course, for Wrigley Field – home of the Chicago Cubs. For decades, folks in the neighborhood battled the team’s plans to illuminate the park, only grudgingly acquiescing in nineteen eighty-eight. The Cubs are still the only major league team to play most of their games in daylight.

The Kitty Burke

Mixed up by Molly Wellmann, mixologist and owner of Japp’s Since 1879 in Cincinnati, Ohio. Find out more about the drink’s namesake (and her hilarious run-in with the Cincinnati Reds) in the audio above.

Ingredients:

  • Cucumber
  • 2 bar spoons of triple sec
  • Couple dashes of orange blossom water
  • 1 ½ ounces Beefeater gin
  • Club soda
  • Fresh mint

Instructions:

Muddle cucumber in a mixing glass. Add triple sec, orange blossom water, a few mint leaves, and gin. Shake it and strain it into an old fashioned glass. Top it off with soda and garnish with a fresh sprig of mint.