Has it really been twenty years? Can August 8, 1988 be that far in the proverbial rear view mirror? Has this really become, to quote a song I recently heard in its’ miserable entirety at Walgreens, “A Whole New World”?
Allow me to paint a picture for those of you too young to remember those halcyon days of 1988. The Saturday edition of the Chicago Sun-Times regularly contained more than thirty pages. Oprah had a last name. Steve Dahl was relevant. And on 8/8/88, Wrigley Field made a belated entrance into baseball’s controversial “lights era”, becoming the last professional stadium to allow night baseball.
Illuminating Wrigley Field took years of wrangling between the Wrigleyville neighborhood and the City Council. A typically contentious battle was fought when the Cubs threatened to move to the suburbs. Mayor Harold Washington, a proponent of lights (and the occasional beef sandwich) died. Alderman Dorothy Tillman purchased a sassy, new hat. Chaos ensued.
By early 1988, interim mayor Eugene Sawyer – the mayoral equivalent of former Cubs manager Frank Lucchesi – helped make lights a reality. Despite myriad roadblocks, the City Council reached a fair and balanced decision for all involved: Wrigleyville residents were told to shut their f-ing mouths and deal with it.
I won’t bore you with the details of how the first night game was rained out, how Al Nipper forever cemented his brief legacy as a Cub, or how I watched the game on a small TV at summer camp, then spent the rest of the night desperately trying to get to second base with my camp girlfriend. (I’m still trying.)
Instead, let’s consider a question that remains relevant long after the memories of Richard Marx and “Perfect Strangers” have receded: were lights at Wrigley good idea? A lot has happened in the last two decades to support the claim that it was. Indeed, each of what follows occurred only after lights were installed at Wrigley Field: The internet. Combo fajitas. Every episode of “The Jeffersons” on DVD. Hannah Montana and Miley Cyrus. Really tall Chinese people in the NBA. Doing other things while driving a car instead of just driving a car. You don’t recall any of these before 8/8/88, do you? Exactly.
The impact of Wrigley’s lights on politics is no exception. It’s historically unfathomable that before 8/8/88, the Supreme Court would have been progressive enough to appoint a mildly retarded guy as President. And it’s becoming increasingly clear that Americans wouldn’t be on the threshold of electing an African American in his 40’s, who’s middle name is Hussein, comes from mixed parents, and took campaign money from a convicted felon as our next President were it not for lights at Wrigley Field.
So on this most historic of anniversaries, take a moment to consider the significance of this day. Give your ComEd guy a hug. Leave your lights on all year long! And plan to celebrate again on 8/8/28, when we’ll no doubt be looking back on the end of global warming, the Cubs first (second, third, and fourth) World Series in 100 years, and the first election of one of the most successful, two term Presidents of all time, Barack Obama.
And be sure to tell your kids it’s all because of the lights at Wrigley Field.