Eighty-two years ago the first major league baseball game was played under the lights, adding a new dimension to the game of Summer, and making it more accessible to most people who work for a living during the day. The first baseball game under artificial illumination was played in 1880, the year after Thomas Edison invented the light bulb. However the major league teams did not embrace this innovation for over a half century. Economic need, as usual, was the driver involved in making night major league ball a reality. Almost all ball teams struggled during the Great Depression and attendance at games was a matter of life or death for the teams. Some minor league teams and teams of the Negro League had been playing ball under the lights since 1930.
Leland “Larry” MacPhail and Powel Crosley, the general manager and the owner of the Cincinnati Reds, noticed that minor league teams were drawing big crowds playing night games. The Reds were averaging 2000-3000 fans a game, their loyal followers being simply unable to miss a precious day of work during the hard times in the middle of the Depression. They took the bold stance of putting in lights at Crosley Field, hang the expense despite the precarious financial condition of the Reds. The first night game was set for May 24, 1935 against the Philadelphia Phillies. The Reds won two-one and 20,000 fans witnessed it, as 632 flood lights illumined the field. Night ball was here to stay.