75 Years of Lights
by Steve Price
on May 25th, 2010.
We mentioned in yesterday's Crosley anniversary reminder that May 24, 1935 was a special day in Reds' history; it was the first game played under the lights in Major League history (and there were three rounds of fighting between Reds catcher Astyanax Douglass and Phillies pitcher Jimmy Ring.)
Yesterday, the 75th anniversary of that first night game, was a big enough deal that the Cincinnati Reds celebrated that event at last night's game against the Pirates.
So here's some bonus information from that first night game. Reds ace Paul Derringer went the distance in leading the Reds to a 2-1 victory over the Philadelphia Phillies. Derringer allowed six hits and walked no one in improving his record to 5-2. Derringer was outstanding in 1935, finishing the season 22-13 with a 3.51 ERA for a Reds team that finished 68-85 and sixth in the National League.
The Reds only managed four hits themselves off Phillies pitcher Joe Bowman with journeyman utility man Billy Sullivan supplying two of them. Scoring was completed early in the game, with Ival Goodman and Gilly Campbell supplying run scoring singles for the Reds to provide the margin of victory.
As we know here, and according to the book "Day by Day in Cincinnati Reds History" (by Floyd Conner and John Snyder), the 632 lights installed at Crosley Field were illuminated when President Franklin D. Roosevelt pressed a button in the White House at 8:30 p.m. Both teams were allowed 15 minutes to practice defense on the field so that the players could get used to the available light.
According to "Redleg Journal" (by Greg Rhodes and John Snyder), the National League allowed Reds owner Powel Crosley Jr. to play seven night games as a boost to attendance. The owners hoped the boost in attendance would jumpstart interest in Cincinnati and that once interest was rekindled, the Reds could stop the night-baseball-game gimmick. Reds' attendance in 1934 was only about 1/3 of the attendance the team had enjoyed as recently as 1926.
The Reds were a good team in the 1920s and the Reds' teams of the early 1930s posted two of the three worst records of any Reds teams in history. Once the Reds began winning again, the fans returned, which all ownership groups should recognize.
The night game was originally scheduled for the previous night but was rained out. Many at the time thought that divine intervention had prevented the game from being played, but the first Major League night game was merely delayed by one day.
The Phillies starting pitcher in that first night game was Joe Bowman. His last season came as a Red for the 1945 season when he went 11-13 and was then released after World War II ended.