Lou Gehrig on night baseball

The job I have right now - for the next couple of weeks, at least - sometimes inspires me to delve into information about Lou Gehrig.  (It's Gehrig, not Gherig, by the way.)

Many months ago, I came across a fun interview that Lou did with a guy named Dwight Merriam, of KROC.  They talked about all kinds of basebally subjects, but this one comment on night baseball games struck me as odd in a funny kind of way. There was a shift in the days of the Great Depression from baseball games being played in the daytime to being played at night, made possible by electricity and made necessary by dwindling spectatorship.  Playing at night meant that folks who worked during the day could come to the evening games, and ticket sales were (as always) important.  The first night baseball game was played in 1935, but it didn't really take off until after the war.  The Chicaco Cubs were the lone daytime holdout for decades, and they didn't install lights at Wrigley until 1988.

While fans seemed to take to night baseball pretty quickly, a lot of the people IN baseball didn't like the change.  As a self-professed analog person in a digital world, I totally 'get' an innate resistance to change brought on by technology, and some of the major arguments from 80 years ago are tinged with quaint antique notions.  For example, one major worry was that players would have a hard time shifting betweein lighting conditions and that there would be more injuries during night games (per this site).

Want to know what Lou Gehrig thought?  Read this excerpt from that 1939 interview, and keep in mind that Gehrig and the Yankees lost their first night game, in Philadelphia, prior to this interview.  (Note: I've put my favorite comment in bold.)

Dwight Merriam, KROC: Lou, what's your opinion of night baseball?

Lou Gehrig: Well, night baseball is strictly a show and is strictly advantageous to the owners' pocketbook. But as far as being a true exhibition of baseball, well, I don't think I can say it is, and it's very difficult on the ballplayers themselves. Of course, we realize that the men who work in the daytime like to get out at night and really see a spectacle, and we do all in our power to give them their money's worth. But after all, it's not really baseball. Real baseball should be played in the daytime, in the sunshine.

 I love baseball.  I don't really 'follow' it, I don't know many players and I can only tell you the Phillies won the world series last year because one of my best friends is a hardcore fan.  It was a long time before I'd return to a stadium or even watch a game after the big players strick in the 90s.  But I sure do love going to stadiums, especially major league stadiums, and it doesn't take much for me to get caught up in the traditions of our national pastime.

1 comment:

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