These days it’s the norm, but 85 years ago, there had never been a night game in either the American or National League. Advancements in lighting technology had made it possible, though, and during the winter meetings, the NL voted to allow it in time for the 1935 season. Only one team took advantage of the new concept.
The Cincinnati Reds scheduled the first night game in big league history for May 24, 1935. The equally woeful Philadelphia Phillies would provide the opposition.
President Franklin Roosevelt threw a ceremonial switch at the White House and the lights came on at Crosley Field. An image taken just minutes later of that historic night is today’s RMY Auctions Photo of the Day. The one-of-a-kind NEA photo originated in the files of a newspaper where it sat for decades. It shows Lou Chiozza of the Phillies hustling out of the batter’s box after connecting against Reds starter Paul Derringer while Reds catcher Gilly Campbell looks on. A photo editor’s notation describing the moment is written on the back in pencil. Chiozza was the Phils’ leadoff batter that night, so it’s possible the photo captures the first at-bat of the first night game in major league history.
Night baseball in Cincinnati was the brainchild of Reds general manager Larry MacPhail and while the idea was approved league-wide, support was not exactly overwhelming. Teams voted to limit teams from scheduling night games to just seven per year. In fact, it would be three more seasons before another team scheduled a night game.
MacPhail and Reds owner Powel Crosley were proud of putting night baseball on the map, but according to the next day’s Cincinnati Enquirer, “Both of these officials believe, and do not hesitate to say, that the game is better when played in sunlight and they do not favor increasing the number of night games above the current limit of seven.”
A crowd of 20,422 were in attendance that night. The Reds won the game, 2-1.
The 6 ¾” x 8 ¾” image is among several hundred vintage photographs up for auction through this Saturday.