The Chicago Cubs didn’t play night games at home until August 8, 1988. Thirty years ago Wrigley Field finally turned on the lights. It was the last Major League Baseball park to have night games. The game was entertaining. The broadcast is one of the reasons I’m a lifelong Cubs fan.
Harry Caray was the color analyst and Steve Stone was the play-by-play man. They were and remain my favorite television duo of all time. They were also excellent interviewers.
The first night game at Wrigley featured a guest in the broadcast booth, Bill Murray. In the first minute Murray’s on air, he accepts and drinks a beer from Harry Caray, says night baseball is for the minor leagues, alludes that his mom is an alcoholic, claims he can’t sell records, says he’ll broadcast baseball once he loses his mind and plugs his upcoming film Scrooged. Here’s my favorite piece of dialogue.
Harry Caray: What’s happening in your career, anything new?
Bill Murray: Well I made a movie called Scrooged, that’s going to come out…
Harry Caray: I bet you you gotta be Scrooged!
Bill Murray: Yes, that’s right.
Harry Caray: I would imagine that’s hilariously funny.
Bill Murray: You have a vivid imagination, Harry. You really do. It better be funny. There’s going to be big trouble for me if it’s not.
Then Harry Caray calls Murray, “a priceless guy,” and throws to commercial. This two minute segment is everything great about local broadcasting.
The next segment begins with WGN sports reporter Dan Roan in a tuxedo talking to shirtless men in the bleachers. The mic cuts out after ten seconds.
The backup segment is WGN news reporter Bob Jordan in a tuxedo at Harray Caray’s restaurant. It’s cut short.
The game finally begins. Caray is rushing to name all the Cubs players on the field. Murray is still in the booth and his mic isn’t working. Caray keeps asking about the flickering lights. Broadcaster Steve Stone has to inform Caray those flickering lights are people taking photos. Then Philadelphia Philly Phil Bradley hits a home run. The first at bat at night at Wrigley Field was a home run by a Philadelphia Philly. Bill Murray, off mic, is heard yelling, “Turn ’em off!”
In the bottom half of the first inning a woman, Morganna ‘The Kissing Bandit,’ storms the field. The bottom half of the inning also features a severe thunderstorm warning scroll on the bottom of the screen. Ryne Sandberg hits a 2-run home run. At this point, this game is more entertaining than anything you’ll see in 2018. It doesn’t last.
The first official night game at Wrigley Field was supposed to be 8-8-88. But it rained. The game was delayed in the middle of the fourth. So the first official night game at Wrigley Field was 8-9-88. Not as catchy a number. But it doesn’t matter. I will always remember 8-8-88 thanks to my 8-8-88 commemorative pennant, 8-8-88 commemorative t-shirt, Bill Murray, a chat about Raffi in the bottom of the third inning and YouTube.
Baseball has never been better. Current baseball announcing is also pretty great. The Cubs are lucky to have Len Kasper at play-by-play. Hell, since the Cubs won the 2016 World Series I’ve become a Joe Buck fan. But there’s something missing from today’s broadcasts that would appeal to baseball fans and non-baseball fans alike: a charming old drunk that talked about anything and everything that popped in his head with Bill Murray.