Baltimore Orioles: Lights, camera, ACTION!
Like with most teams the Baltimore Orioles play most of their Monday – Saturday (home) games in the evening, with Sunday games being in the early afternoon. Again, that’s how most teams operate, with a few exceptions – the Cubs for instance. Over time I suppose they’ve started hosting more and more home games in the evening, however a great many are still in the afternoon. I would presume that the Cubs have probably done studies to ensure that they aren’t leaving money on the table in the way of attendance and TV revenue by not hosting prime time games (during the week that is). But while Wrigley Field is one of sports’ oldest venues and is thus a flashback to another era as it is, so are afternoon games themselves.
Wrigley Field was the final park to get lights in baseball, and that wasn’t until 1988. However we shouldn’t forget that afternoon games were once “the way” in MLB. Granted the first night game actually occurred in 1935 between the Reds and Phillies, they didn’t become commonplace league-wide until decades later. So let’s re-shape history in a sense while we’re at it. What would have happened had night games not become the status quo in baseball?
It’s easy to say that not much would have changed, aside from games being during the day. However would baseball be as popular as it is today if games weren’t in prime time? I would submit that television wouldn’t be as prevalent in the sport as it is now if that were the case. Networks wouldn’t have the incentive to pay big bucks to teams for their TV rights if the games were only on during the workday. Furthermore, I suspect that MLB attendance would have taken a nosedive over time as well. As businesses became more and more dedicated to profit margins and the bottom line, bosses wouldn’t grant their workers the occasional day off to take their kids to a baseball game. So if you look at it from that perspective nighttime baseball might have saved the sport.
Let’s take this a step further; the NFL introduced “Monday Night Football” in 1970, which led to
Courtesy of Joy R. Absalon-USA TODAY Sports
the creation of “Sunday Night Football” in 1987 and “Sunday Night Baseball” in 1990. I would submit that each of these “games of the week” have added allure and excitement to both the NFL and MLB. Obviously none of that would exist if not for baseball taking the plunge and playing games at night.
Here’s another interesting “alternate reality” if baseball doesn’t go to prime time: the NBA and/or the NHL are probably the most popular sports leagues in America today. By nature hockey and basketball are played indoors, which means that they have to have lights in order to play. Thus those sports would have continued to be played in prime time, and would have gotten all of the television revenue that’s instead pumped into the NFL and MLB.
This is all largely theoretical, because we can never say for sure how things would have gone. However there can be no question that lights and night games revolutionized baseball and thus sports. Having said that, I will say that nothing beats an afternoon baseball game…except maybe Sunday Night Baseball!