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Fort Wayne Sports History: City hosts one of first attempts at night baseball

Around 2,000 fans witness experiment by Jenney Electric Light Co.

Monday, July 29, 2013 - 12:01 am

Editor's Note: This is the 10th in a series of excepts from the book ``Fort Wayne Sports History.

June 2, 1883

In 1883, one of the first attempts at night baseball was played in Fort Wayne.

Today there is some debate over when and where the first night baseball game was played. History says there was a game played Sept. 2, 1880 in Hull, Massachusetts between teams representing two prominent department stores.

Fort Wayne claims the first night game involving a professional team. In June 1883, the decided to try something very different, putting up 17 huge arc lights around League Park, providing 4,000 candlepower each. Three lamps were fastened to the grandstand; one was placed behind the pitcher's box and the rest were stationed along the baselines and in the outfield.

The opposing teams were the Quincys, a professional team from Illinois in the Northwestern League, and a local team from Methodist College. The college team lost 19-11 in seven innings under what were described as tough fielding conditions.

A crowd of 2,000 paid 25 cents per ticket to witness history. The game was originally scheduled for May 30 to include the Fort Wayne Professionals and Quincy but was rained out. There is no explanation for why the Professionals were replaced with the college team.

The event was covered by the media and three newspapers, and all three were very critical of the artificial light.

Despite the Jenney company's glowing reputation, it was in financial trouble by 1888 and was purchased by the Thomson-Houston Co. and renamed the Fort Wayne Electric Light Co. By January 1899, the company was taken over by the General Electric Co., and by 1916, Fort Wayne's electric works had become officially known as the General Electric Co., which still occupies some of the original Jenney buildings at its Broadway plant.

Night baseball games were considered gimmicks until the Cincinnati Reds played the Philadelphia Phillies under the Crosley Field lights on May 24, 1935.

The Reds won 2-1 and within a few years were playing seven night games per season.

The first night All-Star Game was held at Philadelphia's Shibe Park in 1943.

For more information on the book "Fort Wayne Sports History'' written by News-Sentinel sports reporter Blake Sebring visit www.amauth.com or www.blakesebring.com.