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Duke Energy Predecessor Changed Future of Baseball

​As the 2017 Major League Baseball (MLB) season is now underway, it is important to note that nearly two-thirds of all games played throughout the year will occur at night, beneath thousands of lights powered by electric companies nationwide. It was one city and one company that would forever change the way the game would be played.

Major League Baseball officially began in 1869 with the establishment of the first professional team, the Cincinnati Red Stockings. It was not until 1935 that the same organization to start the league played the first night game in MLB history.

With Reds President Larry MacPhail seeing the success of night games in the minor leagues, he made his case to the league during the 1934 National League meetings to begin night games in Cincinnati the following year. Upon approval, General Electric (GE) received the illumination contract and quickly turned to Cincinnati Gas & Electric (CG&E), a Duke Energy predecessor, for engineers and technicians to begin designing the layout.

The CG&E crew worked on the layout for nearly four months before drafting the blueprints, while GE was tasked with constructing the towers and installing the floodlights. Technicians had to manually climb the light towers, which stood as high as 115 feet, to make adjustments to the bulbs.

After several weeks of testing, it was time to play ball.

On May 24, 1935, the Reds were set to face the Philadelphia Phillies at Crosley Field before a crowd of more than 20,000 people when a Western Union telegraph key was pressed nearly 500 miles away at the White House by President Franklin D. Roosevelt that signaled for MacPhail to flip a switch turning on 632 floodlights, thus beginning a new era for our national pastime.

National League President Ford Frick threw out the first pitch and the Reds went on to defeat the Phillies by a score of 2-1. Night games would become highly popular among fans and, by 1948, all but one MLB park had lights, with Chicago’s Wrigley Field being the exception.

Thanks to the pioneers of GE and CG&E, night baseball is here to stay.

For more on this story, please visit Duke Energy’s Illumination site.