To the editors:
I would like to answer your call for a response from a "No Lights" fanatic (The Sports Section, March 4) regarding the impending installation of lights in Wrigley Field. Although I am not a member of Citizens United for Baseball in Sunshine (CUBS), I feel that my proximity to the park, my love for the game of baseball and opposition to lights would allow me to qualify.
I find your argument, which I have dubbed the "O'Hare Field Argument" (you knew it was there when you moved in) misguided. While it is correct I was aware of the ballpark's presence when I moved to my current address, the Wrigley family still owned the team and there was no talk of night baseball. Myself and my neighbors accepted the existence of the park, knowing that except on a few occasions, the game would be over and most all the fans would be gone by the time we came home from work. This system has worked quite well for many decades. The Tribune subsequently purchases the team and all of a sudden there is a necessity for night games, while instituting 3:05 games, a point the neighborhood never really fought. The follow-up to your argument is that the neighborhood grew up around the ballpark. This is incorrect as most all the buildings surrounding the park were built prior to the park. Consequently, Weeghman Park, now Wrigley Field, is the "new" kid on the block and the Tribune should have known there was a neighborhood there when they bought the team.
Have you ever wondered why the Tribune wants lights so bad? So have I and I have listened to their reasons, which have been inconsequential or the Cubs have later contradicted themselves as to the necessity.
Let us examine these pressing reasons:
1. The team would be more competitive if there were night games. Let's face it Neil, with the current makeup of the team, they could not play .500 ball against the Little Sisters of the Poor in the daytime or at night. Besides, I think 1984 proved they could win in the daytime and if memory serves me correctly, they lost the pennant in the daylight.
2. Playoff games must be at night for television. When the current TV contracts were negotiated the Cubs were so bad that neither baseball nor the networks ever thought the team would make post season play. Since every other team in the Major Leagues had lights and some chance of making the playoffs, it seemed like a good idea at the time. Now the Cubs get hot and the Baseball/Television Axis has their respective asses in a sling over a contract they signed thinking the Cubs would never be a factor. I may be wrong, but do you really think that Bowie Kuhn, Peter Ueberroth and the networks really thought the Cubs were ever going to amount to anything? I do not think so.
3. Television revenue is greater with night games. That may be so, but then I do not remember the Tribune consulting with me or anyone in the neighborhood as to how much to charge for a commercial minute during the day. I know they blather on about industry norms, standards and all that other bull, but does it not essentially come down to price fixing on their part? I never thought the day would come when a multibillion enterprise like the Tribune Companies would ignore free market conditions and free enterprise and not charge what the market would bear. Also, if the ratings and audience share reports that WGN claims to have are true, would not an on the ball salesman point out to a potential advertiser that, sure our time is more expensive, but then we have a much larger audience than Santa Barbara, Another World, or the very cerebral jeopardy. Besides, Donald Grenesko, Vice President of something or other with the Cubs was quoted last June as saying that the increase in advertising revenue from night games is not that much, what the Cubs really needed was more seats in the park. Do these executives really know what they are talking about? It certainly does not seem so.
4. Parking--if you think the recent real estate purchases by the Tribune for parking are for the common fan, think again. These spots are for the fat cat, Stadium Club, Club Box season ticket holders. Consequently, there is no real additional parking for the seats the Cubs plan to install. This just throws more people into the shark tank of parking in the neighborhood. Another point to consider is Mayor Sawyer's pledge that he has a plan to allow residents to park in front of their buildings on game days. Let's face it Mayor, you are shuckin' and jivin' me on this point. When I come home from work prior to a night game, I'll be lucky if the police let me go down Waveland Ave, let alone find a legal parking place. Finally, the parking sticker program for residents should be interesting as what is preventing the ballpark vendors who arrive early from acquiring one of these stickers for their car and parking on the street. This is, after all, Clout City.
I could go on and on about other arguments I have heard favoring lights, but it essentially boils down to the Cubs want to ruin my life and the neighborhood for the 1990 All-Star Game. I presume that the Cubs will recoup the estimated $5 million investment with this one game.
Finally, I would also like to take you up on your offer on press credentials for the Bourbon League's draft on April 9th. Since the league I belong to does not draft until April 16th, I could use a tune-up. I hope your draft generates the excitement that the Sponge League does--the bidding on Eric Davis last year was worth the price of admission and should have been carried on local access cable TV.
David A. Wieland