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Iowa Time Machine: Night Baseball - May 2, 1930

Iowa Time Machine : On May 2, 1930, the Des Moines Demons hosted the Wichita Aviators at Western League Park in perhaps the first night game in professional baseball history. An important event marking a new era in America’s pastime, the Demons beat the Aviators 13-6.

The owner of the Class B Minor League Des Moines Demons, E. Lee Keyser, sought a new way to bring in fans at the Great Depression took fans out of seats and Prohibition cut out revenue from beer sales. Seeking to draw in night crowds, Keyser contracted General Electric to design and erect light stanchions for $22,000. Costing more than the original construction of the ballpark itself, Keyser’s big bet finally paid off in early May of 1930.

With baseball commissioner Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis among the 12,000 people in attendance and a national radio audience tuning across the country, the event gained nationwide recognition. The Demons put up 11 runs in the bottom of the first as spectators beheld night baseball in Des Moines for the first time. By the end of the summer, 38 other ballparks flipped the switch to illuminate night skies across the country.

Other accounts allege the first professional games under temporary lights occurred during the previous week in Kansas, however, the contest at Western League Park undisputedly represents the first professional baseball game played under permanent lights in the game’s history. Today a plaque at the ballpark’s former site (now North High School’s Grubb Community Stadium) calls the location “the Field That Saved Baseball.” #IowaOTD #IowaHistoryDaily #IowaHistoryCalendar


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