Baseball Under the Lights: The Rise of the Night Game

McFarland. May 2021. 210p. ISBN 9781476680156. $39.95. SPORTS
“Comic spectacle,” “unholy enterprise,” and “not a howling success” were a few of the colorful phrases with which spectators described the early attempts to play baseball under artificial lights. These descriptions are spot-on for some of the first night games, where infielders had to line up around the pitcher, and outfielders were unable to see fly balls. In this lively and thoroughly researched book (although it doesn’t discuss the Negro leagues), baseball historian Bevis (Red Sox vs. Braves in Boston) traces the surprisingly complex history of night baseball, from its comic experimental days in the late 1800s, through the adoption of night games by professional leagues in the 1930s, ending with the dominant economic role of baseball-after-dark in today’s sport. Bevis infuses his narrative with delightful anecdotes and interesting characters, but the book’s real strength lies in the way it weaves together scientific, social, and economic threads to make the case that wrangling over night games was often rooted in larger movements in American culture from 1870 to the present.
VERDICT This detailed history of night baseball will enlighten even the most knowledgeable fans and will surely appeal to readers interested in sports history more generally.
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