May 24 – Play Ball!

GabeBell Ringers, Economics(BR)

On May 24, 1935, Major League Baseball had its first night game.

The first night baseball game was played in 1880, only a year after Thomas Edison invented the light bulb. Night baseball began in the minor leagues in 1930. In 1935, MLB owners began offering games at night, in addition to during the day. It was only in 1988, however, that the Chicago Cubs finally began playing their home games under the lights. The Cubs still play a majority of their games during the day.

Why did the owners switch, when there are higher costs associated with night games? Sure, one reason – probably the main reason from their point of view – is that they can make more money. But how do they make more money? By pleasing their customers. Baseball fans had unmet demand for baseball back in 1935, and their ability to see all they wanted was impeded by the additional costs of getting to a day game. For the most part, working during the day made it possible to attend day games except on weekends. Removing the transaction cost of work by increasing the supply of games outside the workday allowed the unmet demand to be met. And everyone was happier!

  1. How is this an example of the invisible hand at work? Did owners need to care about the workers who couldn’t come to the games because they were during working hours? Did the workers need to care about the owners, who weren’t maximizing their profits?
  2. Imagine you were the leader of the Soviet Union, and you identified the same problem. What solutions would someone in a command economy have to solve this problem, besides the market solution here?
  3. Do you think the Cubs would make more money if they had more night games? Why do you think they do not?

Image Citation:

15, May 2018, Wrigley Field [Digital photograph].  Retrieved from <>.