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Mets Lose First Night Game at Shea Stadium

May 6, 1964 - The New York Mets brightened the sky over Queens tonight when the lights were turned on for the first night game at Shea Stadium.

A total of 1,600 mercury-vapor and quartz lamps flooded the new stadium in 2 million watts of light and cast a beam over Flushing Meadow toward La Guardia Airport to the north and the multi-colored lights of the World’s Fair to the south.

Beneath the dazzling lights, 32,421 chilled fans watched the Cincinnati Reds, who had pioneered night baseball in 1935, overpower the Mets, 12-4, on 13 hits that included three home runs. Sam Ellis, a 23-year-old right-hander, pitched the complete game for the Reds, while Bill Wakefield and four others labored for Casey Stengel’s club.

Leo Cardenas, Frank Robinson, and Vada Pinson walloped home runs for the Reds. The Reds stole three bases to lift their total to 19 thefts in 20 games.

It was the fifth straight defeat for the Mets and their 16th in 19 games this season, but none was played in a more glittering setting.

The stadium lamps had been turned on only seven minutes before Wakefield threw the first pitch when a button was pressed on a table at home plate by Larry MacPhail in ceremonies that recalled three decades of baseball history.

MacPhail, who had been instrumental in bringing night games to the majors as general manager of the Cincinnati club, turned on the stadium’s incandescent lights with the touch of a finger.

Two minutes later, Franklin D. Roosevelt Jr. pressed another button, lighting the mercury-vapor beams rimming the top of the stadium, 29 years after his father had turned on the lights for the first night game in major league history.

It was on May 24, 1935, that President Roosevelt pressed a button in the White House to light up Crosley Field in Cincinnati, where the Reds met and defeated the Phillies. Only 616 lamps spotlighted that game with a million watts of power as night baseball came to the big leagues.

In the three decades since that night, every major league park except Wrigley Field in Chicago has installed lights for baseball.

From the players’ view, the lights tonight didn’t look quite so spectacular. In the Met dressing room, there was talk of “something different” and “have to get used to it.”

Al Moran, the shortstop, said that when foul balls were hit, a fielder could not look right into the lights, but had to turn his head. “There’s a little bit of a bluish glare,” he said, “and I imagine we’ll have an advantage when we get used to it.

Other than that, he thought the lights were fine. “There are no shadows at all,” he said. “It’s so clear, you can see an ant crawling on the grass.”

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