The lights at Riverside Park baseball field in 2020.

Baseball to celebrate 75 years of lights


75 years ago, in April of 1948, the community watched as ten 80 foot steel towers were raised to light up the baseball field in Riverside Park. The job itself took several weeks and a six-man construction crew from Kenyon, MN. 

“Outside of Owatonna and the Twin Cities, there is nothing in the state that even compares with Springfield’s lights,” said the tanned construction foreman in the April 29, 1948 edition of the Springfield Advance-Press. “When the lights are turned on you’ll be able to read a newspaper a block away,” he said with a grin. 

Each light tower featured 16 floodlights. Each light was 1,500 watt capacity. When all ten towers were lit, 240,000 watts flooded the field. 

The lights installed in 1948 were identical with those in Yankee Stadium, the only difference was that Yankee Stadium had more lights. However, the 160 lights installed in Springfield’s ballpark were more than adequate for the size of the field. The cost for the lights was $18,000 and were purchased from the General Electric Corporation. 

Bob Sturm, one of Springfield’s Hall of Fame players and biggest supporters, was only six when the lights were first turned on and he remembers it today. “It lit up the whole farm,” he reminisced with a smile. 

May 26, 1948 was the dedication for the baseball lights. The Springfield Tigers would play Faribault of the Southern-Minny League in the first night exhibition game under the new lights. Former Tiger hurler, Gail Mayo, was on the mound for Faribault. Pitching for Springfield was the towering former Chicago Cub, Hy Vandenberg.

See complete story in this week's issue of the Springfield Advance-Press.