Was the First Professional Night Baseball Game Played in Des Moines?

Much debate has been held over where the first night professional baseball game was played. In the late 1920s, minor league baseball attendance was slowly declining and night baseball was viewed as a way to rejuvenate interest in the sport.

Historian Larry D. Bowman says, “What began as a survival strategy in minor league towns inadvertently developed into a low-key race to determine whether Des Moines, Iowa, or Independence, Kansas, was to be the birthplace of a new era in professional baseball.

Though it has been widely believed that the first night professional baseball game under lights was played in Des Moines on May 2, 1930, it appears that this is not entirely accurate. The Des Moines Demons did indeed play the first game under permanent lights on that date at the Western League Park at Sixth and Holcomb. However, the Independence (Kansas) Producers of the Class D Western Association was the first professional ball team to play under artificial lights, thus depriving Des Moines of the distinction. The Producers Played the Muskogee Chiefs on the night of April 28, 1930, on a lighted ball field. In addition, they played two exhibition games against the House of David Ball Team on April 17 and 18.

Bowman notes that the Kansas City Monarchs of the National Negro League played a night game on April 28, in Enid, Oklahoma. The Monarchs played under a mounted portable lighting system that lit up the field for night games.

Bowman also argues in his article that the Producers played under permanent lights. Even though the Producers played under lights first, Des Moines was the first to have them installed and they were much larger.

The Demons’ Owner, E. Lee Keyser was a very savvy and determined marketer of the Des Moines opening game and made Des Moines’ opening night under the lights a national success. Baseball commissioner Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis attended, the last half of the game was broadcast nationwide on NBC radio, and 12,000 people were in attendance, instead of the normal 600. Even if Des Moines wasn't the first under the lights, it is the most famous and made an enormous impact on the sport.

The final score: Des Moines Demons 13, Wichita Aviators 6.