Baseball has always played games with time. A pitcher plods in a summer haze; no buzzer ends an inning. We lose ourselves, happily sacrificing hours for the crack of a bat.
The annual Midnight Sun game, played since 1906 on or around the summer solstice in Fairbanks, Alaska, throws the clock its own kind of curveball. Players take the field after bedtime but can still lose a pop-up in the sun. First pitch is at 10:30 p.m., and the contest spills into the next morning. Daylight lasts nearly 24 hours this close to the Arctic Circle. At no point does Growden Memorial Park ever turn on its lights.
Since 1960, the home team has been the Alaska Goldpanners, a squad made up mostly of college prospects. Some 200 Midnight Sun alums have moved on to the big leagues, including Tom Seaver and Dave Winfield. The game pauses at the half-inning closest to 12 so that fans can sing Alaska’s state song: “The great North Star with its steady light/O’er land and sea a beacon bright.” In 1985, the game ended at 3:06 a.m., after the sun dipped to the horizon before rising again. A year earlier, a Taiwanese team forfeited after players said they couldn’t see the ball. Clouds forced the umps to call this year’s game after six innings.
Such hazards only deepen the appeal. A couple from Oregon told Goldpanners president John Lohrke that they were touring all 30 big-league parks this summer. But not before they stopped in Alaska, the last frontier, and home of the eternal day game.