The Cubs are the only team in baseball prohibited from playing Friday night home games, by city ordinance.
This rule, part of the original night-game rules passed when the Wrigley Field lights were installed in 1988, has become outdated and anachronistic. The reason given for this back then was to protect local restaurant owners, who felt their business might be hurt by all the people crowding into the area for Cubs games on Friday, a big restaurant night.
That made little sense then and none now. I have written about this prohibition many, many times over the past four years, so many that I had to create this StoryStream to keep track of all of them. (This story has been added to that StoryStream, the ninth article on this topic since July 2017.)
With no fans at games in 2020, the Cubs were permitted to play on Friday nights at Wrigley last year (and Saturday nights, too). It worked well for the team. Of the 33 home games at Wrigley in the abbreviated 60-game season last year, 22 were played at night. The Cubs had a 19-14 record at home in 2020, 14-8 at night, 5-6 in day games.
This year, so far, small sample size: 3-2 in home night games, 3-3 in home day games.
Now, the Chicago Tribune reports that Ald. Tom Tunney (44th) and the city of Chicago are going to permit at least one Friday night game in 2021:
Wrigleyville Ald. Tom Tunney has agreed to support a one-time exception to the prohibition on Wrigley Field Friday night games in the crowded neighborhood. According to the ordinance, the change is so the Cubs won’t have to play an early afternoon game immediately following a night game in New York against the hated Mets.
“The Chicago Cubs are playing a game at 6:10 p.m. in New York, NY on June 17, 2021, and must return to Chicago to play the Miami Marlins, at a 1:20 p.m. game at Wrigley Field on June 18, 2021, giving the team little time for rest and preparation,” Tunney’s ordinance, which was introduced to the City Council Wednesday, reads in part.
“Rescheduling the game from the afternoon to the evening would give the Chicago Cubs almost six more hours of rest, and thus they would be a team better prepared to win,” it says.
This is precisely what I’ve been arguing for, for years: Allow the Cubs to play Friday night home games when they have a night game in another city the previous day. This situation will come up one more time this year, when the Cubs have a night game in St. Louis Thursday, July 22 and a scheduled home game against the Diamondbacks Friday, July 23.
This ordinance has not yet passed, though with Tunney’s backing it certainly will, and the Cubs will send out an announcement at that time about a game-time change for June 18. I urge Tunney to add the July date to his ordinance, and in fact, he should extend this ordinance by allowing the Cubs to do this any time the schedule calls for this sort of thing. It only happens two or three times a year; certainly, the neighborhood could handle that many Friday night Cubs games every year.
But even beyond that, this is 2021, the Cubs have had lights and night games at Wrigley Field for more than three decades and generally without incident. The cap and restrictions on night games should be removed for good, so the Cubs can compete on equal footing with the other 29 MLB teams, who generally schedule about 50-55 night games a year. The Cubs are limited to 34 (plus any asked for by the national networks Fox and ESPN). This is especially true since Friday night concerts are permitted at Wrigley Field, including one scheduled for Friday, August 27 featuring Lady Gaga. If a concert crowd can come to Wrigleyville on a Friday night, why not a baseball crowd?
While I’m here talking about night games, I’d like to note that the 6:40 p.m. CT starts so far this season get a big thumbs-up from me. That’s especially true given the length of the last two (3:32 and 3:27). This year, that’s the night game starting time in April, May and September, a total of 15 earlier night-game starts. I’d love to see this extended to all night games beginning in 2022.