If you’re at Wrigley Field on Friday night and you look to the west shortly after first pitch, you’ll see the sun setting.
Clouds permitting, it’s likely to be a brilliant pre-autumnal sunset.
Symbolically, the sun may be beginning to set on a long tradition: the Cubs as a team that’s associated with day baseball.
When John Lackey fires the first pitch, it will be the start of the first regular-season Friday-night game in Cubs history.
It’s likely not the last.
Friday night baseball is the final frontier at Wrigley Field. The team’s business president, Crane Kenney, is on record as saying the Cubs “don’t have enough night games,” even as the team has opted for nighttime concerts as part of its allotment of 47 night events allowed by the city of Chicago.
The Cubs got special permission from the city for Friday’s game, citing Thursday night’s game at Pittsburgh and the resulting tight turnaround for a team trying to nail down its third straight playoff berth.
Having succeeded, look for the Cubs to keep pushing for more, even if it takes a few years to get what they want. If they want more night games, Friday night is a likely option.
Sundays, except for the occasional ESPN telecast, are traditionally day games around baseball, as are Saturdays at Wrigley Field. Fridays also would put the Cubs in line with the rest of teams, all of whom play on Friday nights.
From a baseball standpoint, Friday night games make perfect sense, and manager Joe Maddon is all for them.
Friday night’s game against the Milwaukee Brewers is the latest chapter in the history of night baseball at Wrigley Field, which began in 1988. But who knows how history would have turned had the Cubs installed lights after the 1941 season as was the plan? But after Pearl Harbor was bombed by Japan on Dec. 7, 1941, Cubs owner P.K. Wrigley donated the materials that would have been used for lights to the war effort.
The history of night baseball at Wrigley is one full of both fact and fiction, beginning with the 8/8/88 rainout, which some ascribed to a higher power not being happy with night baseball coming to Wrigley for the first time. It couldn’t rain forever, and the Cubs completed their first home game under the lights the next night.
Night games have brought the jubilation of the Cubs winning the 2016 pennant and winning their first World Series game at Wrigley since 1945, and they also brought the heartbreak of losing Games 6 and 7 of the 2003 NL Championship Series to the Marlins after securing a 3-1 series lead.
It was the late Dallas Green who pushed for lights at Wrigley almost as soon as he came barreling into town in 1981 and proclaimed the Cubs were “building a new tradition.”
It also was Green who spun the myth that the Cubs lost home-field advantage in the 1984 NLCS to the Padres because they did not have lights. That was not – and is not – true.
The Cubs would have lost home-field advantage in the ’84 World Series had they made it, but they never got that far after blowing a 2-0 lead in the best-of-five series.
The notion that the Cubs lost a home game in the ’ ‘84 NLCS is the biggest myth in the history of Chicago sports, and you hear it pushed from time to time by former players from that team.
The latest chapter in the history of night baseball at Wrigley Field comes via the Brewers, who expressed unhappiness that Friday’s game has been changed from a 1:20 p.m. start to a 7:05 p.m. start to give the Cubs a competitive advantage.
Those protests ring hollow. The Brewers got to enjoy an off-day Thursday, and what better place to spend it than in Chicago and not have to get up early for a game Friday morning?
The Brewers would be better served trying to win ballgames and staying in the playoff race after getting swept in three games by the last-place Reds at Cincinnati this week.
Former manager Michael dies: The baseball world was saddened Thursday over the death of former player, manager and executive Gene Michael at 79.
Known as “Stick,” Michael managed the Cubs for parts of the 1986 and 1987 seasons during turbulent times, compiling a record of 114-124.
He spent most of his time with the New York Yankees.
Cubs vs. Milwaukee Brewers at Wrigley Field
TV: WGN Friday; Comcast SportsNet Saturday; ABC 7 Sunday
Radio: WSCR 670-AM
Pitching matchups: The Cubs’ John Lackey (11-10) vs. Jimmy Nelson (11-6) Friday at 7:05 p.m.; Mike Montgomery (5-7) vs. Chase Anderson (8-3) Saturday at 3:05 p.m.; Kyle Hendricks (6-4) vs. Kyle Davies (16-8) Sunday at 1:20 p.m.
At a glance: The Brewers had an off-day Thursday after getting swept in three games at Cincinnati, damaging their playoff hopes. Friday will be the first regular-season night game in Wrigley Field history. The Cubs are 7-5 against the Brewers this season, 3-3 in Chicago. Travis Shaw leads the Brewers in most key offensive categories and has a line of .276/.348/.528 with 28 homers and 86 RBI. Domingo Santana has a line of .275/.370/.487 with 24 homers and 69 RBI. Milwaukee entered Thursday tied for first with the Mets for the team lead in home runs (199) in the National League. The Cubs were third, with 197. These are games 18-20 in a stretch of 20 games in 20 days for the Cubs.
Next: New York Mets at Wrigley Field, Tuesday-Thursday
– Bruce Miles