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Cubs get ‘one-time exception’ for one more night game this season

The Chicago Cubs stand along the third base line during the national anthem before the their home opener against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Wrigley Field in April. | Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

The Cubs will be allowed to play one more night game — next Friday night — under a surprise compromise aimed at assisting the team in its quest to repeat as World Series champs.

The “one-time exception” to the ban on Friday night games at Wrigley will take place on Sept. 8 after the team completes a four-game series in Pittsburgh with another night game against the Pirates.

Local Ald. Tom Tunney (44th) said he and Mayor Rahm Emanuel agreed to waive the ban on Friday night games to help the Cubs in their stretch-run to the playoffs.

“It’s a compromise. It’s a favor. Coach Maddon has his philosophy. I don’t plan to have it a regular occurrence. But it’s something that we’re all trying to work toward to make sure the team gets the proper rest,” Tunney said Thursday.

“In life, we try to help each other. But I don’t want it to be a regular occurrence because there’s a number of businesses where Friday and Saturday nights are very, very important and they’re non-Cub-related,” he said. “Theater, fine-dining restaurants that don’t do well when there’s a Cub night game. And Friday and Saturday in many of our businesses are make-it-or-break-it days for their business to stay in business.”

Tunney was adamant that the game against the Brewers will not set a precedent and will be the only Friday night game until the playoffs.

The ordinance will be introduced directly into committee on Tuesday and approved by the full Council on Wednesday.

“We all entered into agreements. The Cubs have accepted the limitations with night activities,” Tunney said. “As far as I’m concerned, it’s a one-time only exception on the Friday night play, unless it’s playoffs, which does not include that prohibition.”

Cubs President of Business Operations Crane Kenney has gone toe-to-toe with Emanuel on a host of issues tied to the team’s plan to renovate Wrigley Field and develop the land around it.

He has also squared off with the mayor on security issues and the team’s repeatedly rejected request that the city close Addison and Clark on game days.

On Thursday, Kenney changed his tune.

“We thank Mayor Emanuel for his receptiveness to address this scheduling issue which has posed a challenge for Cubs teams over the years when returning home from the road,” Kenney was quoted as saying in a statement.

“We are glad to have been able to work together to address this issue and help our team and organization as we compete to play October baseball.”

Last month, Kenney opened a new front in his ongoing battle against City Hall during a radio interview that preceded the opening game of the Crosstown Showdown against the White Sox.

The Cubs exec was asked why the first two games between the Cubs and Sox at Wrigley Field were day games. “We don’t have enough night games,” he told WSCR-AM (670).

He added that other owners “look at Chicago and say they just can’t understand it. … At some point we’d love to not be handicapped, as no other team in baseball is, by the number of night games you play.”

A few days later, Emanuel flatly rejected the request by his longtime Cubs nemesis.

The mayor said the Cubs made the choice to trade night games for concerts at Wrigley Field because they don’t have to share the take with other teams — and now, they must “live with the consequences.”

But then Cubs manager Joe Maddon made the case, noting player fatigue caused by day games at Wrigley Field on the day after the team plays a night game on the road and flies home to Chicago.

Emanuel said he changed his mind — and agreed to shift the Sept. 8 game from day to night — to boost the Cubs’ chances of winning a game against the second-place Brewers, who are off the day before.

“The Cubs winning ballgames is a winner for the city, too,” the mayor said, praising the Cubs for “the professional and courteous manner in which they went about resolving this issue.”

“With the Cubs in the thick of the pennant race, we’re going to make sure the Cubs can focus on doing what they need to do: winning ballgames and bringing another World Series back to Chicago,” Emanuel said.

The mayor noted that, even after the one-time exception, the Cubs will remain below their annual limit.

Four years ago, the Cubs got the go-ahead Tuesday to play up to 46 night games per season and stage four concerts under a deal that pleased neither side.

The Cubs complained about four last-minute tweaks that failed to appease Lake View residents.

They required the Cubs to foot the bill for security and sanitation costs tied to more than 40 night games per season and forfeit a night game after any season that includes more than four “non-baseball events,” including concerts or college football games.

The team was also unhappy with Emanuel’s decision to cap the number of Saturday night games at two per season and give the city “unprecedented” control over when rained-out games are rescheduled.

The Cubs weren’t the only ones who walked away unhappy. So were Lake View residents, who raised many of the same arguments that peppered the epic battle over installation of lights at Wrigley.

They argued that allowing the Cubs to stage up to 56 “night events” at Wrigley “places too much of a burden” on congested Lake View and “materially decreases the quality of life” for area residents.

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