Cubs get ready for rivalry's fireworks

For years, Cubs officials have been begging for more night games at Wrigley Field. This year they begged to the highest level of Major League Baseball to play in the daylight.

Request denied. So Sunday's game—even worse, a 4th of July game—against the White Sox will start at 7:05 p.m., because ESPN insisted on the intracity meeting for its nationally televised game.

As if the rivalry weren't enough fodder for fireworks, a night game—on a holiday—might well fuel the flames for trouble if alcohol is mixed in.

"We'll do the best we can to make it as pleasant as we can, starting with winning the game," Cubs President Andy MacPhail said.

More security will be on hand inside the ballpark, as well as on the streets outside, according to Paul Rathje, Wrigley Field's director of stadium operations. Officials won't say how many more security personnel will be added, but they said public intoxication will not be tolerated inside the park.

Asked if he would rather have a day game for such a heated rivalry, Rathje replied, "No question."

"Most people behave themselves," he said. "It's the very few that [cause trouble]."

Obviously it only takes a few. And city police are stretched thin because of 4th of July celebrations and Taste of Chicago.

Even Chicago newcomer Dusty Baker realizes all the ingredients are there for a wild weekend, "probably even more" than last weekend.

"It's our park, Fourth of July weekend," the Cubs' manager said. "People get to start drinking extremely early. Sunday night, July 4th, a night game, and they can start earlier than before.

"Oh yeah, there will be plenty of excitement."

Last weekend's first round of the Red Line series was fairly peaceful, even though more Cubs fans were inside U. S. Cellular Field than White Sox fans will be inside Wrigley Field. However, Wrigley is surrounded by bars, making the area more susceptible to problems.

"Cubs-Sox games here the last couple of years have been very good," Rathje said.

His advice to fans from North and South: "Have fun—and behave."