Northside Nostalgia Part 1: The Beginning
Northside Nostalgia Part 2: 1870-1900
Michael Ernst has done a great job so far covering Cubs history. I'll try to match his great work in my articles, hopefully I can come close. Anyway lets get on to the 20th Century.
Worst To First
If you think the Theo Epstein era was the first time the Cubs underwent a total rebuild en route to a championship you would be wrong. The Chicago Orphans (as they were then known) had fallen on hard times as the new century dawned. Controversial star player/manager Cap Anson was forced out after a 59-73 record in 1897. The Orphan's struggles continued and they bottomed out in 1901 with a 53-85 record.
Owner and sporting goods magnate Albert Spalding sold the team to his associate Jim Hart in 1903. Hart would only own them outright for 3 years selling the club to newspaper man Charles Murphy in 1906. Murphy was able to buy the team with help of a loan from Cincinnati Enquirer publisher Charles Taft (the brother of future President William Taft).
Before he left Spalding signed a crop of young promising prospects to hopefully turn around his club's fortunes. Like his counterpart Theo Epstein did over a century later, Spalding focused the rebuild on the infield. First baseman Frank Chance, shortstop Joe Tinker, and second baseman Johnny Evers (pronounced Eeeeevers) formed the core of a talented lineup. The youth infusion inspired the newspapers to rename the team the Cubs.
Things really began to come together with the addition of pitchers Mordecai Brown and Orval Overall. As a child, Brown lost part of the index and middle fingers on his right hand in a farm accident. Ironically, the missing digits gave him incredible drop on his curve ball. Three Finger Brown, as he came to be known, was one of the best pitchers of low scoring "deadball era" of the 1900's.
The American League
After the failure of the American Association and the Players League in the 1890's a new league challenged the National League in 1901. Ban Johnson became President of the Western League in 1894. The WL was considered a minor league at the time and Johnson sought to make it major league. He wanted to challenge the National League with a more wholesome alternative, thus profanity and fighting among players was banned. Johnson, alongside partners Connie Mack and Charles Comiskey, disbanded the Western League in 1899 and founded the American League.
By 1903 the league consisted of eight teams: Cleveland, Boston, St. Louis, Washington, Philadelphia, Detroit, New York, and Chicago. That year the American League which had been recognized as a major league in 1901 agreed to battle the winner of the National League in a title series. Modeled after the series between the American Association and National League two decades earlier the event would become the World Series.
The Pittsburgh Pirates were defeated by the Boston Beaneaters (Red Sox) five games to three in the best-of nine series. When the New York Giants won the NL in 1904 manager John McGraw refused to play the AL champion Beaneaters. The series was not considered mandatory despite an agreement before the season for the winning teams to participate. The Giants declared themselves World Champions and wore uniforms to that effect in 1905. Both leagues signed a formal agreement to have a series in 1905 and Giants won 4-1 (the series had become best of seven) over the Philadelphia A's.
The Cubs Dynasty is Born
The Cubs loaded roster made history in 1906. They won a whopping 116 games, a record that would stand alone until the Seattle Mariners matched it in 2001 (the Cubs .763 winning percentage is still the best ever). Despite this domination, they were stunned by the crosstown White Sox four games to two in the World Series.
In 1907, the Cubs dominated again winning 107 games and earning a return trip to the series. This time they wouldn't be denied a title beating a Detroit Tigers team led by young Ty Cobb 4-0-1 (yes there was a tie in the World Series).
The first truly great pennant race of the World Series era was the 1908 National League. The Cubs and Giants were tied in the standings on September 23 when they played at the Polo Grounds in New York. Joe Tinker hit an inside the park homer to give the Northsiders a 1-0 lead, the Giants tied it in the 5th. In the bottom of the 9th, Art Devlin and Fred Merkel singled for New York to put men at the corners with two down. Al Bridwell lined the first pitch he saw up the middle for the walk-off single and a crucial 2-1 win.
Or did they walk it off? Fans stormed the field to celebrate the Giants victory and mobbed Merkel between first and second. Johnny Evers saw Merkel hadn't reached the base and yelled at center fielder Solly Hofman to throw him the ball. Evers then stepped on the base jumping up and down and screaming to get the umpires attention. After a protest, the league ruled that Merkel was forced out at second so the game was a tie that would be replayed if the teams were even at the end of the season.
Sure enough the teams finished virtually tied and a one-game playoff was held on October 8. Giants ace Christie Mathewson faced Chicago's Jack Pfister, I let Ken Burns take it from here.
After surviving the playoff, literally and figuratively, the Cubs faced Detroit again in the World Series and won 4-1. Chicago went to it's fourth World Series in five years in 1910, a loss to the A's. Those five seasons were one of the most dominant stretches in baseball history, a whopping 530 wins. It would be over a hundred years before the Cubs would win another title.
Baseball's Sad Lexicon
Franklin P. Adams was a reporter for the New York Evening Mail. Frustrated by the Giants lack of success against the Cubs he wrote a poem on July 12, 1910. In it, Adams laments a Giants rally killed by a 6-4-3 Chicago double play. His words would immortalize the Cubs star infield:
These are the saddest of possible words:
"Tinker to Evers to Chance."
Trio of bear cubs, and fleeter than birds,
Tinker and Evers and Chance.
Ruthlessly pricking our gonfalon bubble,
Making a Giant hit into a double–
Words that are heavy with nothing but trouble:
"Tinker to Evers to Chance."
A Song Is Born
A song that has had a big impact on Cubs history was created in 1908. Commenter Barley Pop (aka Mike Pilbean) will provide the rest of the story:
On a subway train in 1908, 29-year-old Vaudeville poet and songwriter Jack Norworth spied a sign along his commute announcing "Baseball Today: Polo Grounds." This simple advertisement sparked his interest, and the young wordsmith began crafting notes on various pieces of scrap paper. He shared these notes with fellow Tin Pan Alley songwriter Albert Von Tilver, and they co-wrote a song about this new phenomenon sweeping the country called baseball.Mr. Norworth wrote of a feisty young lady by the name of Katie Casey. Though fictional and a century ago, Ms. Casey could steal my heart to this day. "Katie Casey was baseball mad, Had the fever and had it bad". She was a woman of meager means who spent every available cent attending ball games, calling out to players by their first names and heckling umpires for what she knew were blown calls.One day, a young suitor took a shine to Ms. Casey and summoned the nerve to ask her out on a date to see a show. Ms. Casey accepted the handsome lad's offer, but only on her terms.
What were those terms you may ask?