Northside Nostalgia Part 1: The Beginning
Northside Nostalgia Part 2: 1870-1900
Northside Nostalgia Part 3: 1900-1910
We started our look back at Cubs history through the decades last offseason. This year I'm going to take over the job all by myself. My goal is to make it all the way to 2010 this winter. As always, feel free to add your own fun facts in the comment section. As we go further along in time you can also add some personal memories. I assume not many of you were around for 1915, but perhaps I'm wrong. Anyway let's go.
End of an Era
The Cubs finished the first decade of the 20th Century at the top of the baseball world. They had gone to four of the last five World Series and won two of them. Of course father time is undefeated and the stars of those title teams retired or moved on. Three-Finger Brown, Tinker, Evers, and Chance all were gone. Every member of the famed double-play combo would manage the team at some point.
The Cubs won over 90 games in 1911 and 12 without winning the pennant. Then the win total took a steady decline, bottoming out at just 67 wins in the 1916. For most of the decade the biggest developments would come off the field.
Albert Lasker, an advertising executive, bought a large share of the team from Charles Taft in 1914. He teamed up with a wealthy partner, Charles Weeghman, to take majority control of the team in 1916. Weeghman owned a series of lunch counters and the Chicago Whales of the failed Federal Baseball League.
The Whales had played at a newly constructed stadium named for their owner, Weeghman Park. When the pair bought the Cubs they decided to move the team from West Side Grounds to the new stadium on the corner of Clark and Addison.
While this was going on, candy magnate William Wrigley began buying shares of the team. Eventually, he would take over the team, but that is a story for future decades. As everyone reading this article knows, the Cubs have never left Weeghman Park since renamed after it's future owner.
World Series at War
Things finally came back together for Chicago in 1918, as an outstanding pitching staff of Hippo Vaughn, Pete Grover Cleveland Alexander, and Lefty Tyler carried the team. The United States had entered the Great War in April of 1917, so the 1918 season was reduced to just 129 games. Seasons didn't have a consistent length although it was around 154, a number soon settled on permanently.
The Cubs won 84 games in the shortened season to take the pennant and a trip to the World Series against the Boston Red Sox. The American army was at that point in early September of 1918 fully engaged in fighting on the Western Front with hundreds of men dying daily.
Many star players were serving overseas, including Alexander, who pitched just 29 innings before being drafted. When he returned he suffered from shell-shock, now called PTSD, from artillery attacks during the war. He would eventually start drinking heavily effecting his later career.
The lack of Alexander hurt the Cubs during the series which they would eventually lose four games to two. Interestingly, one of the Northsiders' best hitters during the season was Fred Merkel. Yes the same Fred Merkel who didn't touch second for the Giants in 1908.
The games in Chicago were played at the bigger Comiskey Park, so the Cubs would not play a World Series at the Friendly Confines for another 11 years. Players also threatened to strike due lower than expected gate revenue, but the games went on.
The real star of the series was Boston ace George Herman Ruth who won two of the games including a complete game shutout in game one. This will not be the last World Series he beats the Cubs in.
A Tradition Born
During the patriotic furor of 1918, a new tradition began to take root in baseball. I use furor because people took things too far at points and violated peoples civil liberties. But that is a matter for a different forum, perhaps I should start a history blog for that.
Anyway back to baseball, Red Sox fans began to spontaneously sing the Star Spangled Banner during the seventh inning stretch in the first game of the series. Not yet the official national anthem, it had never been sung at a game. Eventually during World War Two it became common place to sing it before games.