Who Played in Wrigley's First Game?

Who Played in Wrigley's First Game?
Image from Chicago History Museum via Parade.com

Image from Cubs.com

The Chicago Cubs marketing department has been hard at work this winter putting together the "Party of the Century," a yearlong celebration of Wrigley Field's 100th birthday. Unique bobbleheads, throwback uniforms, decade-themed concessions and more should make the fan experience a bit more fun this season even if the product on the field struggles. April 23rd, 2014 is the actual 100th anniversary of the first game at Wrigley Field and should be one of the biggest draws this season.

Wrigley Field was called Weeghman Park when it opened and housed a Federal League team for its first two seasons before the National League Chicago Cubs moved in during 1916. The Federal League was another early league created to challenge the AL and NL's monopoly on organized baseball. Although it was "well-organized, well-financed, and well thought-out," as Bill James said in his Historical Baseball Abstract, the Federal League only played two seasons and folded after 1915.

(h/t @harrypav)

So the Cubs will not actually be wearing throwback Cubs uniforms when they honor Wrigley on April 23rd. They'll be wearing Chicago Federals (later called the Chicago Whales) uniforms. The first 30,000 fans in attendance will get their own Chi-Feds jersey to wear and take home. Pretty cool, eh?

The Cubs aren't the only team that's going to be embracing the past. It was announced at the Cubs Convention that the Arizona Diamondbacks (their opponent for that game) have agreed to don the uniform of the Kansas City Packers, whom the Feds played that fateful day 100 years ago. The Dbacks might look something like what you see here.

Throughout the season, the Cubs will be inviting notable players from their history to decade-themed homestands as special guests. It's safe to say that everyone who played for the Chicago Federals is long dead, but who was in their starting lineup from the first day in Wrigley Field's history?

1. Max Flack, LF
1-for-4, 2B, BB

When the Federal League folded and the Chicago Whales were no more, the Cubs came in and bought up some of their players. Flack was among those players. He went on to have a long career, appearing in 1411 games between the Feds, Cubs, and St. Louis Cardinals. Some remember him for a few errors he made when the Cubs lost the World Series in 1918.

On a lighter note, Flack was involved in one of baseball's more humorous trades. The Cardinals and Cubs were playing a doubleheader on May 30th, 1922. Flack and the Cliff Heathcote of the Cardinals played during the first game. The two outfielders were then traded for one another after the game's conclusion and played for their new teams during the second game of the doubleheader. Heh.

He also lead the league in sacrifice hits in 1916 with 39. Yeah, small ball!

2. Rollie Zeider, 3B
2-for-4, 2B, 2 RBI, BB

Zeider was a speedster, stealing 224 bases throughout his nine-year career. He stole 49, 28, and 48 bags during his first three seasons with the Chicago White Sox. Interestingly enough, Zeider played for Chicago teams for almost all of his career. He debuted with the White Sox in 1910 (American League), played for the Whales in their two seasons (Federal League), and finished his Major League career with the Cubs (National League). That's three different Chicago teams across three different leagues, a feat only a few players can say they accomplished. Zeider had a short tenure with the New York Yankees in 1913 (50 games) and walked twice in the 1918 World Series.

3. Joe Tinker, SS
1-for-3, RBI, BB, R

The Federals' player-manager is without a doubt the most famous player from Wrigley's first game. Tinker was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1946 and was immortalized in the 1910 poem "Baseball's Sad Lexicon." He was an integral part of the Cubs dynasty that won the World Series in 1907 and 1908. In his later days, Tinker served as player-manager for the Reds, Whales, and Cubs.

1914 was Tinker's last full season as a player – for the rest of his career, he was more manager than shortstop and only took a few at-bats. His triple slash that year was .256/.317/.349.

The Federal League owners had money to spend, and salaries around the American and National Leagues rose as teams tried to hold onto their players. Tinker became "the first [big] name player" to join the Federal League and collected a career-high $12,000 paycheck. Fellow Cubs legend Mordecai "Three Finger" Brown also switched leagues and contributed to the Chicago Whales' 1915 championship season. (See? Wrigley Field has seen a championship team!)

4. Fred Beck, 1B
1-for-4

Beck spent a few years in the National League from 1909 to 1911. He hit 10 home runs for the Boston Doves in 1910, which lead the league (talk about Deadball Era!). He could not get a job in the Majors after 1911 until he signed with the Federals in 1914.

5. Dutch Zwilling, CF
2-for-4, 2 2B, R, RBI, K

Zwilling holds the title as the most prolific home run hitter in the Federal League's history. His 16 bombs in 1914 lead the league. He hit 13 the next year for a grand total of 29, the most of any other FL player. Like Zeider, Zwilling played for three different Chicago teams in three different leagues, but he got the most playing time with the Federals.

6. Al Wickland, RF
2-for-4

Wickland played for the Cincinnati Reds for a short time before coming over to the Federal League in 1914. He took 81 walks that year to lead the league. His triple slash in the Federal League is a respectable .283/.377/.391. Wickland spent a few years out of the Majors after the league folded, but did collect 400 plate appearances with the Boston Braves in 1918.

7. Jack Farrell, 2B
2-for-4, 2 R, RBI, E

Not to be confused with a more successful second baseman of the same name, Farrell was born in Chicago, played in Chicago, and died in Chicago. He hit .229 in two seasons with the Federals at the age of 21 and 22. He died three years later at just 25 years old.

8. Art Wilson, C
2-for-3, 3 R, 3 RBI, 2 HR, BB

Wilson turned on the power for the first game at Weeghman Park, hitting two home runs. (Maybe Welington Castillo can do the same this year?) He began his career in 1908 with the New York Giants, and played until 1921. His 14 year career is the second longest of any Chi-Fed who played in Wrigley's first game, beaten only by Joe Tinker. In 1914, he posted an impressive .291/.394/.466 triple slash, good for a 151 OPS+.

While Flack, Tinker, Zeider, Zwilling, and Brown were all bought by the Chicago Cubs after the Whales disbanded, Wilson was purchased by the Pittsburgh Pirates. The Pirates traded Wilson to the Cubs later in 1916 for two-time World Series champion Frank Schulte.

One year later, Wilson would catch one of the more memorable pitchers duel in baseball history. From the Baseball-Reference Bullpen:

On May 2nd, 1917, Hippo Vaughn was the losing pitcher in baseball's only double no-hitter. Facing the Cincinnati Reds, both he and Reds hurler Fred Toney allowed no hits through nine innings. The Reds broke up the no-hitter and scored a run in the top of the tenth, while Toney held the Cubs hitless in the bottom of the inning to get the win.

Wilson was Vaughn's backstop that day.

9. Claude Hendrix, SP
2-for-4, R, RBI, K
9 IP, 1 ER, 5 H, 3 BB, 3 K, 1 HR

Hendrix was a very good pitcher and I'm honestly surprised I've never heard of him before. He pitched for the Pittsburgh Pirates for three years, each season posting an ERA in the mid-2.00 range, before jumping ship to the Federal League in 1914.

Hendrix dominated while pitching for the Chi-Feds that first year. He lead the league with 29 wins, pitched in 49 games (also a league leading statistic) while starting 37. His 34 complete games were tied for best, and he took home the ERA title with a 1.69 mark. Hendrix pitched a career-high 362 innings.

That monster season on the mound was good for 7.8 bWAR. Hendrix placed second in that category to Benny Kauff. The Indianapolis Hoosiers center fielder was an offensive monster: .370/.447/.534, 75 stolen bases, 165 OPS+ and 7.9 bWAR.

Hendrix went on to pitch five years for the Cubs after he was purchased in 1916, with a 2.84 ERA and 425 K in 1076 IP.

***

On April 23rd, 1914, Chicago Mayor Carter Harrison, Jr. threw out the first pitch and the Feds beat the Packers 9-1 at Weeghman Park. I haven't read anything about Rahm Emanuel's attendance yet, but hopefully the Cubs can crush the Diamondbacks at Wrigley Field 100 years later.

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Comments

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  • I really hope the jersey they're giving away is a cool item but I have a feeling it will be a cheap cotton/poly blend t-shirt in XL with fake buttons and a giant Gieco logo on one sleeve.

  • In reply to Mikethoms:

    For free, I'm keeping my expectations in check. You bring up a good point with sizes though, how do they usually handle that for shirt giveaways? All XL or have a number of sizes on hand? Hmm...

  • Very cool thing for you to do Justin with anniversary combing up.

  • I was going to say "nobody who won a World Series," but as you point out, it was the Federals for the first two years, and then many of the players were assigned to surviving teams in the other two leagues.

    Will there be a commemorative century old trough?

  • One BIG error!!! It was "Weeghman Park," not "Weegham." Named after Charles "Lucky Charlie" Weeghman who became part of the upstart Federal League after an unsuccessful attempt to purchase an existing National League franchise.

  • In reply to Tomstock:

    Welp, you're absolutely correct. Good catch. The name was (incorrectly) written from memory.

  • In reply to justinjabs:

    Other than that, good research and I enjoyed the article. I worked at Wrigley as an Andy Frain Usher '69-'73.

  • In reply to Tomstock:

    Did you work with Wally Cover?

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