The Cubs: 99 years of misery
Finished 7th in the National League, 26.5 games out
Whoa! He played here? Harry Chiti made his major league debut at the age of 17, hitting .333 in three games.
On May 7, the Cubs lose both games of a doubleheader against the New York Giants. No big deal, right? Well, the Cubs go on to lose both ends of a doubleheader 18 times in 1950, tying an NL record. Obviously, Ernie Banks had not yet joined the club.
Finished last in the National League, 34.5 games out
Wait, what happened? The Cubbies rank last or second to last in 14 major batting and pitching statistical categories.
The Cubs finish last again, so let's take a chance to recap the career of Roy Smalley Sr., Cubs "shortstop" from 1948 through 1953. In 1948, he hit .216 with four home runs. In 1949, he hit .245 with eight home runs. In 1950, he hit .230 but poked 21 home runs. In 1951, he hit .231. No, the Cubs hadn't tired of him yet. In 1952, he hit .222. In 1953, he hit .249. Finally, the Cubs traded him away. Now, Smalley may have been a defensive wizard, although his fielding percentage was below league average each year with the Cubs (he made 51 errors in 1950). But we use this example to explain why the Cubs subsequently go the entire decade without a winning season.
Finished 5th in the National League, 19.5 games out
Wait, what happened? On Sept. 29, Stan Musial shocks the baseball world by making his only pitching appearance in a game against the Cubs.
Ernie Banks, Mr. Cub, played 2,528 games, but never made it to the World Series. The only two players with more games and no World Series appearances? Rafael Palmeiro and Andre Dawson (alas, two more Cubbies).
The Cubs are so horrible this decade that they don't spend a single day in first place by more than one game. Success is often just a rumor. But as the Cubs enter a doubleheader at Boston on June 15, they actually find themselves 15 games over .500 and just four games out. Then they drop both games to the lowly Braves, setting the stage for a nine-game losing streak. It's another 15 years before the organization finds itself 15 games over .500 again.
Finished 7th in the National League, 40 games out
Whoa! He played here? Welcome to the major leagues, Mr. Cub ... Ernie Banks debuts.
The Cubs trade for Ralph Kiner on June 4 in a blockbuster 10-player deal with the Pirates. Yes, Kiner had led the NL in home runs the previous seven seasons; he'd also never been on a team that finished higher than fourth place. That doesn't change with these Cubs, who team Kiner with slow-footed Hank Sauer to form one of the worst defensive outfields ever.
Finished 7th in the National League, 33 games out
A Cubbie is born: Andre Dawson
In just the third game under new manager Stan Hack, the Cubs certainly hack away at the Cardinals, winning a 23-13 marathon. What a tease. At 2-1, the players go to bed with a winning record ... the last such night of the '54 season. Clearly spent from this offensive explosion, the team plummets its way down the standings.
Finished 6th in the National League, 26 games out
A Cubbie is born: Jim Hendry
In his second full season, Banks explodes with 44 home runs, the first of his six 40-homer seasons. Alas, the rest of the team includes guys like Harry Chiti. When the Cubbies lose to the Giants 6-5 on July 26, it concludes a wretched 18-day stretch in which they drop from seven games above .500 to seven games below. That's what losing 15 of 16 games will do to a record.
Finished last in the National League, 33 games out
A Cubbie is born: Rick Sutcliffe
WORLD SERIES WINNERS1950: New York Yankees 4, Philadelphia Phillies 0
1951: New York Yankees 4, New York Giants 2
1952: New York Yankees 4, Brooklyn Dodgers 3
1953: New York Yankees 4, Brooklyn Dodgers 2
1954: New York Giants 4, Cleveland Indians 0
1955: Brooklyn Dodgers 4, New York Yankees 3
1956: New York Yankees 4, Brooklyn Dodgers 3
1957: Milwaukee Braves 4, New York Yankees 3
1958: New York Yankees 4, Milwaukee Braves 3
1959: Los Angeles Dodgers 4, Chicago White Sox 2
The Cubs manage to hit a new low, falling below a .400 winning percentage for the first time in franchise history. They're actually 3-2 when they lose 6-0 to the Cardinals on April 25, the start of a seven-game losing streak that quickly morphs into a 2-13 stretch that quickly morphs into another lost season. If you haven't picked up on it, the 1950s pretty much sucked for Cubs fans.
Finished tied for last in the National League, 33 games out
A fine front office at work: James (Woody) Woods makes his debut at 17 years old. He would only play two games for the Cubs and 36 in his entire career.
The Cubs lose 12 of their first 15 games, so this season is pretty much over before it begins. On May 3, tied 1-1, the Phillies score two runs when second baseman Casey Wise commits two errors on one play. Wise commits four errors on the day, tying an NL record for a second baseman. The Cubs lose their eighth straight game. Sigh.
Finished 5th in the National League, 20 games out
Wait, what happened? Ernie Banks wins the first of consecutive MVP awards.
On Aug. 20, the Cubs make Dale Long the first left-handed catcher in the majors in 34 years. This move of managerial genius by Bob Scheffing fails to produce desired results as the Pirates top the Cubs 4-2, the final game of a 3-11 stretch that effectively ends the season.
Finished 5th in the National League, 13 games out
A Cubbie is born: Ryne Sandberg
Chicago's record is 50-50 on the last day of July, but the team finds itself just 5½ games out of the lead as it heads to Cincinnati. After George Altman's two-run homer ties it for the Cubs in the ninth, the inappropriately named John Powers -- he of the six career home runs -- answers with a walk-off homer with two outs. It's the third part of a seven-game losing streak. The Northsiders never see .500 again.
Research and text by Brett Edgerton, Mark Simon and Jeremy Lundblad of the ESPN Research Department. Additional contributions from Page 2 editors David Schoenfield and Michael Philbrick.