Friday, March 28, 2008
The Cubs: 99 years of misery
By Page 2
Tinker to Evers to Chance. The Homer in the Gloamin'. Let's play two. Three Finger, Gabby, Swish, Leo the Lip, Slammin' Sammy.
The black cat.
At one time, the Chicago Cubs were baseball's preeminent franchise. Of course, that goes back just a few years. The 1906 club won a record 116 games. The Cubs won the World Series in 1907 and 1908. And then came 99 seasons of heartbreak and futility, misery and hope, bad players and bad luck. Somewhere in there, the Cubs became America's lovable losers. (Maybe more losers than lovable.)
As the Cubs embark on their 100th season without having attained a World Series title, their fans are full of optimism. The team made the playoffs last season. Maybe, just maybe, 2008 won't turn out like the past 99 seasons, when something went wrong ... every single year.
Finished 2nd in the National League, 6.5 games out
Wait, what happened? In a game against the Cubs, Pittsburgh's Honus Wagner steals his way around the bases. Wagner repeats the feat the next day.
The club falls out of first place on May 30 after getting swept in a doubleheader by the Pirates. Despite going 81-34 the rest of the way, the Cubs finish with 104 wins, six fewer than the Pirates and the highest winning percentage ever for a team that didn't finish in first place. Third baseman Harry Steinfeldt also is left unable to cash in on licensing the term "three-peat."
Finished 1st in the National League, Lost World Series 4-1 to the Philadelphia A's
Whoa! He played here? Heinie Zimmerman hits .284 in 99 games, but the best part is that his name is "Heinie."
After coasting to the NL pennant, according to Glenn Stout's "The Cubs: The Complete Story of Chicago Cubs Baseball," all this happens before and during the World Series against the Philadelphia A's: Second baseman Johnny Evers breaks his leg on Oct. 1; Frank Chance questionably chooses Orval Overall, his third-best starter, for the opener (the Cubs lose); Mordecai "Three Finger" Brown gets into a car accident before the second game (and loses 9-3); Chance brawls with a pedestrian on the off day before Game 3. The A's win in five games.
Finished 2nd in the National League, 7.5 games out
Whoa! He played here? In his second stint with the Cubs, Peaches Graham hits .239 in 36 games.
The Cubs trail the Giants by just one game on Sept. 8 before the Giants pull away with a 22-8 finish. But what really does the Cubs in is a depleted talent base: Overall retires after the 1910 World Series, Steinfeldt complains about his contract and gets traded to the Reds, Evers suffers a nervous breakdown in May, and player-manager Chance sees his playing career end with what doctors diagnose as a blood clot in his brain. (He had been struggling with headaches and double vision.) But the worst comes in the offseason: Third baseman Jim Doyle, who had replaced Steinfeldt, dies after appendicitis surgery.
|Mordecai "Three Finger" Brown lost parts of two fingers in a farm accident as a kid, but he won 20 games six straight seasons for the Cubs.|
Finished 3rd in the National League, 11.5 games out
Wait, what happened? Our man Heinie nearly wins the Triple Crown, leading the NL in home runs (14) and batting average (.372), but missing the RBI title by three.
At 35, Hall of Famer Brown is done. The Cubs replace him with 28-year-old rookie Jimmy Lavender who, despite the great baseball name, isn't quite a staff ace. And neither is Grover Lowdermilk. Or Ensign Cottrell. (They just don't make baseball names like they used to.)
Finished 3rd in the National League, 13.5 games out
Wait, what happened? On Aug. 18, Phillies pitcher Erskine Mayer sets a National League record by giving up nine consecutive ninth-inning hits to the Cubs en route to a 10-4 loss.
The Cubs are in first place at the end of April but never recover from an 8-16 May. First baseman Vic Saier and third baseman Heinie Zimmerman lead the top-scoring offense in the league, but the team can't win on the road: They go 51-25 at home, but just 37-40 on the road.
Finished 4th in the National League, 16.5 games out
A Cubbie is born: Harry Caray
The end of an era arrives on Feb. 11, when Evers is traded to the Boston Braves. That's the gentle spin on the situation. Owner Charles Murphy wanted to get rid of Evers as manager and essentially tried to "fire" Evers from the managing portion of his contract, which leads to a complicated situation in which the other NL owners arrange for Evers to be traded to the Braves and Murphy is forced to sell the Cubs. Meanwhile, the Cubs have their worst finish since 1902, and Evers helps the "Miracle Braves" win the World Series.
Finished 4th in the National League, 17.5 games out
Wait, what happened? On Aug. 18, Wilbur Good becomes the only Cub ever to steal second, third, and home in the same inning.
Tied for first on July 17 with a 43-36 record, the Cubs then lose eight games in a row -- seven by one run. The season is over and the Cubs finish with their first losing record since '02.
WORLD SERIES WINNERS
1903: Boston Red Sox 5, Pittsburgh Pirates 3
1904: No World Series
1905: New York Giants 4, Philadelphia A's 1
1906: Chicago White Sox 4, Chicago Cubs 2
1907: Chicago Cubs 4, Detroit Tigers 0
1908: Chicago Cubs 4, Detroit Tigers 1
1909: Pittsburgh Pirates 4, Detroit Tigers 3
1910: Philadelphia A's 4, Chicago Cubs 1
1911: Philadelphia A's 4, New York Giants 2
1912: Boston Red Sox 4, New York Giants 3
1913: Philadelphia A's 4, New York Giants 1
1914: Boston Braves 4, Philadelphia A's 0
1915: Boston Red Sox 4, Philadelphia Phillies 1
1916: Boston Red Sox 4, Brooklyn Dodgers 1
1917: Chicago White Sox 4, New York Giants 2
1918: Boston Red Sox 4, Chicago Cubs 2
1919: Cincinnati Reds 5, Chicago White Sox 3
Finished 5th in the National League, 26.5 games out
A fine front office at work: Joe Tinker has the honor of being the fourth manager in four years. He will be replaced after the season with Fred Mitchell.
There isn't much good about the 1916 Cubs (especially the shortstops, who combine for 89 errors), but a momentous event does occur on April 20, when the team plays its first game at Wrigley Field (then called Weeghman Park, and later Cubs Park). It wasn't a new ballpark; Charles Weeghman, owner of the Federal League Chicago Whales, had built it for the Whales in 1914. After the Federal League was bought out after the 1915 season, Weeghman was allowed to purchase the Cubs (for $500,000). Believe it or not, the Cubs actually win the first game, 7-6 over the Reds.
Finished 5th in the National League, 24 games out
Wait, what happened? The crosstown rival White Sox bring the World Series trophy to Chicago. It wouldn't come back until 2005.
You know it's not your year when nine-plus innings of no-hit ball isn't good enough. Chicago's Jim "Hippo" Vaughn hurls 9 1/3 no-hit innings, but Reds pitcher Fred Toney counters with 10 hitless innings. The Reds beat the Cubs 1-0 in the only game in major league history in which both teams go hitless through nine.
Finished 1st in the National League, lost World Series to the Boston Red Sox 4-2
Ex-Cub Factor: Former second baseman Dave Shean wins a ring with the Red Sox.
The Curse of the Bambino? In a season cut a month short because of the Great War, the Cubs meet the Red Sox in the World Series. Ruth beats Vaughn 1-0 in Game 1 and then wins Game 4, 3-2. Maybe the Cubs never should have played their home games at Comiskey Park (they played there because Comiskey was larger).
Finished 3rd in the National League, 21 games out
Ex-Cub Factor? Former catcher Pat Moran manages the Reds to the World Series title.
The Cubs finish last in the National League in runs scored. Maybe giving Dode Paskert and his .196 average 270 at-bats isn't such a good idea.
Futility by the decades: 1909-1919 | 1920-1929 | 1930-1939 | 1940-1949 | 1950-1959 | 1960-1969 | 1970-1979 | 1980-1989 | 1990-1999 | 2000-2007
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.