In 1912, the team that had brought the Cubs four pennants in five years was beginning to drift apart. Catcher Johnny Kling had been traded. Manager Frank Chance no longer played; he was in just a handful of 1912 games, and would leave at the end of the season. As you might remember -- or be reminded by the photo at the top of this post -- there was a significant event in world history in 1912, the sinking of the supposedly-unsinkable Titanic in the north Atlantic Ocean in the early morning hours of April 15.
That afternoon, the Cubs were occupied with more mundane matters, a meeting with the Cardinals in St. Louis. In 1912, the Cardinals were not yet the bitter Cubs rival we know now -- the Giants were considered far more the Cubs' biggest rival then, and in fact, St. Louis was still 14 years away from their first National League pennant. They would lose 90 games in 1912.
The Cubs were still considered a pennant contender, but on April 15, 1912 they were 0-3. That ended that Monday afternoon, and Tribune scribe I.E. Sanborn must have been thinking about the disaster at sea when he wrote this in his game story:
Larry Cheney was the pilot who steered the Chicagoans out of the slough of despond away from the tail end of the standing, and it was Larry's first game of the league season, too. The tall and rangy dispenser of the moist ball pitched a bully game and would have sewed the Cardinals up in a bag of whitewash but for holes in his support. Only five hits were made off the moist delivery and those would not have come near scoring a tally if a wild peg by Zimmerman had not sent a Cardinal scurrying home in the first inning, and if a muff by Evers had not presented the home fellows with another in the sixth.
Remember, the spitball was legal in that era, and Cheney was one of its best practitioners, although he led the league in wild pitchers three straight years (1912-13-14). His 26 wild pitches in 1914 is still the Cubs' club record. If there had been a Cy Young award in 1912, he'd probably have won it; he went 26-10 with a 2.85 ERA and a league-leading 28 complete games, back when a CG actually meant something.
The Cubs wound up winning that April 15, 1912 game 9-2, and in fact, did have another fine season. Unfortunately, the Giants were just too good for them and the rest of the league in 1912; the Cubs, despite going 45-16 combined in July and August, could get no closer than four games out of first place on August 30, and a 12-18 finish from that point doomed them to a third-place finish, 11½ games out. It would be the closest they'd finish to first place until their 1918 pennant.