A Game From Cubs History: October 3, 1915

SDN-003242, Chicago Daily News negatives collection, Chicago History Museum

The final game of the 1915 regular season had significance that no Cubs fan realized at the time.

Tinker, Evers and Chance gone and almost forgotten, the Cubs with their fourth manager in as many years, 1915 was not a good season for the West Side team. They finished 73-80, their first losing season since 1902; after being in first place with a 40-29 record and a 2½ game lead July 7, the Cubs lost 15 of their next 18. They got back to shouting distance of the lead at the end of July, but a 14-15 August and 12-19 September did them in.

The words "West Side" are the most important in the previous paragraph, because although they didn't know it at the time, 1915 would be the Cubs' final season playing at Polk and Wood streets, where they had made their home since 1893 and won four pennants and a couple of World Series titles.

Thus I've chosen for this look into team history, the final regular-season game of the 1915 season, an otherwise unremarkable 7-2 win over the Cardinals on a Sunday afternoon. This time, the Tribune writer is James Cruisinberry:

Chicago's Cubs ended the season in pretentious style yesterday at the west side park. They scored a decisive victory over the St. Louis Cardinals which not only secured them a berth in the first division but proved them to be in fine fighting fettle for the post-season series with the White Sox, which is to begin Wednesday. The score was 7 to 2, and the Cubs made all their runs in a second inning stampede.

Better than winning yesterday's game and getting fourth place in the race, as far as the Cub rooters are concerned, was the hurling form of Big Jim Vaughn, the hope of the west side in the battle with the White Sox. Vaughn took his final fling before he will face the gallant south siders and proved that he has his old time "stuff" which has caused distress to many a Sox player in other post-season series.

A few things need to be explained from the quote above. If you are not familiar with the term "first division", it was once applied to teams that finished in the top half of the standings back before divisional play. I remember well as a kid hearing that the Cubs were always a "second division club" in the old 10-team National League.

You see also that the postseason series with the White Sox seemed far more important than any single game, even though that series was strictly an exhibition. The Cubs and White Sox played such a series almost every year from 1903-1942 whenever neither team was in the World Series. Here's a comprehensive history of the Chicago City Series, which was played 26 times; the Cubs won only six of them while the White Sox won 19. One ended in a tie. In 1915, the White Sox won four games to one, taking four straight after the Cubs won the first game of the series.

But on October 3, 1915, no Cubs fan would have ever thought that the team would be playing on the North Side the following year. In fact, a notes column at the bottom of Cruisinberry's article says, about that contest:

Not more than 3,000 fans were present to witness the final west side game, and most of those were inquiring what the Whales were doing on the north side. No scores were posted, however, on the "outlaw" combat.

The word "final" there refers only to the last game of the season, not the last game ever; the Federal League Whales were expected to continue playing in 1916. It wasn't until the 1915-16 offseason that the Federal League disbanded, but several Federal League owners, including "Lucky" Charlie Weeghman of the Whales, were allowed to buy NL teams -- thus Weeghman bought the Cubs and moved them north to what we now know as Wrigley Field. The Whales, for their part, split a doubleheader with Pittsburgh on that October 3, 1915 afternoon and wound up tied for the final Federal League title with St. Louis, although the pennant was awarded to St. Louis because that club had more wins (87-67 to 86-66, in an era when not all postponed games were made up).

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