A Game From Cubs History: April 20, 1916

SDN-060641, Chicago Daily News negatives collection, Chicago History Museum

The Cubs have been playing at the corner of Clark & Addison for more than 96 years. Here's the story of the very first Cubs game there.

Yesterday, I told you about the final game the Cubs played on the West Side at the end of the 1915 season.

Many things happened between then and Opening Day 1916; the "outlaw" Federal League dissolved, and several of its owners were permitted to buy National League teams, one of which was the Cubs. "Lucky" Charlie Weeghman became Cubs owner and moved them into his two-year-old North Side ballpark, then named after himself. He also brought over a few of his players, as well as returning Joe Tinker to a Cubs uniform, this time as manager. Tinker would become the fifth different Cubs manager in as many seasons (1912: Frank Chance; 1913: Johnny Evers; 1914: Hank O'Day; 1915: Roger Bresnahan; 1916: Tinker).

Still, there was a considerable amount of optimism when the Cubs, having begun their season with a 2-4 road trip to Cincinnati and St. Louis, returned to Chicago April 20 for their first North Side game ever, against the Reds. The Tribune's James Crusinberry wrote about the hoopla:

Whatever the Kaiser says to Woodrow Wilson today doesn't go on the north side of Chicago, because this is the day the Cubs have their grand home opening at Weeghman park, and all who live north of the Chicago river have a little fight of their own to settle with Garry Herrmann's tribe of Reds from Cincinnati. No one but the weather team has the power to quiet the baseball enthusiasm.

With every box seat sold and thousands turned away, and a gang of carpenters constructing a row of seats on the field in front of the stand, it looks as if Chicago's Cubs are to experience the greatest opening they ever had in Chicago. Indications are that the north side park will be packed to the limit of its capacity on its very first day as the home of the Cubs.

That capacity, at the time, was about 20,000; the park had no upper deck when first built. That wouldn't be added until 1925. There was excitement all around the city:

There will be more side features at the opening show than the Cubs ever had before on any of their greatest days. An auto parade starting from Grant park at 1 o'clock in the afternoon will arrive at the grounds with its hosts an hour before time for the game to begin. There will be four brass bands to help make noise. There will be 15O of Cincinnati's most prominent citizens led by Garry Herrmann and a real live German band from Cincinnati.

Game time in that era was 3 p.m.; there was even more celebration scheduled before that:

At the grounds one of the features will be the firing of the National salute by George W. Newton. He will explode twenty-one American shells while the flag is being raised. Special efforts will be made by the players of each team to hit a ball over the fence during the game, because George F. Kelly, a tailor and a fan, has offered a suit of clothes to the first player who clouts the ball out of the lot for a home run.

That honor, and presumably the suit, went to

the Reds' John Woolf Beall [who homered] with none on in the sixth inning off Claude Hendrix.

For the record, the first official Cub homer was hit by little Max Flack, who knocked the ball over the right-field wall off the Reds' Gene Dale in the sixth inning with one on base on April 22, 1916.

The Cubs won that first game at Clark & Addison 7-6 in 11 innings, on a line-drive single by Vic Saier, after the Cubs came from behind to tie the game with two runs in the eighth and one in the ninth. It was the second of seven straight wins, but that would be the high point of the season; the 1916 Cubs had only one winning month (April, 8-5), and finished fifth with a 67-86 record.

I hope in 2016, the schedule will have the Reds playing the Cubs at Wrigley on April 20, the 100th anniversary of the first Cubs game there.

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