Courtesy Mike Bojanowski
The 1940 Cubs posted the first losing season for the franchise in more than a decade.
The 1940 Cubs were a harbinger of the future. Charlie Root and Gabby Hartnett had reached the end of their playing careers -- though Hartnett still managed the team -- and no suitable replacements had been found. The club floundered around the .500 mark most of the year, never in contention, and when they lost the last four games of the season became the first Cubs team since 1925 to finish with a losing record.
Still, when they swept a doubleheader from the Boston Bees -- the name the Braves gave themselves for a few years in the late 1930s and early 1940s -- on June 9, there was some hope; those wins gave the Cubs a seven-game winning streak and put them within 6½ games of first place. Irving Vaughn of the Tribune picks up the story:
The Cubs, partly because of the graciousness of their guests, Boston's eighth-place Bees, yesterday extended their winning streak to seven games. In the first half of a double header, the Hartnett Boy Scouts and associates conducted themselves without merit, triumphing 7 to 1, without exerting themselves. But baseball was forgotten in the second contest and a good portion of the 17,714 in attendance walked out before a titanic exhibition of errors was concluded with the Chicagoans on the profitable end of a 15 to 8 score. The orderly fashion in which the first game was conducted can be credited to Larry French, assisted by a third inning in which the Cubs put him on easy street with a five run blast against Bill Posedel. However, the big working margin had no influence on the veteran southpaw. He went right thru to the last putout laboring as if one run could ruin him, the result being a six hitter for his seventh triumph of the season. Two of the half dozen hits were bunched, preventing him from achieving a shutout. The second game turned into a melee as early as the second inning, the Cubs, with the aid of an error, scoring six times. But that wasn't enough for old Charley Root. An error helped to carry away a good piece of his lead in the third and in the fourth he vanished under the pressure of hits, leaving the vacancy for Ken Raffensberger. But it all ended happily, the Bees doing a lot of comical fielding between base hits and handing the decision back to their hosts in a seven run seventh inning.
Starting in 1940, the design of Cubs scorecards got quite a bit more elaborate. Blue Valley Butter no longer had a featured spot on the cover; instead, artistic designs by Otis Shepard were the norm, stretching all the way into the 1970s. Here's the complete cover image (click on it to open a larger version in a new browser window or tab):