The 1931 Cubs had a new manager -- Rogers Hornsby -- and entered the season with hope of winning another pennant, after falling just short in 1930.
It wasn't to be. The Cardinals were just too good, and the Cubs declined in both run-scoring and preventing runs from being scored. One of the biggest culprits was Hack Wilson, who had set records for home runs and RBI and hit .356/.454/.723 in 1930. He declined to 13 home runs and 61 RBI in 1931, and got himself in trouble with team management, as the Tribune's Irving Vaughn wrote as the Cubs were mathematically eliminated in a doubleheader sweep by the Cardinals at Wrigley Field on September 7:
Hack Wilson, principal in the act entitled, "From Home Run King to Exile in One Season", has no plans for the immediate future. "I'm just taking a vacation and enjoying it," was his reply yesterday when asked if he had any opinions about his suspension by the Cubs for the balance of the season. He was a spectator at both Cub-Cardinal games. "Maybe I popped off a bit too much Saturday night," he added. But he claimed he was innocent of the charge that at the same time he had violated training regulations. The club has a record of a half dozen such charges against him, some dating to the spring training trip. It was also learned from a club official yesterday, that the club is through with the home run hero of 1930. He has been told to remove his belongings from the clubhouse.
The "popped off" refers to an incident on the team train from Cincinnati to Chicago involving Wilson, pitcher Pat Malone, and some newspaper writers; Malone wound up slugging a couple of the writers (imagine that happening today!) and was fined $500, a not insubstantial sum in 1931.
17,000 watched the Cubs lose 1-0 in the morning game September 7, and their ninth straight loss, 8-3 before 26,000 in the afternoon contest, mathematically eliminated the Cubs from the pennant race -- with 15 games remaining; the Cardinals won the pennant in a runaway. Naturally, right after elimination, the Cubs won eight in a row. After the season ended, Wilson was traded to the Cardinals along with Bud Teachout for veteran pitcher Burleigh Grimes.