Courtesy Mike Bojanowski
Ernie Banks' first MVP season helped the Cubs briefly into contention in midsummer.
No Cubs fan who lived through the 1957 debacle of a season (92 losses) would have predicted the Cubs' great start to 1958. A 13-7 beginning had them in first place in early May; that, unfortunately, was followed by a 6-14 stretch that dumped the team into sixth place.
But then they started winning again, slowly, but surely, and after a doubleheader sweep of the Redlegs July 16, the Cubs were 45-41, just 2½ games behind the front-running Braves. For the first time in many years, a new name appeared in the Tribune, writing up the game recaps: Richard Dozer. Here's how he wrote up that sweep:
Two more garrison finishes swept aside the Cincinnati Redlegs and pushed the Cubs nearer the National league's summit Wednesday. The Chicagoans struck late in both games of a double header in Wrigley field to rock the Redlegs 5 to 4, and 7 to 5. The victories were the club's fourth and fifth in succession. The story of each game was one of mediocre pitching from a starter, but both times relief men were brilliant -- Glen Hobbie in the first game and Bill Henry in the second -- as the Cubs' power overcame Cincinnati leads. Bobby Thomson, an old hand at dramatic endings, hit a two run double to climax a three run surge in the ninth inning of the first game, and Henry batted in the winning tally in a three run rally in the eighth inning that won the second game. Also greatly responsible for the latest additions to this longest winning streak of the 1958 season were Lee Walls and Cal Neeman, who hit home runs in the first game. Ernie Banks hit one in the second, and singles by Sam Taylor ignited scoring bursts in the sixth and eighth innings of the second game.
Bobby Thomson, 34 years old but still effective, had been acquired just before the season started and hit 21 home runs; Lee Walls contributed 24, and Walt "Moose" Moryn 26. But the star of the season was Ernie Banks, in his first of two straight MVP seasons. Banks hit .313 /.366/.614 and led the league with 47 home runs and 129 RBI; he also led the N.L. in total bases (379, at the time third-best in team history). From July 1-16 he hit six home runs in 15 games.
Naturally, it wasn't to be. The Cubs lost 10 of their next 13 to fall back to fifth in the league, and finished 10 games under .500 at 72-82; still, it was a 12-game improvement over the previous year, and attendance jumped by more than 300,000, from 670,629 to 979,904.
Here's the 1958 scorecard full image; click on it to open a larger version in a new browser window.