A Day In Wrigley Field History: September 27, 1920

Charles "Buck" Herzog (SDN-062081, Chicago Daily News negatives collection, Chicago History Museum)

With the Black Sox scandal raging, the Cubs were finishing up a mediocre season in a really bad exhibition of baseball.

The National League pennant had been clinched, and the Cubs and Cardinals were both far out of contention. The Black Sox scandal had just broken and news of grand jury testimony dominated the headlines.

It was in that context that Cubs manager Fred Mitchell put a team of mostly misfits and part-timers on the field September 27 in a Monday afternoon contest against the Cardinals. Someone named "Speed Martin", a good name for a pitcher but not a good pitcher, started the contest; neither Martin nor relievers Virgil Cheeves and Percy Jones could keep the St. Louis offense down. The Cardinals won 16-1 and the Tribune's Irving Vaughn, in a rare (for that era) article blasting the Cubs, did so in the florid prose of the time:

The Cubs didn't win yesterday, which is one story. None of them was killed, which is another yarn. The Cardinals concluded their final visit here with a 16-1 victory.

That Mitchell's athletes were able to escape untimely deaths or things almost as bad can be attributed only to a miracle, because the Cards let loose twenty-five wallops for thirty-five bases, and some of the Cubs almost shook themselves apart trying to make plays with a ball that was too elusive for most of them to handle.

The only thing to be said in the Cubs' favor is that after two hours of toil they managed to register twenty-seven putouts to end the orgy. Their fielding efforts were nothing less than ridiculous.

There are games from the last two years of which I could have written recaps like that. Maybe I should have.

What's a bit more interesting is this: after this game, the Cubs didn't play a league game for four days, apparently scheduled that way. They did, as was the custom for many teams in that day, go to Joliet to play an exhibition game against a local semi-pro team the next day, which they lost 5-4. That isn't the interesting part -- this is, from the Tribune:

Charles Herzog, Cub infielder against whom charges of crookedness in baseball were made by "Rube" Benton before the Cook county grand jury, was stabbed three times yesterday in Joliet just after the Cubs had finished playing an exhibition game there. He was not badly injured.

After the game Herzog left the grounds and entered an automobile waiting outside to haul the players back to the hotel where they had dressed. A crowd was gathered about the gate. One man climbed on the running board of the car, stuck his head inside, and said:

"You're one of those crooked Chicago players. When are you going to confess?"

Herzog leaped out of the car, knocked the man down and grappled with him in the dirt, both rolling into a ditch. The report was that Herzog gave the fellow a thorough licking, but one of the man's friends pulled a knife and went into the fight. He slashed Herzog across the palm of his left hand as "Buck" threw up his hand to ward off the blow. Another slash cut a slight gash across his knuckles, and a third cut through his stocking into the calf of his leg.

By this time Herzog had regained his feet, leaving his first assailant in the ditch. The player started after the man with the knife, but the latter ran into the crowd and made his escape. 

It's a much tamer time today, I think you'll agree.

There were many accused of being crooked at that time, but nothing was ever proven about Herzog. He never played in the major leagues again after 1920; he was 35 at the time and his career was likely winding down anyway. After a year in the minors in 1921, he went back to his home state of Maryland and worked for many years for the B&O Railroad.

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