In hindsight, they should have seen this game coming.
The 1922 Cubs finished over .500 at 80-74 despite not having a very good pitching staff; they gave up 37 more runs than they allowed.
And in August, they started giving up runs in bunches, and also scoring that many. On August 5 they lost to the Giants 19-7; five days later the Dodgers crushed them 16-1. Both of those games were on the road; returning to Cubs Park August 13, the Cubs annihilated the Cardinals 13-5 and five days after that lost to the Giants 17-11.
It is in that context that we can see better how the Cubs' 26-23 win over the Phillies on Friday, August 25 occurred. This was just at the beginning of the live-ball era; Babe Ruth had been demolishing home-run records, but the trend hadn't quite hit the Cubs yet. Ray Grimes led the 1922 Cubs with 14 home runs. That was good for eighth in the National League and his 1.014 OPS ranked second to Rogers Hornsby, who set an N.L. record that year with 42 homers (Hornsby was the first N.L. player to even hit 30 homers; the previous post-1900 record was 24, set by Gavvy Cravath in 1915).
Grimes, though, was "only" 2-for-4 on this Friday afternoon; the hitting hero for the Cubs was Hack Miller (pictured), who went 4-for-5 with four runs scored, two home runs and six RBI that afternoon. It's a remarkable thing that with 49 runs scored total for the two clubs, just three home runs were hit, the two by Miller and one by the Cubs' Bob O'Farrell.
The Tribune recap by Frank Schreiber drew these conclusions:
Nobody will ever know without many hours and a record book just how many records of ancient and modern baseball were smashed at the north side park yesterday. Cubs and Phillies hooked up in what was advertised as a baseball game, but early proved to be a comic opera set to the tune of base hits. More than 7,000 fans sat through the nightmare wracking their brains as to who was winning, and it was only after moments of figuring at the end of nine innings that the game was adjudged to be property of the Cubs by a 26 to 23 score. In fact, many of the fans who saw the finish of the battle had visions of the opening of the football or basketball seasons, for cries from various parts of the park were imploring for a "touchdown," while others besought the players to "shoot another basket."
In addition to all the runs and hits, the teams combined for eight errors, four each; of the 49 total runs, "only" 30 of them were earned. For a time, it looked like a complete Cubs rout; you'll note in the box score that the Cubs had two innings in which they scored in double figures, 10 in the second, 14 in the fourth. They had a 26-9 lead going into the eighth, only to see the Phillies score 14 total runs in those two innings to make the final score close.
All the run-scoring must have made the Cubs think they could contend; they defeated the Reds September 1 to go to 70-55 and were just five games out of first place, but went 10-19 the rest of the way to finish fifth, 13 games behind the pennant-winning Giants.
Some of the records set that day still stand -- the 49 combined runs, 51 combined hits (in nine innings; that's been surpassed in extras), and the Cubs' Marty Callaghan batting three times in the 14-run fourth inning (he singled twice and struck out -- that, too has been equaled since, not surpassed).
The only Wrigley game that's come close to this in recent years was the famous 23-22 loss, also involving the Phillies, on May 17, 1979. If you thought it was bad that the Cubs scored 22 runs and lost that day, remember that 57 years earlier, a team scored one more than that... and lost by three.