1927 marked the Cubs' return to respectability, and optimism was high for the 1928 version of the team... but after a 13-game winning streak in May put them in first place, they faltered and spent most of the early summer in third and fourth place. Also, as you can see by the image from the 1928 scorecard, this was the first year that Wrigley Field had a completed upper deck.
Then they started to win again. And win. And win. Eight in a row in early July, and though they faded a bit again, a 15-5 run into early September put them just two games out of first place.
This is the story of the last game of that run, the last home game of 1928. In those days, with road trips done by train, road trips and homestands were typically much longer than they are in 2013. For example, in 1928 the Cubs began the season with seven road games, but then played 25 of the next 28 at home -- an 11-game homestand, followed by a three-game weekend trip to Pittsburgh, followed by a 14-game homestand.
Thus it was that a 6-1 win over the Cardinals at Wrigley Field on September 13 was their final regular-season date there, to be followed by a 14-game road swing. Edward Burns of the Tribune captures some of the hope that Cubs fans felt after this win over first-place St. Louis:
The Cubs came through -- and how! With the precision, even ease, that might be looked for from seasoned world's series competitors, they sang what might be their home swan song before 40,000 yesterday at Wrigley field, and in the course of the chant of base hits the powerful Cardinals, leaders in the stormy flag fight, melted down into a 6 to 1 defeat. And if the Cubs never come back, they at least left behind some pleasant memories. Now, for Kiki Cuyler. He went out in a blaze of glory, so unlike the early season days, when his skill was painfully absent and Chicago wondered whether Pittsburgh wasn't right. He came up in the third with a runner waiting, and singled off Clarence Mitchell, the aged left handed spitballer. He came up in the fifth with another runner waiting. This time he doubled to score another, and banished Mitchell from the scene. He also scored himself in this round, giving the Cubs an edge that made everything safe. And he singled another time.
Cuyler had had two good years for the Pirates in 1925 and 1926, but his playing time was reduced in 1927 and, unhappy, he had asked to be traded. The Pirates granted his wish, sending him to the Cubs, for whom he got off to a slow start -- but from August 1 to the end of the 1928 season he hit .332/.403/.530 in 202 at-bats, and stole 18 bases in that time without being caught. Cuyler went on to have many fine seasons with the Cubs and is in the Hall of Fame -- yet another Cub who has been mostly forgotten, and hopefully will be remembered during the 100th anniversary celebration next year.
After this win, the Cubs were just two games behind the first-place Cardinals with 14 games to go -- although they were in third place, half a game behind the Giants. The Cubs did all right on their season-ending 14-game trip, going 9-5... but the Cardinals trumped them by going 12-4 over that span, and won their second pennant in three years.
The Cubs would have their time, though, and fairly soon. That story, tomorrow.