A Day In Wrigley Field History: October 3, 1915

SDN-060451, Chicago Daily News negatives collection, Chicago History Museum.

The Chicago Whales had the greatest day in their history on this fall afternoon. They had no idea then that it would be the last day in their history.

The previous installment in this series discussed the first game in the history of the Chicago Federal League team, at times called ChiFeds, also known as the Whales.

This one is going to review the last game in that franchise's history, although they didn't know that on October 3, 1915, the day the Whales won the last Federal League pennant against the Pittsburgh Rebels.

It was in front of a huge crowd at the ballpark at Clark & Addison, as reported by J. J. Alcock in the Tribune:

Joe Tinker and his fighting Whales brought the Federal league pennant to Chicago by beating Pittsburgh yesterday in the second game of the double header on which the flag depended. One nerve racking rally in the sixth inning brought a 3 to 0 victory. Only a few seconds later darkness ended the spectacular battle after Pittsburgh had its seventh inning.

In those days, there was no provision for making up rained-out games at the end of the season to determine a pennant winner, and the Federal League, still an outlaw league in the view of the National and American Leagues, wasn't involved in any postseason play. The Whales wound up with an 86-66 record (two unplayed games in the 154-game schedule); St. Louis wound up 87-67 and Pittsburgh 86-67. Thus, the Whales were declared the winner by virtue of a better percentage: .565789 to .564935.

What was more amazing about that day was the attendance:

Surpassing even the wonderful climax was the crowd that turned out to see the finish of the race. It filled Weeghman park till it looked ridiculously small, and when the official attendance was given out as 34,212 there were few who questioned the count.

Every seat in the park was occupied. Back in the grand stand the fans were lined ten deep, the aisles were crowded and the walk between the boxes and the grand stand was just one mass of humanity. Out on the field, extending from the Whale bench clear around the park and back to the bench occupied by the Rebels, there was stretched one gigantic horseshoe of yelling fans of both sexes. At its thinnest point the horseshoe was six or seven deep, while in the more favored spots there were fifteen lined in each row. About 300 of the more venturesome spectators forced their way into the little press coop upstairs.

There are quite a few interesting notes in those paragraphs. First, the seating capacity of what we now know as Wrigley Field was around 20,000; as I noted in the first post in this series, there was no upper deck at the time. Also, in those days baseball attendance was overwhelmingly male at most games, thus the writer's note that there were women in the crowd, too.

And can you imagine fans storming the press box in 2013? That would be, um, interesting.

Anyway, the joy for Whales fans was short-lived. By the following spring, their team and league would no longer exist. There's a good summary of the FL's brief history here, which includes the following:

After the season, a peace treaty was signed between the Federal League and major league baseball. The Federals' lawsuit- which had been stalled by Judge (and future Commissioner) Kenesaw Landis in the hopes of provoking a settlement- was dropped. In exchange, owner Charles Weeghman of the Whales was allowed to purchase the Chicago Cubs (and move the club into Weeghman Park, later known as Wrigley Field), and St. Louis Terriers owner Phil Ball was permitted to buy the St. Louis Browns. The other owners were offered a cash settlement. The players from the other six clubs were sold to the highest bidders.

And that's how the Cubs became the home team at Clark & Addison, though the ballpark would not be known as Wrigley Field for over a decade.

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