A Day In Wrigley Field History: September 2, 1957

Courtesy Mike Bojanowski

Cub fans hoping for a better year in 1957 than 1956 were going to be disappointed.

The Cubs lost 90+ games in 1957 for the third time in four years, fell into last place before the end of April, and only a four-game winning streak to end the season prevented a solo last-place finish (they ended up tied with the Pirates at 62-92).

Attendance dropped again, to 670,629, despite the "lure" of doubleheaders in an era when "two games for the price of one" was supposed to be an attraction. Due to earlier postponements and tie games, the Cubs played doubleheaders on three consecutive days, September 13, 14 and 15. The total attendance for all three dates was 17,661. (The Cubs won four of the six games.)

All of this set me in search of, just as I did in the 1956 post in this series, the most pathetic loss of 1957. Without question, that had to be a 23-10 defeat at the hands of the Braves in the first game of a doubleheader September 2.

Here's how Irving Vaughan summed up the carnage in the Tribune:

Milwaukee's pennant bound Braves roared through Wrigley field yesterday, humbling the Cubs with a 26 hit assault for a 23 to 10 triumph. 

Milwaukee, with only 24 games left to play, increased its lead to eight and one-half games over second place St. Louis and nine over third place Brooklyn. 

The first game produced season highs in the major leagues for one and two team totals in runs and hits. Wes Covington and Hank Aaron matched the National league high for the year in the runs batted in department with six each. Frank Torre scored six times to tie a major league record held jointly by Mel Ott of the New York Giants and John Pesky of the Boston Red Sox. Ott turned the trick in 1934 and again in 1944, and Pesky set the American league mark in 1946.

To give you an idea of how rare such feats are, six runs in a game has been accomplished by just four other players since Frank Torre's feat against the Cubs: Spike Owen for the Red Sox in 1986, Edgardo Alfonzo for the Mets in 1999, Shawn Green for the Dodgers in 2002 and Joe Randa for the Royals in 2004.

The Cubs have allowed 23 runs in a game twice since that day, in the famous 23-22 loss to the Phillies in 1979, and in a game lost by the identical score in that 1957 game, 23-10 to the Mets in 1987.

To make matters worse, the Cubs lost the second game of the September 2, 1957 doubleheader to the Braves in a 4-0 shutout, a defeat that dropped them to 30 games under .500 at 49-79. That percentage had them on pace for a 58-96 season, which would have been the worst in club history. They managed a 13-13 record the rest of the year to avoid that ignominy.

Here's a bit more about how Wrigley Field attendance was being affected by the late 1950s. 34,279 fans were at that Labor Day doubleheader, the largest crowd of 1957. In fact, the two top crowds of that year and four of the top eight had the Braves as visitors, likely with quite a number of fans who made the drive down from Milwaukee. The Cubs played 14 home doubleheaders in 1957, so the average per-date attendance was 10,994 (they were still selling "baseball and sunshine", as shown in the scorecard image at the top of this post). The nine home dates against the Braves (nine single games, two doubleheaders) averaged 17,243, significantly higher. As BCBer ernaga has written here before, the Braves were becoming Chicago's third team by the late 1950s.

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