A Day In Wrigley Field History: May 21, 1944

Courtesy Mike Bojanowski

The Cubs scored runs in bunches on this day.

The Cubs won on Opening Day in 1944, then lost 13 straight games. That's been exceeded only once in franchise history (the 14-game losing streak to begin the 1997 season). During that 13-game losing streak, they fired manager Jimmie Wilson and replaced him with Charlie Grimm, in his second stint as Cubs manager.

The losing continued, even with a few wins scattered here and there, and when the Boston Braves met the Cubs in a doubleheader Sunday, May 21, the Cubs began the day 6-18, 11½ game out of first place. Irving Vaughn of the Tribune tells what happened:

The Cubs, apparently tiring of life in the National league basement, continued setting 1944 records for themselves yesterday.

They took the Boston Braves apart in both ends of a double header and this constituted a new mark. In doing it they ran their winning streak to four games after rain had delayed the start for more than an hour.

And, as an extra feature for 17,138 customers they twice exceeded their previous high in scoring, not to mention a new mark of 18 hits in the second game which was cut to 7½ innings because of darkness. The scores were 15 to 1 and 14 to 5.

Well, let's try to figure out the timing on this one. My previous research noted that doubleheaders in 1944 started at 1:30. The first game was delayed "more than an hour"; let's guess that meant it started at 2:45. Despite the 15-1 score, it was played in a snappy one hour and 52 minutes, thus ending at (approximately) 4:37. That included "a pause because of rain", wrote Vaughn, in the bottom of the first inning. In general, 20 minutes or so was allowed between games in those days, so let's say Game 2 began at approximately 5 p.m.

The 14-5 slugfest ran one hour, 53 minutes -- that's actually somewhat long for 7½ innings; if it had gone the full length it would have been more than two hours.

That would have led to a call for darkness just before 7 p.m. Sunset in Chicago May 21, 1944 was 8:10 p.m. -- so calling the game an hour before sunset was somewhat unusual. Maybe it started to rain again, though Vaughn's article doesn't say, or maybe it was just gloomy enough to stop, given that the Cubs were ahead by nine runs.

The Cubs played better after that -- they went 67-61 the rest of the way -- but it really didn't matter, no one was going to catch the Cardinals that year. St. Louis won 105 games, one short of their 1942 franchise record, and won the pennant by 14½ games.

An unrelated, but interesting 1944 story: At the end of the year the Cubs had a chance to finish over .500 for the first time since 1939. With six games left they were 73-75; a 5-1 mark against two of the three worst teams in the league (the Braves and Phillies) would have done it.

Instead, the Cubs lost four of six and finished 75-79. One of those losses was a 5-1 defeat to the Braves September 29 in Boston in front of an announced crowd of 501. (Yes, five hundred and one.) The losing pitcher that day was Charlie Gassaway, a late-season pickup who appeared in just two games in a Cubs uniform, both losses, both on the road.

When Kasey Ignarski and I were researching "Cubs By The Numbers", Gassaway's was the only uniform number in all of Cubs history we were unable to find. Despite some leads since then, we still haven't. If you have any idea where we can find this, let us know. We'd love to complete the set.

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