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A Game From Cubs History: August 22, 1919

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The promise of a good Cubs team after 1918 fell short, but a future Hall of Famer had a terrific season.

SDN-064431, Chicago Daily News negatives collection, Chicago History Museum

The 1919 Cubs hoped to repeat the success of the 1918 pennant winners. Their pitching staff did the job -- a team ERA of 2.21 and 407 runs allowed were second-best in the National League to the pennant-winning Reds (and very close in both categories).

The problem with the 1919 Cubs is they couldn't score runs. They finished dead last in the N.L. in runs scored, and thus, were consigned to a third-place finish at 75-65 in another war-truncated season (140 games).

Future Hall of Famer Grover Cleveland "Pete" Alexander had been acquired by the Cubs after the 1917 season in a huge deal, along with Bill Killefer, for Pickles Dillhoefer (yes, there really was a player by that name), Mike Prendergast and $55,000, which was an enormous amount of money in those days. He served in the army for most of 1918, and on returning to the Cubs in 1919 put together a terrific season, going 16-11 but leading the major leagues with a 1.72 ERA and hurling nine shutouts.

He nearly had another one August 22 in Philadelphia against a woeful Phillies team that managed to scratch out two runs off him in the ninth inning in a game the Cubs would win 10-2 -- that's 2.2 percent of all the runs they scored that entire season; they scored in double figures just twice all year. Alexander nearly had a history-book gem that day; I.E. Sanborn of the Tribune has the recap:

The Cubs wound up their season's work in Quakertown with a soft boiled victory over the Phils, 10 to 2. It was easier than that, for Sergt. G. C. Alexander pitched no hit ball for seven innings while the Cubs were climbing on the necks of two pitchers for a lot of hits and tallies. After his pals had given him a lead of ten Alex merely lobbed the ball over in the ninth, and three hits scored a couple of runs.

Imagine a pitcher doing that today? I thought not. Sanborn went on:

Seventeen hits were accumulated by the Mitchells, not including what looked like a safe bunt by Merkle. As it was, Merkle got three from the official scorer and was robbed in the ninth by Meusel. Hollocher also trimmed the two Phil slab men for three safeties, and everybody, including Sergt. Aleck, made at least one safe swat.

You've probably noticed that often in that era, newspaper writers referred to teams by their manager's name, thus "the Mitchells". This became an official name of the Dodgers for a time while they were managed by Wilbert Robinson in that era; they were known from 1914-31 as "the Robins".