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A Game From Cubs History: October 1, 1920

Grover Cleveland "Pete" Alexander was once again the best thing about a not-so-great Cubs team.

SDN-064581, Chicago Daily News negatives collection, Chicago History Museum

Good news for the 1920 Cubs compared to 1919: they scored 165 more runs!

Bad news for the 1920 Cubs compared to 1919: they allowed 228 more runs!

The season went back to its then-normal length of 154 games (from 140) in 1920, and the runs scored/allowed numbers there explain why the Cubs won the same number of games -- 75 -- while losing 14 more, finishing under .500 at 75-79.

Grover Cleveland "Pete" Alexander was once again the star of the team -- in fact, the entire league; he had the highest WAR, 11.8, of any player in the National League in 1920. Overall he went 27-14 with an outstanding ERA of 1.91, and from August 28 to the end of the season he posted an even better mark -- a 1.28 ERA in 77⅓ innings, allowing just 64 hits and 11 walks. This included eight starts and a pair of relief appearances -- in that era, and in fact, continuing until the 1960s, a team's best starter might do that, appear in relief in between starts. Imagine Justin Verlander doing that today. Right, you can't.

Alexander's final start of the season on October 1 was one for the ages. Long eliminated from contention, the Cubs hosted the Cardinals at "Cubs Park" -- the name now given to Weeghman Park.

The game went 17 innings -- and both pitchers threw all 17 innings. James Cruisinberry of the Tribune picks up the story, with a reference to the court hearings then making big news regarding the emerging Black Sox scandal:

With only about 6OO fans looking on, Chicago's Cubs won their most impressive game of the season yesterday when Grover Alexander shaded Haines in a hurling contest settled in the seventeenth inning. The final count was 3 to 2, and the players on each side hustled and battled as if the grand jury were watching them.

In the seventeenth the Cubs won by a sturdy batting rally, Twombly leading off with a single. Terry fanned, but Barber delivered a blow to right that sent his mate to third. Merkle was then purposely walked, filling the bases, and in the pinch Dode Paskert delivered a vicious drive to the corner of left field that would have been a double, but it drove home the winning run and ended the game before Dode was at first base.

Hope he touched the base! Shades of Bryan LaHair's walkoff single last month!

Cruisinberry finished his article with an interesting note:

A side feature was the scoreboard, which showed the progress of the American league games. About the same time that the final score at Detroit was posted showing Cleveland had lost the first game of the double header, the figures at the first inning at St. Louis was posted showing the Sox were off with a three run lead, and the folks cheered and began figuring out a miracle, but later happenings dampened their enthusiasm.

This shows two things: first, the White Sox were favored to win the A.L. pennant for the second straight year, but after the scandal broke, key players were banned from playing, and they lost two of their last three to finish second. Second, this shows that there wasn't the Cubs/White Sox rivalry that there is now; many Chicago fans openly rooted for both teams in that era.