As you know, the Cubs won four pennants between 1929 and 1938.
That's good, right? That's what we'd all like to see in the next 10 years -- multiple playoff appearances resulting in multiple World Series appearances and...
But did you know the Cubs probably should have won even more pennants than that, in that 10-year span?
The Cubs had winning records for 13 consecutive seasons in that era, 1927 through 1939. They finished four games out in 1928, two games behind in 1930 (covered in the 1930 post in this series), six games back in 1933 and three games behind in 1937.
That's four other times besides the pennant years that the Cubs, with a few breaks and better games here and there, could have made the World Series. The fifth time, and the reason you're reading this, was the 1936 season, when the Cubs also finished five games out of first place, tied for second with the Cardinals.
Coming off their 1935 pennant, the Cubs spent much of July and early August in first place, only to fall out by losing nine of 13 in mid-August. They were hovering close to the top spot when the Braves came to Wrigley Field for a two-game set beginning Friday, August 28 (yes, often in that era, a different team came to town to start a series on a Sunday).
Here's where I'd normally post a bit of the Tribune recap of the game -- but in my search through the archive, there wasn't one. The reasons for this? Lost to history; perhaps because the Saturday newspapers were less-read than the weekday ones, the Tribune's writer didn't go to the game. Who knows?
In any case, the Cubs blew out the Braves 18-3 that Friday afternoon. They scored seven runs in the first inning, had a 13-1 lead after three, and cruised to their sixth straight win in front of a crowd of about 20,000 (that's what the boxscore said; in those days, even though full-season attendance was announced later, individual games had simple round-number estimates posted). Frank Demaree, one of the Cubs from the 1930s who's most forgotten today, went 5-for-6 with a homer and four RBI. Demaree went on to hit .350/.400/.496 and finish seventh in MVP voting that year; looking at his career numbers, it would appear that his quick decline after 1938 might have been caused by injuries.
The win moved the Cubs to within three games of the Giants, who would be coming to Wrigley that Sunday for a four-game set.
Unfortunately, the Cubs lost three of those four and though they still had a reasonable shot at the pennant after that series -- five games behind with 27 remaining -- they went just 13-14 over that span, and finished five games out, as the Giants didn't do any better over the season's final month.
Something to remember as you look back in Cubs history -- the teams of the late 1920s through the late 1930s could have been even better than they actually were.