EDITOR’S NOTE: Today I am beginning the first of two series. The Cubs have lost exactly 10 games in their history (the baseball-reference era, since 1904) by 17 or more runs. This is the first of 10 articles on those awful games. After that, I’ll cheer you up. The Cubs have won nine shutouts in their history by at least 15 runs. The second series will cover those much happier endings.
Both of these series will run in order of magnitude, rather than in chronological order — in other words, the worst loss and best win will both run last.
The 1904 Cubs were actually a very good team. They went 93-60 and briefly contended through June, after which the Giants ran away with the N.L. pennant with a 106-47 mark. The Cubs finished a distant second, 13 games out of first place. But this season presaged the four pennants in five years that the Cubs would win from 1906-10.
Meanwhile, the 1904 Cardinals weren’t a good team at all. They finished 75-79, 31½ games behind the pennant-winning Giants.
But on this day... the Cardinals stomped the Cubs pretty good at West Side Grounds. The Cub starter was Mordecai Brown, who would go on to a Hall of Fame career, and in fact, his 1904 numbers were pretty good: 15-10, 1.86 ERA, 0.965 WHIP, 6.6 hits per nine innings (the latter led the major leagues).
But on this day, Brown was lifted after two innings and five runs allowed, and Carl Lundgren pitched the rest of the game. The Cardinals, not satisfied with going into the ninth inning leading 12-2, scored seven runs off Lundgren and won 19-2.
The Tribune report on the game began this way (remember that the Cubs were still being referred to as the Colts in many newspapers at the time, and capitalization as in the original):
It was simply shameful the way the fellows from St. Louis treated the Colts at the west side grounds yesterday. They seemed to have imbibed large bunches of fourth of July spirit, and the fireworks they jammed into a little over one hour and a half in which it took to play that exhibition — if it can be honored with so dignified a title — was enough to make the celebration today resemble a midnight funeral in comparison.
But it seemed as if those cardinals from the other end of the ditch could not wait until today to do their shooting, and when they had finished with the two young slab artists by the names of Mordecai Brown and Carl Lundgren there was not enough left of them to tell the tale, so completely were they riddled. The final score was 19 runs to 2, at least that was the count obtained by the tabulator, but, according to the rooters, anywhere from fifteen to fifty of that St. Louis tribe galloped across the plate.
They don’t write ‘em like that anymore, that’s for sure. Pity. Modern sportswriting could use some florid prose like that.
The July 3 loss was the third of a five-game losing streak. It continued the next day when the Colts/Cubs were swept by the Pirates in a holiday doubleheader. The Cubs would follow that with an eight-game winning streak, though. Of note: the 93-win season was the first 90+ win season in franchise history. They would win 90 or more games every year for a decade, through 1912.
And the Cubs would not lose another game by that many runs for 45 years. That story, a bit later in this series.