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Cubs' back-to-back homers, 1876-1900, Part 1

Much of Major League Baseball's record-keeping is restricted to the game's Modern Era.

The first season of that era, 1901, was the first in which the American League was a second Major League.

But it was the 26th season of the National League, had begun play in 1876.

Those 25 earlier seasons constitute more than one sixth of the entire history of big league baseball.

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Achievements prior to 1901 often are excluded from records in part because the game was different, in many ways, during many 19th Century seasons, from what it came to be.

They also are excluded because accurate data from earlier seasons can be hard to come by.

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In 4 earlier posts, I looked at how many times in the Modern Era that the Cubs have hit 2 or more consecutive home runs in the same inning.

This is the first of 2 posts that extends the investigation to the seasons from 1876 through 1900.

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The Cubs played 2,914 games in those 25 year, an average of 117 per year.

They hit 998 home runs, an average of 40 per year. (No doubt, at least 2 Cubs were thrown out trying to complete an inside-the-park homer!)

Those homers were hit by 84 different players. By going through the Home Run Log at baseball-reference.com for each of the 84, I was able to compile a list of all 998 homers.

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2 IN AN INNING

I sorted the homers by date and inning, then carefully went through the list and found each time the Cubs hit 2 in the same inning -- 62 of them.

The data did not show how many outs there were for any of homers. But it did include the batting order position of the players who homered.

By checking those, as well as box scores and accounts of the games in contemporary newspapers, I ultimately verified 19 times that the Cubs hit back-to-back home runs before the Modern Era.

That makes the total for all 146 seasons 372 times. Add the 11 times that the Cubs have homered back-to-back-to-back they have hit multiple homers 383 times, in 21,769 games -- once every 57 games.

They have hit 777 consecutive homers, which is 5.3 percent of their 14,659 total home runs.

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HARD TO COME BY

That percentage was just 3.8 before 1901, when home runs of any kind were a rarity.

The Cubs, then known as the White Stockings, hit only 8 homers during the inaugural 66-game season.

They hit none in 60 games in 1877, followed by 3, 3 and 4 in 1878-80.

Through 5 seasons, they had total of 18 homers, in 356 games -- about 1 in every 20 games. They had hit 2 homers in the same only once, in 1876.

On May 18, 1881, at home against Worcester, the Whites hit 2 homers in an inning for the first time, a pair of 2-run shots that were not back to back.

On Aug. 16, they hit homers in the third and fourth innings against visiting Buffalo, making their season total 9 in 58 games.

Then they did not hit another home run for 21 games, over more than 5 weeks.

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On Sept. 23, in the second inning of a game at Troy, N.Y., shortstop Tom Burns tied the score at 1 "by batting the ball under the right-field gate," as the Chicago Tribune put it.

The Whites won that game, 3-2; lost the next, 8-1, then took the rubber game of the series, 10-8.

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STOCKINGS (WHITE) AND LEGS (RUBY)

The following day, Sept. 28, the first-place Whites (55-27) began a season-ending series at Worcester, Mass., against the last-place Ruby Legs (31-49).

The Tribune's coverage of the game the next day consisted of:

CHICAGO VS. WORCESTER.

WORCESTER, Mass., Sept. 28. -- The score of the game today between Chicago and Worcester was as follows:

And then it printed the line score, showing a 7-6 Chicago victory.

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The Inter Ocean, another Chicago paper, had little more to say:

WORCESTER, Mass., Sept. 28. -- The game here to-day was closely contested, and much interest was manifested by the spectators present. Score by innings:

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No newspaper in Worcester is available online. Papers in Boston and other NL cities were equally silent.

The line score of the game shows that the Whites scored 3 runs in the first inning.

They did it when leadoff man Hugh Nicol reached base against right hander Fred Corey and King Kelly followed with an inside-the-park homer.

Cap Anson, up next, homered, too -- giving the Whites back-to-back homers for the first time in their National League history.

Corey, it should be noted, pitched 188.2 innings for Worcester in 1881. He gave up 3 home runs.

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8 SEASONS, 58 HOMERS

The homers by Kelly and Anson were the Whites' last of the season. They hit 15 and 13 the next 2 seasons, but only twice had more than 1 in a game -- 3, in 1882, and 2, in 1883 -- and none of them were in the same inning.

So, over their first 8 NL seasons, the Whites had homered 58 times, in 622 games. They had hit multiple homers in only 6 of those games, and back-to-back homers just once.

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The Whites began 1884 with an 8-city, 20-game road.

They hit no homers in any of the first 19 games.

Then they hit 3, in different innings, on May 27 at Buffalo -- and 2, 3, 3 and 2 in their 4 games over the next 3 days, for 5 consecutive multi-homer games, just 1 less than they had hit in the previous 641 games!

They would hit at least 2 homers 8 times in June, 8 more in July, 9 in August, 8 in September and 4 in October, for an astonishing total of 42 times -- exactly half the 84 games they played.

They hit a lone home run in 19 games and did not homer in 23.

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1 SEASON, 142 HOMERS

They hit 142 home runs in all, nearly 2.5 times as many as they had hit in the previous 7 seasons combined. No other team hit more than 39, and those teams averaged just 26.

All but 11 of the 142 had come at home -- and with good reason.

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Between the end of 1882 and start of 1883, their home field, Lake Front Park "received a complete makeover and was now the finest ballpark in the land, with seats for ten thousands spectators, including plus luxury boxes," Glenn Stout writes in his magisterial history, "The Cubs."

"It also featured the smallest playing field. Nowhere was it more than 300 feet to the fence, and down the lines it was considerably less -- 180 feet in left and 196 feet in right.

"In fact, the fences were so close that balls hit over the fence were counted as doubles, not home runs."

Little wonder, then, that in 1883 the White Stockings hit 277 doubles, 68 more than any other team and nearly 100 more than the average of the 7 other teams.

The ground rules were changed for 1884: a ball hit over the inviting fences was now a home run.

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Of the 42 games that the Whites hit multiple homers in 1884, 41 were at Lakefront Park. The only exception was that first multi-homer game, mentioned previously, at Buffalo on May 27.

In at least 20 of the 41 home games with 2 or more homers, the Whites homered twice in the same inning.

In 3 more games, neither the data at baseball-reference.com nor any newspaper account that I could find revealed the innings in which they hit those homers. In each game, players homered who followed one another in the Whites' batting order.

But in 5 games, the Whites verifiably hit consecutive homers.

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UNCONVENTIONAL GAME

The first of the 5, the first time they ever hit back-to-back homers at home, was on Tuesday, June 3, which also was the first day of the Republican National Convention at the city's Exposition Hall.

"Three thousand people became furiously excited yesterday over the game between Buffalo and Chicago," the Tribune reported the next day. "Among the spectators were many men with white hats and delegate badges, and bulletins from the convention were posted on the score-board. The same thing will be done today, a wire connecting the ball grounds with the convention hall.

"The game was one of peculiar interest and excitement. For seven full innings neither side scored, though in the fifth inning [Bisons pitcher Pud] Galvin accomplished the extraordinary feat of retiring Chicago with three men on bases and not a man out.

"In the first half of the eighth inning, after two men were out, Jim White put the ball over the right-field fence for a home run, and in Chicago's half of the inning both Kelly and Anson did the same thing.

"After two men had been put out in the first half of the ninth Galvin got his base on [third baseman Ned] Williamson's fumble, and [Jim] O'Rourke sent the ball over the fence for four bases, producing two unearned runs.

"Williamson led off the last half of the ninth with a base on balls, Galvin evidently fearing another home run. Then, when [Fred] Goldsmith had gone out on a fly to [center fielder Hardy] Richardson, [Silver] Flint sent the ball over the fence, and the game was won by Chicago."

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Got that? The Whites triumphed, 4-3, on a walk-off, 2-run homer by Flint, ending a contest in which all 7 runs came on homers, including the back-to-back shots by Kelly and Anson.

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4 MORE IN '84

Three weeks later, on June 24, the Whites led Boston, 7-4, after 3 innings, then "earned three in the fifth on Anson's single and home runs by [Fred] Pfeffer and Williamson.

In the seventh, Anson homered, Pfeffer singled and Williamson homered again, and the Whites wound up winning, 10-6.

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The White hosted the Philadelphia Quakers in a Fourth of July doubleheader.

They narrowly won the opener, 3-1, as Flint homered. In the rematch, they spotted the Quakers a 1-0 lead in the first inning, then scored 4 runs in their half. By the end of the third, they led, 10-1.

In the fifth, Williamson stepped to the plate with the bases loaded and cleared them with a long drive. Tom Burns then homered, too.

The Whites scored 7 runs in the inning. It is unclear how many had been scored before the homers by Williamson and Burns. The Tribune's story does not include play-by-play of the inning. The Inter Ocean's entire account consists of: "The afternoon game was well attended, and it proved a decided victory for the home nine, who managed to bat Coleman clean out of the box."

One of 2 Philadelphia papers that I was able to access has only the box score from the game. The other omits it completely. Both have extensive coverage of another doubleheader on the Fourth, at Philadelphia, between the Philadelphia and Chicago teams of the rival Union Association. The Keystones swept those games.

Burns hit another homer with nobody on in the seventh and the Whites went on to win, 22-3.

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Chicago players would not hit a grand slam followed immediately by a second homer again for nearly 103 years, until June 3, 1987, when Brian Dayett and Keith Moreland did it in the first inning at home against the Astros.

The Cubs have done it 4 times since then: a second time in 1987 and once each in 1996, 2000 and 2002.

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One month later, on Aug. 4, Flint and Dalrymple, batting ninth and first, hit back-to-back solo homers in the sixth inning to increase the Whites' lead over Cleveland to 6-2. They won, 9-2.

Then, on Sept. 30, the Whites broke open a 3-1 game against New York by scoring 9 runs in the fourth inning. Anson slugged a 3-run homer during the uprising, after which Pfeffer homered immediately.

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NEW HOME

After hitting back-to-back homers 5 times in 1884, the Cubs did not do it even once in 1885, when they hit 54 homers, a drop of more than 60 percent from the year before.

What happened?

"The City of Chicago, which owned the land, sold Lakefront Park," Glenn Stout explains in his history of the Cubs, "and the White Stockings hurriedly built a replacement, West Side Park, at the corner of Congress and Throop Streets."

So the short fences were gone, right?

No.

Stout continues:

"Although the stands were much bigger than Lakefront Park, the field was still undersized, particularly down the lines, where it was barely two hundred feet to the fences, still the shortest distance in the league."

But 1885 also was the first season that pitchers were permitted to throw overhand. While batters continued to be allowed to call for a high or low pitch, they found slugging homers far more difficult.

And the league adopted a new rule for all parks: any ball that cleared a fence less than 210 feet from home plate was a double.

The average number of home runs by an NL team in 1884 had been 40. In 1885, it fell by nearly half, to 22.

The Cubs would not hit as many as 100 homers again until they clouted 139 in 1929. The next year, they surpassed their 142 in 1884, hitting 171.

They would not hit at least 142 again for another 2 decades, until 1950, when they hit 161.

Their current record is 256, set in 2019.

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NO MORE THAN 2

During the final 16 seasons before the Modern Era, the Cubs hit back-to-back home runs 13 times, but never more than 2 in any season. They hit 2 in 5 seasons and 1 in 3 seasons.

A list of all 19 back-to-back homers before 1901 is at the end of the second part of this post.

Some of the consecutive home runs after 1884 deserve special mention.

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FRED AND NED, TIMES 2

Pfeffer and Williamson hit back-to-back homers on June 25, 1886, the day after the second anniversary of when they had done it in 1884.

In the first inning of the 1886 game, at home against Washington, Pfeffer hit a homer with 2 on base, then Williamson homered to give the Whites a 5-1 lead.

Pfeffer had a busy inning.

The Whites had tied the score and runners on first and third with 1 out. King Kelly, on first, took off for second and drew a throw, on which the runner from third scored the go-ahead run.

Kelly rounded second and headed for third.

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The Tribune described what happened next:

"[Catcher Barney] Gilligan threw to [third baseman Paul] Hines to head him off; 'Deafy' muffed the ball and collided with Kelly, both falling, the third baseman on top.

"Quick as a flash, he seized Kelly around the thigh, pinning him to the ground while [left fielder Cliff] Carroll raced after the ball. It took the crowd about ten seconds to realize the situation, and then there was a storm of hisses, cries of 'Foul!' and 'Fire him!'

"Pfeffer rushed in and broke Hines' hold, the umpire raced down toward third, reprimanded Hines, and called Kelly home amid the cheers and plaudits of the crowd."

Anson then single, setting the stage for the homers by Pfeffer and Williamson.

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About 4 weeks later, on July 23, Pfeffer and Williamson went back-to-back again, both coming with the bases empty. Their third-inning shots increased the Whites' cushion over Kansas City to 6-0. The final score was 11-0.

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ROAD WARRIORS

The Whites' next 2 sets of consecutive homers also were hit by the same pair of players: Anson and Pfeffer.

The first time, on May 26, 1888, was at home against Detroit.

The second, on May 2, 1889, was at Indianapolis -- the first time the Whites had gone back to back on the road since their first consecutive homers anywhere, at Buffalo, back in 1881.

Ultimately, the Whites hit 6 sets of back-to-back homers on the road before 1901 and 13 sets at home.

Besides Buffalo and Indianapolis, the Whites (and Colts and Orphans, their later names) also homered consecutively once each at Brooklyn and twice at New York.

The latter 3 were their last 3 back-to-back sets of the century,

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FIRST OF ITS KIND

On May 14, 1891, Bill Hutchison became the first pitcher in franchise history to take part in back-to-back home runs.

The Colts, who had batted first at home, held a 3-1 lead after 8 innings.

"When the ninth inning opened [Boston pitcher John] Clarkson had been found for [just] two singles, and the home team started to make up for last time," the Tribune explained.

"Pfeffer, the first man up, was disposed of all right, but [Walt] Wilmot was another kind of customer. He hit the ball, and it keep sailing until it negotiated the right field fence and the batter trotted around the bases.

"Then Hutchison stepped up. Clarkson put up one of his slow balls, and Hutch, his 'eyes in fine frenzy rolling,' fairly ran at it. When [left fielder George] Rooks came up with the ball Hutch was just crossing the plate."

Only later Cubs pitchers have taken part in back-to-back homers: Don Cardwell (1961), Milt Pappas (1970) and Kerry Wood (2003). Cardwell's and Pappas' were the second of the pair; Wood's, the first.

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'HAUNT HIM TO HIS DYING DAY'

Eight weeks later, on Aug. 25, the Colts hosted the Brooklyn Grooms, today's Dodgers.

Jimmy Ryan led off the game with a homer, sparking a 6-run inning.

In the seventh inning, Ryan and Wilmot homered back to back, as the Colts scored 6 times again to lead 23-2.

Then Wilmot homered in a 5-run ninth. The final score was 28-5.

The assault came against George Hemming, a 22-year-old right hander who had shut out the Colts at the same park on the Fourth of July.

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"This same tan-colored youth stood in the box yesterday afternoon at the South Side grounds, and the memory of his experience will haunt him to his dying day," the Tribune predicted. "If the home team had been allowed to stand at the plate, toss the ball in the air themselves, take a run at it, and send it whizzing at the Brooklyn fielders the result from a run-and-base-hit-gathering standpoint could not have been much worse than that achieved off the erstwhile mystic pitching of Mr. Hemming. . . .

"Finally, in sheer desperation, Hemming tossed the ball up, inviting the Colts to see how far they could hit it. His effectiveness increased with this, but this morning he has the distinction of being the hardest-hit pitcher has done duty in the league for many a day.

"He was found for twenty-seven hits, with a total of forty-nine bases, and the home team accumulated twenty-eight runs, thirteen of them earned.

"While the game was supposed to be a baseball contest it much more resembled the time-honored game of rounders, ending when the players fell exhausted.

"No one fell yesterday, but eighteen weary and foot-sore ball tossers dragged their weary lengths along at the close of an affair which would have been tiresome but for its humorous side."

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TOMORROW: More back-to-back homers before 1901 and breakdowns of all 19 by individual batters and combinations of batters

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