A Cubs-Reds brawl in 1915

Every once in a while, tempers flare, dugouts and bullpens empty, and players push and shove for a minute or two.

Such altercations are nothing compared to what happened in the Dead Ball Era, when players occasionally threw punches at one another -- and connected more often than not.

One of the most raucous examples came on July 6, 1915.

"Great excitement occurred at the west side park when the Cubs and Reds wound up their double engagement yesterday with an old time fist fight that was the most riotous seen on a Chicago ball field in more than 10 years," James Crusinberry wrote in the next day's Chicago Tribune.



The teams had played 5 games at Cincinnati during the final 4 days of June, with the Cubs winning the first and last. With a record of 35-25, they held first place by 2.5 games over the runnerup Phillies (32-27), 3 over the Cardinals (35-31) and 3.5 over the Pirates (31-28).

The next afternoon, the Cubs began July a 5-days series at home against Pittsburgh. They were shut out, 4-0, in the series opener on Thursday; won, 2-1, on Friday, then split a doubleheader on Saturday, winning, 6-5 and losing, 4-2.

After an 8-5 victory on Sunday, the Fourth of July, they led by 2.5 games again.

Next up: the Reds again, for back-to-back doubleheaders. The twin bill on Monday had been on the original schedule. A second game had been added on Tuesday because wet grounds had prevented play on May 4, when the teams were supposed to have met for the first of their 11 times at the West Side Grounds.

The Reds had been 22-31 after their first-game loss to the Cubs in Ohio 8 days earlier. But after winning 3 of the final 4 against the Cubs, they had taken 3 of 4 against the Cardinals, with all of the wins by 1 run.

They continued to prosper on their first day in Chicago.



In Monday's opening game, the Reds scored 5 runs in the top of the first inning, knocking out Cubs starter Zip Zabel. Reliever Karl Adams pitched the next 8 innings and gave up single runs in 3 of them, as Cincinnati completed an 8-5 win.

After the Cubs took a 1-0 lead in the second inning of Game 2, the Reds immediately scored 4 in the third. knocking out Jimmy Lavender. They opened a 9-2 cushion with 3 runs in the seventh and eventually won, 12-7.

The Reds amassed 18 hits, 6 off Lavender and 12 off George Pierce. Heinie Groh hit for the cycle and added a second single.

With the sweep, Cincinnati (30-33) jumped from seventh place to fifth. The Cubs (38-29) saw their lead shaved to a single game.


The Monday games had been played in front of 16,500 fans, the Cubs' largest home crowd of the season. Tuesday's doubleheader attracted only 5,100.

But they certainly got their money's worth.



In the first inning of Game 1, the Cubs got singles from Wilbur Good and Frank Schulte, a double from Heinie Zimmerman, and singles from Vic Saier and Art Phelan. They produced 3 runs.

The score was 4-2 going to the eighth, when the Reds tied the game on back-to-back doubles, then a 2-out single by Groh.

Then neither team could break the deadlock until the 14th.

Zimmerman, who already had 2 doubles and a single, slammed a leadoff triple. After an intentional walk, trotted home on a single by Pete Knisely.

The walk-off hit was the Cubs' 16th against Rube Benton, a 25-year-old left hander who pitched the entire game. He faced 60 batters, walking 4 and striking out 8.

One shudders to think how many pitches he threw!

The Reds finished with 18 hits against 3 Cubs hurlers: Bert Humphries (8, in 5 innings), Pete Standridge (6, in 3 innings) and Larry Cheney (4, in 6 shutout innings).

Groh had 4 of the hits, making him 10 for 15 in the series.



"The spirit of fighting was in the air at the west side all afternoon," Crusinberry said in a notes column the following day.

"At the start of the second game [Cubs catcher] Jim Archer and [Reds pitcher] Fred Toney squared away for a battle which was quickly stopped by Umpire [Al] Orth.

"Just before that an aged fan in the grand stand took a punch at a peanut peddler who persisted in getting in the way."

But the real fracas remained an hour or so away.


After all the slugging in the first 3 games, hits were hard to come by in the fourth. Toney and Cubs starter Hippo Vaughn matched zeros through 4 innings.

Vaughn blanked the Reds again in the fifth. Toney did not. Cy Williams, first up for the Cubs, blasted a ball into the right field bleachers for a home run.

The next inning, Zimmerman singled, stole second and doubled the Cubs' lead when Williams singled.


Vaughn had not walked a batter through the sixth, but walked the first man he faced in the seventh. After a strikeout and a single, he walked Groh, too, loading the bases with 1 out.

Joe Wagner, pinch hitting, smacked a double, tying the score at 2. Vaughn stranded the 2 remaining runners on a strikeout and a grounder to short.



With 1 out in the bottom half, all hell broke out.

Here is how Crusinberry described it:


Good hit a drive down the left foul line for an easy two bagger, but he attempted to stretch it to a triple. The ball was heaved to third and was in [Ivy] Olson's hands for him to nail the fleet footed Cub, but the latter crashed into the bag feet first with such desperation that he kicked the ball out of Olson's hands.

The Cincinnati third sacker made no effort to go after the ball. Instead he swung a right uppercut, with all his body behind it, right at Good's chin. The latter apparently saw it coming just in time to duck, and the two athletes rolled and grappled and kicked and pommeled [sic] each other in the earth as if bent on destruction.

Jimmy Archer, coaching at third, rushed into the melee along with [Reds shortstop Buck] Herzog and Umpire [Ernie] Quigley, and it required about five seconds for a dozen others to reach the place of combat.

Suddenly from out of the pile of wriggling bodies Umpire Quigley appeared, bearing Olson in his arms. The ump rushed the athlete clear to the railing in front of the grandstand, and all the time Olson seemed to be trying to twist Quigley's head off. At least he had the arbitrator by the throat and once or twice tried to land an uppercut on the jaw, but he was too close for such action.

Good seemed content to sit quietly on third base and watch the balance of the combat, but it required at least three or four minutes to calm Mr. Olson sufficiently to let him venture out of the grasp of his captors.

Al Orth, the other umpire, who in charge of second game, finally brought about order out of the chaos. He banished Olson and Good from the field and they were escorted, each by a squad of other athletes, to the clubhouse, after which the game was resumed long enough to get one more man out.

By that time it was too dark for further ball playing or boxing, so Ump Orth called the game.



Fortunately, the teams went their separate ways that evening.

The Reds headed for New York, where they lost 3 in a row to the Giants once before beating them once. They won a series opener at Brooklyn, then dropped 7 in a row.

By the time they finally returned home, after stops in Boston and Philadelphia, they were 5-13 since the fight and in last place, at 35-47.


The day after the fight, the Cubs won at Pittsburgh. Then they lost 4 straight at Brooklyn and 2 more at New York. The fifth of the 6 losses cost them first place.

Wins in 2 of the 3 subsequent games against the Giants and the opener of a series at Philadelphia brought the Cubs back to a tie for the lead.

But they dropped each of the 7 remaining games on the road. A loss in their first game back home, on July 30, left them under .500 for the season, at 43-44, and in fourth place, 6 games behind.

They closed out July in fifth, then won their first 5 games in August to move back up to second, just 1.5 games out of the top spot, at 50-45.

Four more losses followed, starting a 16-33 skid. After an 11-inning, 5-4 loss to the Phillies on Sept. 25, the Cubs were dead last, at 66-78.



Two days later, the Cubs and Reds met in Chicago again for the first time since the July 6 fight.

Once again, they played back-to-back doubleheaders on Monday and Tuesday. This time, the Cubs won all 4 games: 7-2 and 5-1, then 7-3 and 5-0.

They added a 5-4 win on Wednesday before losing, 3-2, on Thursday.

After a day off, the teams resumed their rivalry in Cincinnati, splitting a Saturday doubleheader, with the Cubs winning, 5-3, in 12 innings, then losing, 3-0, in 6.

That made 8 consecutive games between the clubs in 6 days. There wasn't a fight in any of them.


Their 6 wins in the 8 games against the Reds boosted the Cubs into fourth place, and that's where they finished, thanks to a season-ending, 7-2 triumph over the Cardinals in Chicago on Sunday.

Only 3.5 games separated the Cubs (73-80) from the last-place Giants (69-83). They edged the Pirates (73-81) by half a game, the sixth-place Cardinals (72-81) by 1 game and the seventh-place Reds (71-83).

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