Cubs' home crowds, 1876-1900, Part 12

Twelfth in a series of posts about attendance at Cubs' home games in 1876-1900, the 25 seasons of the National League before the Modern Era began in 1901.


The Colts, as the Cubs then were known, shared first place after winning their first 2 games of the 1895 season.

They lost their third, fell 1 game behind and never led again.

They went into a game at Cincinnati on April 29 in third place. After losing, 3-0, they were ninth, although only 3 games behind the leaders.

Three days later, in their home debut, the Colts lost to Louisville, 1 of the 3 teams behind them in the standings. There were 4,000 people at the West Side Grounds for the May 2 game.

But then the Colts began to win. They posted 7 straight victories and wound up 15-6 during a 25-day home stand in which they hosted 8 different teams.

Chicago fans, who had suffered through back-to-back seasons in which the team won only 56, then 57 games, swarmed to see the new and improved Colts.



The first Sunday game of the year, on May 5, attracted 9,500 fans. The second, a week later, lured 15,000, matching the biggest audience in franchise history, first achieved on July 10, 1886, and equalled only once since, on July 4, 1887, nearly 8 years earlier.

"The town is baseball mad with the prospects of a winning team," noted the Boston Globe, which, to my great delight, in 1895 began printing the attendance at every National League game right next to the final score in each day's standings.


Over the next 7 weeks, attendance for the Colts' 12 home games averaged just under 5,000, a number it would have exceeded but for a Saturday in which only 800 braved rain.

There were 10,500 and 12,000 for games on the third weekend of May, then 9,000 and 14,000 when the team began another home stand on June 22 and 23.

The Colts won both of the June games, avenging a doubleheader loss at Cleveland on Friday and moving them up to fourth place, 3 games out of first.

Three straight weekday wins over the Pirates left them in second, 2.5 to the rear. Then they lost 2 of 3 at Cleveland. In the tightly packed standings, they still were 2.5 games behind, but were in fifth place.

On Sunday, June 30, the Colts began a 25-game home stand in which they faced 9 teams, beginning with the St. Louis Browns, who arrived in 11th place, having won only 17 games, half the Colts' victories.



The combination of the Colts' recent success, the strong likelihood of another win and balmy weather resulted in the largest attendance in the team's 20 NL seasons, 1,000 more than for any previous game.

The next day's Tribune said:


It was there largely -- some 16,000 -- and filled every seat and overflowed onto the field. It was so much in evidence that ground rules were necessary, and these were decided upon in a manner contrary to local precedent.

Instead of a hit into the crowd [but not over the outfield fence] counting for three bases only it was decided to make it good for a home run.

The fine Italian hand of your "Uncle" Anson might have been seen in this, for, it is said, that the old man had a well-defined "hunch" before the game that some of his Colts were going to hit the ball.

The game was a good one to cheer at, but was not especially exciting. It was too one-sided for that. The crowd came expecting to see the Colts win, and consequently didn't get the least bit excited when the score stood 1 to 0 in the visitors' favor.

The crowd knew the Colts were getting ready to do something, and so they waited patiently and enjoyed the play until that something was done.


That "something" was a 3-run homer in the fourth inning by Ace Stewart that validated Anson's hunch and put the Colts in front to stay. The final score was 7-1.

A 17-5 rout of the Browns on Monday put the Colts 1 game out of first. They lost the series finale on Tuesday, 15-9, then rested on Wednesday, in advance of the traditional Fourth of July doubleheader.

"Today the Colts will have two opportunities to show that they can play championship ball," the Tribune said on the morning of the holiday. "They have been doing it since they came home, except Tuesday, when they played something else.

"Had it not been for that they would be in better shape now to continue their climb toward the pennant. But today the Cincinnati Reds will be here and play two of their series of three games. Anson says he will show that his Colts are all right."



That he did, winning both games, 7-6 and 9-5.

"At least they counted as games," remarked the Tribune. "One of them was a real game, in which Anson's men, with a basis of one run, overcame a lead of six held by the Reds, and won in the tenth inning.

"This was the morning game and was witnessed by more than 13,000 ball cranks, who showed the sound condition of their hearts by the fact that none of them fell dead during the critical ninth and tenth innings.

"The second game was more of anything else than a ball game. Only seven innings were played by the Reds and six by the Colts and yet darkness put an end to the contest.

"To be sure the greater part of the time was taken up by fights among the spectators and by attempts on the part of the police to keep the crowd off the field, at least as far as the base lines."


The second crowd numbered 22,913, obliterating the record of 16,000 established just 4 days earlier.

The total of 36,933 was the most ever for a split-admission doubleheader.

In the afternoon, "hundreds were turned away after reaching the grounds because the best that could be offered them was the privilege of standing in the outfield.

"Usually the managers of the ball park refuse to make known the exact attendance, but as yesterday's broke all records in Chicago, they made the figures public."



The story continued:


It was because of the vast crowd that the trouble occurred in the afternoon game. No such attendance had been anticipated and only a small force of police was on the grounds.

As a consequence when the crowd was turned loose into the field it became entirely unmanageable and pulled down the ropes which had been placed in the outfield and crowded up behind the catchers until it was impossible for them to do any work.

Carrying chairs with them, men and women advanced to the base and foul lines and formed a dense mass twenty or thirty deep. The chairs were not used as seats, but to stand on, and by this the people of the bleachers were shut off from all view of the game. Finding that the police did nothing for them the bleacher people tore down a section of the wire netting and some kicked holes in the boards, and, crawling through, invaded the field.

It was beyond the power of the police to control the crowd, and as a consequence the game was stopped several times because the spectators invaded the diamond.

Inspector Shea was on the grounds and heading the small forced of police did his best to clear the field for the players, but he was unable to accomplish anything.

Finally, at the request of [Colts] President Hart, Shea sent for four details of twenty policemen each. These were hurried to the grounds, and as they marched through the gate were greeted with cheers by the spectators who had remained in their seats.

The unruly portion of the crowd saw the police and hurriedly beat a retreat to the part of the grounds where they belonged.

Once or twice it seemed as though the game would be forfeited to Cincinnati because of the unruly behavior of the crowd. The Reds could have claimed the game, but as the trouble occurred early in the game they decided not to.

Cash had something to do with this, as, if the game had been forfeited, the gate receipts would have had to be returned to spectators and the Reds would have had nothing from which to take a percentage.



The third game against Cincinnati, on the day after the holiday, was attended by only 3,000.

In a peculiar bit of scheduling the Colts then hosted 2 other teams over the weekend, first New York (12,500), then Cleveland (7,500).

They lost on Saturday but won on Sunday, climbing to within half a game of first place. The Giants then returned for games on Monday and Tuesday. They won the first and lost the second, remaining half a game behind.

They never came closer the rest of the season, during which they played 65 games. The 1-0 loss to New York on July 9 began a tailspin in which the Colts went 3-9. When it ended, they were in sixth place, 5 games to the rear.

On Aug. 4, they were only 3 behind. Then they lost 16 of 23, only once winning consecutive games. A seventh straight loss, by 15-5, on Sept. 4, relegated the Colts to ninth place, 15 games back.

Following a win and a loss, they were just 3 games above .500, at 58-55. But from that point on, they won 14 of 17, to end the year 72-58-3, good for fourth, 15 games out of first.



After July 4, when they set their attendance record, the Colts were just 34-32-3. But while they faded in the standings, they continued to draw good crowds, especially on weekends: 25,000 for the games on Saturday and Sunday, July 13-14; 19,000 a week later; and 20,000 in early August.

A game against Louisville on Saturday, Sept. 14, was rained out, creating a single-admission doubleheader on Sunday that attracted 16,000, matching the turnout for the single game back in June that briefly had been the all-time high.

There even were 2,000 on hand for the last home game, on the frigid afternoon of Sunday, Sept. 29.

"Although it was so cold that the temperature snapped out of [renowned agitator Arlie] Latham's vocal cords, a good number turned out to see the Colts defeat Cincinnati in the final game of the season," the Inter Ocean reported. "A number came out of charity, as it had been announced that if the attendance did not increase Captain Anson would have to make his white uniform coat do for a winter ulster."


Those diehards boosted the crowd count for the entire season to 387,193, which was an impressive 103,551 -- 37 percent! -- more than their previous best, 283,642, in 1887. And that year they had 67 home dates, 1 more than in 1895.

Their 1895 average of 5,867 per game was nearly 1,000 better than their 4,890 in 1887, and 2,032 more than in 1894, an increase of 53 percent.


For their 13 home dates on Sundays, the Colts drew an average of 10,964 fans, compared to 7,397 on Saturdays (12 dates) and 3,535 on weekdays (41 dates).

The total for the Sundays, 153,500, was more than the 144,933 on weekdays, in fewer than one third the dates.

Saturday and Sunday together attracted an average of 9,690, in excess of 2.5 times the weekday average. The weekend total, 242,260, represented just under 63 percent of the attendance for the entire season, in only 38 percent of the dates.



In 1896, for the third time since 1890, and fourth since 1881, they all but duplicated their previous season's record.

Instead of finishing 72-58-3, they finished 71-57-4. Had they won their season finale, they would have had the same number of wins and losses as the year before.

Instead of finishing fourth, 15 games behind Baltimore, they finished fifth, 18 games behind the Orioles.

And they never held first place alone, as they had not in 1895.


Chicago fans, though, had expected more from the Colts, not more of the same. The average crowd at the Colts' home games fell by 23 percent, to 4,498, from the franchise-record 5,867 in 1895.

The home opener on April 30, following a 5-5 road trip, drew 8,000.

Three days later, the first Sunday game at the West Side Grounds took place in front of second-largest crowd in team history, after the 22,913 for the afternoon game the previous Fourth of July.

"The crowd was so large that play was almost impossible at times," according to the Boston Globe. "The turn-stile count was 17,231, but at least 3000 more were present, as the crowd broke down the gate to the 50-cent seats after it had been closed, and a great number rushed through before the police came to the rescue."



Two week after that, on May 17, the turnout was even bigger: 18,921.

But through the rest of the season, of 52 home dates, only 3 boasted 5-digit crowds: 14,000 and 10,000 in June, and 11,500 in July. Each was on Sunday.

The 2 Independence Day games, combined, fell short of 10,000.

"The attendance was light for a holiday," the Tribune commented, "3,000 being present in the morning and twice that number at the second game -- the lightest Fourth of July crowds in many years."

It didn't help that the Colts went into the game with a record of 35-32, in sixth place, while their opponent, Louisville, was 11-46, dead last.



On July 13, the day after 11,500 saw the Colts lose and slip to sixth place, 10.5 games behind, the Inter Ocean had this to say:


Cleveland defeated Chicago yesterday in a game that about as many points of interest as a strawberry pie.

Eleven thousand howling, perspiring enthusiasts strove vainly to find something exciting and cheered itself and laughed at the players because there was nothing better to do.

It wasn't a bad game of ball from a technical standpoint, but the crowd was not technical. It wanted gore and would have vastly preferred a score that would take two figures to express.

The chief feature of the crowd was its thirst. It was a deep burning desire for brown pop that began just under the roots of the hair and charred the inside out of boot soles. It was just such a thirst as an evil-minded man would have turned to ulterior purposes.

This mass of humanity sat all over the grounds, according to the wealth possessed by its component parts, and racked its brains for stray scraps of ancient history to rub into the teeth of the players -- if they had teeth -- to the great delight of the assembled multitude, but principally of themselves.


There were only 1,000 on hand the following day, a Monday, when the Colts hosted Philadelphia. But just 900 attended on Thursday, Aug. 6, when the Colts hosted St. Louis.

Over the next week, 5 games were viewed by 33,600 fans, an average of 6,720, capped by a crowd of 9,000 on Aug. 13, a Thursday -- the most for any weekday game all year.



Why would 9,000 decide to watch a game on a Thursday in the middle of August?

Incredibly, it was the Colts' final home game of the season, to be followed by 32 in a row on the road, the last on Sept. 20 at St. Louis, completing a tour of all 11 other cities in the league.

For what it's worth, the Colts went 14-16-2 in those games. They were fourth when they left home and fourth when they returned -- although 18 games behind at the end, compared to 10.5 at the beginning.


The larger-than-usual crowd for their home finale improved the Colts' average for their 44 weekday games to 2,968.

On 11 Saturdays, one quarter as many, they averaged 5,509.

On 12 Sundays, the typical crowd was 9,179, or more than 3 times Monday-Friday, in less than 30 percent as many dates.

The 23 weekend games combined for 57 percent of all tickets sold, in half as many game as on weekdays.

The combined average for Saturday and Sunday, 7,424, was 2.5 times more than the weekday average.


TOMORROW: Less success but bigger crowds

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