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Cubs' home crowds, 1876-1900, Part 14

Fourteenth 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.

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The future Cubs began 1898 with a new name and a new manager.

They most often were called the Orphans, because they had lost their "papa," Cap Anson, who had been forced out after 22 seasons as a player and 19 as manager.

The manager was Tom Burns, the team's shortstop, then third baseman, for 12 seasons, 1880-91. He would last only 2 as non-playing chief strategist.

In his first year at the helm, the Orphans rebounded from their ignominious ninth-place finish in 1897 to fourth place, as they improved to 85-65-2 from 59-73-6.

Their renewed success culminated in the largest total attendance for home games in their 23 seasons in the National League: 408,982, beating the previous high of 387,193, set in 1895, by 5.6 percent.

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Those numbers, like all in these posts, are based on my extensive research in the online archives of contemporary newspapers.

I unearthed crowd sizes for 89 percent of all of the team's 1,452 games during its first quarter century in the NL, including 99.6 percent, 758 of 761, from 1890-1900.

Baseball-reference.com lists attendance for only 91 league games, 67 of those in a single season.

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GLUT OF GAMES AT HOME

The Orphans' new high for total fans was 23 percent better than their total in their last season under Anson. But they averaged only 91 more fans per game, an increase of less than 2 percent, at 5,112 to 5,021.

That 5,112 was nearly 13 percent below their record average, 5,867, in 1895.

The reason? In 1898, the Orphans played 89 games at home, still the most in franchise history, 4 more than the 85 they would play in 1899 and 5 more than the 84 in 1911 and 1967.

Their 5,11 average, by the way, is based on 80 home dates, not 89 home games, as they played 9 single-admission doubleheaders. They had played 67 games on 66 dates in 1895.

Two games against St. Louis postponed in April due to a fire at the Browns' park were played in Chicago, in May and September.

A game rained out at Cleveland in mid-May was moved to Chicago, then the Spiders relinquished 2 more home games to the Orphans in late July.

Two games prevented by weather in Brooklyn during the Orphans' last visit there in August were played when the Grooms came west.

A pair of rainouts at Louisville at the end of September were made up the next week at Chicago.

A season-ending 3-game series at St. Louis against the sad sack Browns (39-111-4) was switched to Chicago, too, strictly in hopes of drawing larger crowds. The strategy paid off, as a single game on Saturday was witnessed by 9,000 and a doubleheader on Sunday, 15,000.

One additional game each against St. Louis and Brooklyn were part of a single-ticket doubleheader. Taking half of the total crowd for both games, the 12 relocated games contributed 48,950 bonus fans, which is 12 percent of the Orphans' season total of 408,900.

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8 OF AT LEAST 10,000

Eight times, the Orphans played in front of at least 10,000 fans, starting with 11,900 on May 1, the first Sunday of the season and 2 days after 9,000 had turned out for their home opener.

The following Sunday lured 16,000, tying for the 10th-largest crowd in team history with 2 Sundays in 1895, one of which was a doubleheader.

Two subsequent Sundays in May of 1898 attracted only 9,000 and 7,900. But 11,400 turned out for a game against the Browns on June 12.

Then every baseball fan in Chicago flocked to the West Side Grounds on June 19 to see the fifth-place Orphans (28-23) take on the first-place Reds (34-16) -- or so it must have seemed.

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BIGGEST AUDIENCE

Here are the headlines and the start of the story that appeared the next day in the Chicago Tribune:

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RECORD BREAKING CROWD OUT.

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Largest Attendance Ever Assembled in

the West Side Park Sees the

Game.

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The greatest crowd that ever assembled in the West Side park attended the ball game yesterday afternoon and shouted praise while the Chicago club administered the third whipping [in a 4-game series] to the leaders.

There were 22,482 people by turnstile count, who helped swell the great good-natured volume of noise and cheers for Burns' men while they ran away from Ewing's braves in hollow style.

The score, when Griffith brought out the chorus by grabbing Breitenstein's bounder [for the final out], was 10 to 1.

Cincinnati's lone tally was the result of a fluke triple which dropped into the crowd. Without it they would have drawn a deserved blank. . . .

The feature of the game was the crowd itself. The huge sands were packed to bursting. In front of the stands a gayly [sic] dressed crowd piled upon the benches and rolled, screamed, and dodged fouls, yelled at the players, and applauded with swelling noise with the tiers of people ranged close in upon the outfielders, responding to the echoing with even more vehemence.

Thousands packed the bleachers and field seats and ringed themselves in moving noisy lines around the field. The housetops overlooking the park were black with people, swelling the joyous noise.

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The notes beneath the box score added, "Beckley had a funny mishap at the start of the game. He went after a foul, but tripped on the front rank of seated spectators, and turned a complete somersault into the crowd."

Team President James Hart was quoted as saying, "The attendance beat all records. In '95, on July 4, we had a big crowd and beat Cincinnati twice. Today's crowd, for good order and excellent behavior, was a model. The game is a great argument in favor of Sunday baseball."

The paper then noted: "The attendance at the game July 4, '95, was reported at 22,938, but Mr. Hart thinks that part was estimated. On that day the crowd broke into the field, and the game was stopped in the seventh inning."

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SUNDAY THRONGS

By season's end, the Orphans played on 17 Sundays, including 3 doubleheaders. The 17 dates drew a combined 179,982, accounting for 44 percent of the team's total attendance, on just 38 percent of its date.

The Sabbath games attracted 110,582 more fans than the 69,400 on the 13 Saturdays -- even 20,382 more than all 5 weekdays added together.

The typical Sunday crowd of 10,587, was nearly twice the Saturday turnout of 5,338 and it was 3.3 times the weekday number of 3,192.

The average Saturday audience was two thirds larger than the Monday-Friday average.

The combined Saturday-Sunday average was 1.5 times more than the weekday average.

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The Orphans' second-biggest crowd of 1898 was 19,000, on Sunday, Aug. 28, when the team won its eighth straight game. Only 4,400 saw the streak end the following day.

A pair of games with attendance that added to 19,000 deserve special mention.

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CAP COMES BACK

Of the Orphans' 7 home games on Wednesdays, 6 were attended by between 1,100 and 4,000 fans, with an average of 2,433.

The other Wednesday, June 29, found 9,000 at the park, only 600 fewer than would show up for the afternoon half of the July 4 doubleheader just 5 days later.

What was so special about the game on June?

It marked Cap Anson's return to Chicago, as manager of the Giants, who had hired him on June 11. New York won that day, making its record 23-21, the same as the idle Orphans.

By the time the Giants arrived at the West Side Grounds, they were 28-28; the Orphans, 34-26.

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The Tribune greeted him with a tongue-in-cheek of his supposed journey to, and arrival in, the city, as if Anson never had taken a train to Chicago before and was unfamiliar with the sights of his former home.

It concluded:

"In the afternoon his friends took him over to the portion of the city called the West Side to the ball grounds, where a Chicago team played with the young men who had accompanied Mr. Anson on his voyage of discovery.

"As the game progressed and the young men from Chicago knocked balls all over the diamond and merrily around the bases, scoring every few minutes, a peculiar expression appeared on the face of Mr. Anson, and leaning forward he said in a puzzled tone: 'Where have I seen that gang before?' "

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The Orphans won that game, 8-4, and the next, 7-5. The Giants then won twice, by 8-4 and 8-6.

Those were the last games that Anson ever managed in Chicago. After the series ended, the Giants returned home, where they lost 2 games to Boston on Independence Day and another the following afternoon. New York's owner then fired Anson, after only 22 games, of which the Giants had won 9. The owner replaced Anson with Bill Joyce, whom he had sacked in favor of Anson less than a month earlier.

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10,000 FANS, 0 HITS

The other game of note took place against Brooklyn on Sunday, Aug. 21.

"Ten thousand people went wild yesterday while the rejuvenated and revivified convalescents turned to and, after two brilliant, bitter struggles, were twice crowned victors over the Trolley Dodgers," the Tribune reported.

The Orphans had won only 1 game on a 3-city road trip, going 1-5-1 at Brooklyn, New York and Boston.

They marked their return to Chicago on Saturday, the 20th, by posting a 2-1 victory. Then they won Sunday morning, with 3,000 looking on, by 4-3, followed by a 2-0 win in front of the 10,000 in the afternoon.

It was no ordinary triumph, as 23-year-old left hander Walter Thornton held the visitors without a hit.

From the Tribune:

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Thornton's performance is a record breaker. Others have pitched shutout games that were "hitless," but in some of them there were hits that might have been questioned. Yesterday not one ball could have gone safe without some palpable misplay, and not an error was made by the Cripples.

One ball threatened to go safe, but Connor threw himself in front of the ball, and retired his man by a lightning throw to first.

The last man who faced Thornton came within an inch of landing the ball in safe territory, but again the hit was saved, this time by McCormick, who gobbled the ball back of third, and saved the record to the credit of Thornton.

[After describing how the Orphans scored 2 runs in the fourth inning, the story continued.]

During all this time Thornton had been performing wonders, while the crowd was gradually awakening to the brilliancy of his pitching.

In the first four rounds not a Dodger hit the ball on the ground. Two struck out, the others lifted flies into the air. One was a clever running catch of La Chance's fly by Lange, another pretty capture by Ryan.

Magoon finally reached first on balls in the fifth only to perish with La Chance in a furious double [play] executed by Dahlen, Connor, and Everitt.

In the sixth Connor reached and held Kennedy's warm roller while it was crossing second, and threw his man cleanly out.

Griffin and Hallman were provided with transportation to first in the seventh, but Ryan by a hard run hauled down Magoon's line fly, and ended the inning.

Never another Groom reached first, and when McCormick grabbed Jones' wicked bounder back of third and close the game with the perfect throw to Everitt, the crowd went into paroxysms of applause, under which Thornton escaped to the clubhouse, carrying with him his new record.

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The no-hitter was the last of 5 thrown by pitchers for the future Cubs in the 19th Century and the only one while the team was known as the Orphans. They would have not have another until Jimmy Lavender turned the trick on Aug. 31, 1915.

So while there would be no more pitching records in the final 2 seasons before the Modern Era, there would be another significant record.

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TOMORROW: Biggest crowd of the 19th Century

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