FanPost

Cubs' home crowds, 1876-1900, Part 16

Sixteenth 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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Big league baseball went through seismic changes during the off season between 1899 and 1900.

The new season would be the last of the 19th Century and 25th for the National League. Of the NL's 8 founding members, only the Chicago Orphans, originally the White Stockings, and Boston Beaneaters, formerly the Red Stockings remained.

There would be teams in Cincinnati, New York, Philadelphia and St. Louis in 1900, as there had been in 1876, but none of those were the same teams.

Twenty other one-time members of the NL had fallen by the wayside, too. The Orphans no longer visited no fewer than 14 different cities: Baltimore, Buffalo, Cleveland, Detroit, Hartford, Indianapolis, Kansas City, Louisville, Milwaukee, Providence, Syracuse, Troy, Washington and Worcester.

...

The last 4 of those teams and cities disappeared after 1899, as the league ousted successful but troublesome Baltimore along with Louisville and Washington, 2 of the 3 other clubs that had joined the NL in 1892, following the demise of the American Association.

St. Louis was the only AA refugee to make the cut for 1900. It would begin the season with a new name, abandoning Perfectos after 1 year to become Cardinals.

An entire minor league changed its name, too, from the Western League to the American League. It featured teams in 6 former National League towns (Buffalo, Cleveland, Detroit, Indianapolis, Kansas City and Milwaukee), plus Minneapolis -- and Chicago.

...

The latter had been the St. Paul Saints the previous year, then moved to Chicago with the blessings of NL officials. The newcomer was owned by Charlie Comiskey, who had been player-manager of St. Louis in the American Association in 1883-89 and 1891, and of Cincinnati in the NL in 1892-94.

He also had been in charge of the Pirates, the Players League team that won their one-season battle for fans with the Orphans (then, the Colts) in 1890.

In granting Comiskey permission to put his team in Chicago, the NL said he could not use "Chicago" in its name. Comiskey responded by appropriating the name "White Stockings," lasted used by the city's NL team in 1889.

In 1901, the AL would declare itself a second Major League, on a par with the NL, ushering in the start of the Modern Era.

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1 TOM SUCCEEDS ANOTHER

There were changes for the Orphans in 1900, too, beginning with a new manager.

In 1898, the first year under Tom Burns, the Orphans had finished 85-65-2, a vast improvement over their 59-73-6 the previous season, their last of 19 managed by Cap Anson.

But they had won 10 fewer games in Burns' second year, going 75-73-4, and fallen from fourth place among 12 teams to eighth.

The Orphans had draw huge crows early in the season, topped by a throng of 24,789 on the last day of April that was touted as the most people ever to see a baseball game anywhere in the world.

But total attendance had dropped by 9 percent and the average audience by 5.5 percent. Between Sept. 5 and Oct. 4, only 2 of 12 home dates attracted more than 600 spectators. Five of the remaining 10 drew just 250.

...

So Burns was fired, replaced by Tom Loftus, who formerly had managed teams in Milwaukee, Cleveland and Cincinnati, but not since 1891.

Under Loftus' direction, the Orphans again won 10 fewer games than the previous year, winding up 65-75-6, tied with St. Louis for fifth among the 8 teams, 19 games behind champion Brooklyn.

They were only 2 games out of the final spot in the desirable "first division," but also 2.5 ahead of the seventh-place Reds and 4 in front of the last-place Giants.

The Orphans were in first place for exactly one day: Opening Day, April 19, when they won at Cincinnati. Then they lost 4 in a row before winning at St. Louis to come home 2-4.

They received anything but a heroes' welcome.

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'DEMURE AND UNEMOTIONAL'

From the Chicago Tribune, the day after the home opener against the Cardinals on Friday, April 27:

...

[Team President Jim] Hart and Loftus' great aggregation of ball throwers opened the National league season in Chicago yesterday afternoon before a demure and unemotional crowd of 5,700 people who came to bury Loftus and remained to praise him.

Chicago won, but the manner of winning was not encouraging to the crowd. The score was 6 to 5.

For an opening of a National league season the function was a failure. The smallest crowd that ever welcomed home a pennant-chasing troupe of athletes to Chicago gathered. . . . The City Hall crowd and "Smiler' Corbett came, but there was an amazing paucity of the regulars. There was little enthusiasm when Loftus and his white-robed crowd marched down the field.

Tebeau and his Terrorizers were greeted with an appalling silence, and the weight of four defeats out of six games seemed to hang heavy over the populace.

Later, when, after many misdeeds, many errors of commission and omission, Chicago fell to and pounded out a victory, in spite of its seeming efforts to lose, the crowd waked up to a semblance of joy, but the welcome home was sepulchral.

The crowd seemed homesick. It missed [Bill] Lange [who was gone after 8 seasons]. If missed the old familiar faces around the infield, and, as stranger after stranger came to bat, to do or undo the chances of victory for Chicago, it seemed to the crowd as though two alien teams were battling on the lot before them, and only Ryan, James Edward Ryan, was given any of sort of reception.

Ryan was presented with a diamond as large as the Skerryvore light [a famous lighthouse] by his West Side admirers, and he was cheered again and again as he came up to bat.

The diamond presented to Ryan settles forever and two days the question of the sun field. After Ryan has looked at that diamond steadily overnight no sun can ever dazzle him.

...

Fans certainly were not dazzled by what they saw on the diamond.

True, 15,000 showed up for another game against the Cardinals, on April 29, then 17,000 on May 20, when the Orphans hosted the Pirates.

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'A VOLCANO SPOUTING NOISE'

The Tribune had this to say about the 6-3 victory in May:

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Down in the crater of a volcano spouting noise, hedged in by black, moving masses of people, the ball teams of Chicago and Pittsburg struggled for mastery yesterday afternoon, and Chicago won.

This was the scene: A green field, checked with whitewash lines, dotted at intervals with figures in white and gray that moved and turned as a kaleidoscope. Around them a ring of massed humanity, encircling the field, and rising tier over tier, people, and people, and people, until the great bleachers seemed a solid mass of purple and red, and with every move of those straining men down on the field the mass burst forth into noise, and cheered until the West Side shook.

It was a great crowd, a great game, and, above all, Chicago won spectacularly, making hits and piling up runs just in those times where most of the populace had given up hope of runs for the time being.

There was everything to call forth cheers, for it has been eons and eons of time since old vox populi has had a chance to cheer a Chicago ball club, and ages since a Chicago ball club has won seven straight games. . . .

There were great stops, beautiful catches, and pretty hitting, and, besides, there were enough dangerous situations to make the cheers come short and choppy as Killen pitched his way out of some predicament.

And these dangerous situations continued up to the last moment of the game, holding the crowd for the last roar when the game was over.

...

But only 3 subsequent crowds reached 5 digits: 12,500 on July 1, followed by 10,000 even twice, for the afternoon half of the traditional Fourth of July doubleheader, against Philadelphia, and for another visit by Pittsburgh on July 15.

"The team is in better standing than the prophets said it would be," the Tribune remarked on the morning of Sunday, June 24, 2 days after only 600 had watched the Orphans defeat the Reds, "yet interest seems lagging and the local support has been bad, probably because of the miserable showing of the team on the last Eastern trip [4-10].

"President Hart, however, attributes the lack of attendance partly to the division of interest with the club on the South Side and partly to the strike [by the city's building contractors union], which undoubtedly has affected the attendance to a degree."

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FEWER ON SUNDAYS

That afternoon, 6,500 looked on as the Orphans lost to the Reds -- not a bad crowd, but not what might have been expected on a summer Sunday in previous season.

Eight weeks later, on Aug. 19, the Orphans nipped the Giants, 2-1, in front of the smallest Sunday crowd since the team had begun playing on the Sabbath in 1893. Broiling heat kept away all but 2,800 diehards, after only 2,600 had turned up the previous day.

For all of their 13 Sundays at home, the total attendance was 119,700, which amounted to 40.5 percent of their season attendance in less than 20 percent of their 70 home dates.

The 14 Saturday dates drew 70,800, for a weekend audience of 190,500, or nearly two thirds of the season number.

The Sunday total was nearly 15,000 more than for all 43 weekday dates combined; the Saturday total, two thirds of the sum for Monday through Friday -- both in one third the number of dates.

The average crowd on Saturday, 5,057, was more than double the 2,437 on weekdays. The Sunday average, 9,208, was 82 percent higher than the Saturday count, and 275 percent more than on weekdays.

...

The next-to-last Sunday, for a doubleheader against the Cardinals on Sept. 30, attracted 8,000. But the last, a week later, for 2 games against Cincinnati, drew only 2,700.

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STRANGE FINISH

The next day, Monday, Oct. 8, the Orphans ended a dispiriting season in a dispiriting manner.

The Tribune provided this description:

...

LAST GAME OF CENTURY.

...

GLOOMY FINISH TO CHICAGO'S

BASEBALL SEASON.

...

Cincinnati Wins Double-Header from

the Orphans, Winding Up the Year

at West Side Park -- Second Contest

Terminates Suddenly in an Accident

-- Pitcher Taylor Knocked Out by

Line Hit in Ninth Inning and the Um-

pire Calls the Game.

...

Just as darkness, a shade lighter than the gloom that pervaded the 700 mourners, was settling over the West Side ball park yesterday evening, Tommy Corcoran drove a vicious liner straight at Jack Taylor.

The ball struck the pitcher over the heart, and he went down. Before he could rise [Umpire] Henry O'Day had counted ten, and the baseball season of 1900 was over in Chicago.

The last league game of the century had been played, and Chicago had suffered two defeats at the hands of the Reds. The first was lost, 13 to 4, and the second, 9 to 1.

The occasion was more like a wake than anything else. Cards of condolence were received from A. C. Anson, Bill Everitt, Bill Lange, Bill Dahlen, and others. From the size of the crowd President Hart must have received the regrets of 20,000.

The Chicago team played in dead march time, while the Reds danced jigs all around them. Gloom fell heavy over the crowd, and there was no joy.

To add to the dreariness of the occasion Loftus' men made seventeen errors in the two games, equalling the record for the season. They were bad, but the patrons should not be discouraged.

Another century is coming, and perhaps in that Chicago may win a pennant.

To particularize would be but to add misery. Loftus' poor, forsaken crowd [sic, i.e., team], feeling homesick, played miserably. . . . They felt bitter. The city whose prides they fondly hoped to be had cast them off.

Lonely and forsaken they stood and wept while base hits rained around. Only 700 came to bid them farewell, and what those 700 said during the course of the afternoon was enough to discourage any one.

Once, when all was quiet and Dolan had just made his second error, a man in the bleachers inquired: "Are any of you stiff engaged for next year?"

A second voice took up the refrain and the queries and jibes fell fast until was all over. This is the way it ran:

"You're a disgrace to the Irish"; "How did you get in to a ball player's uniform?" and finally, when O'Day had mercifully stopped the the game, a large man with a strident voice called out: "Good-by, boys; I never expect to see any of you again, although I never miss a game."

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BIG DROP-OFFS

"Another century is coming, and perhaps in that Chicago may win a pennant."

It would, indeed, but not for 6 more years, until 1906.

The 700 stalwarts at the final game of 1900 brought the attendance for the season to 295,300, a decline of 76,677, or 21 percent.

It was 113,682 less than the record of 408,982 in 1898, a 2-year drop of 28 percent.

The 1900 average, 4,219, was down by 612, or 12.7 percent, from 1899; by 893, or 17.5 percent, from 1898; and by 1,648, or 28 percent from the all-time peak of 5,867 in 1895.

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4.7 TO 5.1 MILLION

Over all 25 seasons before the Modern Era, as the White Stockings, Colts and Orphans, Chicago's National League team played at its 5 (some say 6) home parks in front of 4,722,736 fans on the 1,291 dates for which I was able to establish crowd sizes.

That is exactly 1,200 more dates than have an attendance listed for them in the team's game-by-game results at baseball-reference.com. The total of 1,291 represents 89.6 percent of the team's 1,452 home dates between 1876 and 1900.

The average crowd on the 1,291 dates was 3,658. Apply that average to the missing 161 games, add it to the known attendance, and attendance for the team's games during its first quarter century in the National League would increase to 5,199,280, a mere 720 short of precisely 5.2 million.

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TOMORROW: Biggest and smallest crowds before the Modern Era

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