Seventeenth and last 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.
EVOLUTION OF ATTENDANCE RECORD
Previous posts in this series have described many of the largest crowds that watched the future Cubs play at home during their first quarter century, as the White Stockings (1876-89), Colts (1890-97) and Orphans (1898-1900).
Here is the evolution of their record for most fans:
5,000: May 10, 1876, 23rd St. Grounds (1st home game in NL)
8,000: May 19, 1876, 23rd St. Grounds (5th)
10,000: July 4, 1876, 23rd St. Grounds (13th)
10,000 to 12,000: July 4, 1877, 23rd St. Grounds (38th)
12,000: July 4, 1881, Lake Front Park (203rd)
15,000: July 10, 1886, West Side Park (459th)
16,000: June 30, 1895, West Side Grounds (1,074th)
22,913: July 4, 1895, West Side Grounds (1,078th)
27,489: April 30, 1899, West Side Grounds (1,341st)
Jim Hart, president of the team, believed the 22,913 in 1895 was incorrect, and that the previous record was broken when 22,482 turned out on June 19, 1898, for the the club's 1,277th home game.
Fun fact: the team played exactly 1,500 games at home in 1876-1900, on 1,452 dates, including 48 doubleheaders.
They won 953 games, lost 522 and tied 25, for a winning percentage of .644, equivalent to a record of 104-58 in a full, modern season.
The Cubs have actually won at least 104 games in only 4 seasons of the Modern Era, 1906-07 and 1909-10. They played 155 in the first 3 of those seasons and 154 in the last. They won 103 of 162 in 2016.
They have had a winning percentage of at least .644 in 7 seasons since 1901: the 4 just cited, plus 1918, 1929 and 1935. Their best since 1935 was .640, in 2016.
In my extensive research via the online archives of contemporary newspapers, I identified 20 game in which the future Cubs were greeted by crowds of at least 15,000. Here are all 20, ranked by size, then in chronological order for identical figures, presented in groups of 5 for easier reading. (DH) indicates the game was part of a doubleheader. All those marked (DH) were the second of 2 games with separate admissions.
27,489: Sunday, April 30, 1899
24,421: Sunday, June 25, 1899
22,913: Thursday, July 4, 1895 (DH)
22,482: Sunday, June 19, 1898
19,000: Sunday, Aug. 28, 1898
18,921: Sunday, May 17, 1896
18,300: Sunday, May 16, 1897
18,000: Monday, May 31, 1897 (DH)
17,800: Sunday, May 30, 1897
17,617: Sunday, May 21, 1899
17,231: Sunday, May 3, 1896
17,000: Sunday, May 20, 1900
16,700: Sunday, May 9, 1897
16,000: Sunday, June 30, 1895
16,000: Sunday, Sept. 15, 1895 (DH)
16,000: Sunday, May 8, 1898
15,000: Sunday, May 12, 1895
15,000: Saturday, July 10, 1886
15,000: Monday, July 4, 1887 (DH)
15,000: Sunday, Oct. 9, 1898 (DH)
Note that 16 of the 20 were on Sunday, plus 3 on the Fourth of July and 1 on Memorial Day.
There were 65 more games at which attendance reached 5 digits:
That makes a total of 85 with 10,000 or more, which is 6.6 percent of the 1,291 dates for which I was able to find attendance figures.
But what about the smallest crowds?
The future Cubs played 115 times in front of fewer than 1,000 fans, which is 9 percent of the 1,291 dates with known crowd sizes.
They played 58 more at which exactly 1,000 were said to be in the stands, for a total with no more than 1,000 of 173 -- 13.4 percent of the 1,291 dates and more than double the number and percentage of those with at least 10,000.
Here is the breakdown of crowds with 1,000 or less:
500s: 18 (15 said to be 500)
200s: 9 (6 said to be 250 and 3, 200)
Following is a closer look at the 3 tiniest turnouts.
'LESS THAN 100 PEOPLE'
On Monday, Aug. 30, 1880, the White Stockings had a 7-game winning streak snapped when they lost, 7-4, to the Worcester Ruby Legs at Lakefront Park.
The next day, they edged Troy, 2-1, to improve their record to 52-12 and maintain their 12.5-game lead over second-place Providence (39-24).
The Whites and Trojans were supposed to play again 24 hours later, but the game was washed out and rescheduled for Thursday, Sept. 2, as part of a split doubleheader.
"The rain of Wednesday, and the inability of Troy to remain another day on account of home engagements, necessitated the playing of two games yesterday," the Chicago Tribune explained.
"That of the forenoon, beginning at 11 o'clock, was witnessed by less than 100 people. Rain had fallen sharply earlier in the morning, and few thought the game would be played."
The Whites scored a run in the first inning and made it stand up for a victory, "though Troy had men on bases in nearly every inning."
In the afternoon, under threatening skies, 500 saw the Whites suffer "a most ridiculous defeat by a score of 5 to 1."
Less than 3 weeks later, on Sept. 21, a tie game against the Reds was replayed in the morning.
"Not more than 500 people were present," according to the Tribune, "as no announcement whatever had been made that the game would come off, further than the display of the flags at the grounds."
'NOT MORE THAN 100'
Still, that was 5 times the number who comprised the audience for the first of 2 games, the Whites' last at home of the season, against the Pittsburgh Alleghenys, on Thursday, Sept. 29, 1887.
The game, making up for a postponement on Monday "was called at 12:30 o'clock," said the Inter Ocean. "There was a very small crowd present, not more than one hundred people in all, when the Chicagos and Pittsburghs came on the field.
"The rain of the previous night had left the ground in a miserable condition for playing, although the sun shone all through the afternoon."
Cap Anson proved to be a champion mudder, for he smacked a double, a triple and a home run, as the Whites won, 4-0, in 2 hours flat.
"The second and last game was played at once upon the closing of the first game at 2:30 o'clock," the Inter Ocean explained. "There were about 1,200 people present."
The Whites lost the rematch, 5-2, in a snappy 1 hour, 30 minutes. Almost the moment that it ended, rain began to fall.
'ABOUT 125 PERSONS'
The only other crowd that failed to reach even 200 arrived at West Side Park, on Monday, May 5, 1890.
That game was described in a previous post in this series, in reference to the fight for fans between the newly renamed Colts and the Pirates, Chicago's entry in the first-year Players League. But it merits a brief reprise here.
"There was room for one more at the National League Ball Park yesterday afternoon when the game between the Chicagos and Cincinnatis began," said the Tribune.
"The turnstile wheels would have spun round with greater frequency no doubt had Capt. Comiskey's men [the Pirates] and the cold north winds been out of town.
"As it was, about 125 persons were inside the fence.
When the Ohio people came up from the club-houe at 3 o'clock to begin practice not more than half a dozen seats were occupied, and one of these was held by a policeman. . . .
Yet this was the first time Cincinnati had been represented on the local field in several years.
"There was no music, and it was too cold for the crowd to make noise even if it had been large enough. It was good weather for pneumonia, but bad for outdoor sport.
"The wonder is that more errors were not made, for the players had hard work keeping their fingers limbered.
"Even after shivering through the game the spectators were doomed to another disappointment. Umpire Zacharias put a stop to proceeding at the end of the ninth inning, although the scores were then tied.
"The air had grown colder and it was getting dark. No one offered any objection to quitting.
3 WITH 200
The 3 turnouts reported as precisely 200 were scattered across 13 seasons, with the first on Friday, Oct. 5, 1877; the second on Thursday, Oct. 8, 1885; and the third on Tuesday, Aug. 13, 1889.
Here are short excerpts from newspaper accounts of each, in chronological order:
After the fifth-place Whites (25-33) managed a season-low 2 hits in a 4-0 loss to third-place Louisville (35-24), the Tribune asked: "Can it be that the men are getting careless because the season is nearly over. yesterday they shunted around home-plate like a parcel of old women."
"The game yesterday was played simply because it was on the schedule,' said the Tribune. "There were about 200 people present, and they witnessed a very shiftless game on the part of the home teams," as the Whites lost, 5-3 to Philadelphia, 5-3.
The Whites (87-23) already had clinched the pennant. The Quakers (54-54), although in third place, trailed by 32 games.
The fifth-place Whites (43-46) pulled even with the third-place Quakers (48-37) by scoring a run in the seventh, then surrendered 3 in the ninth and fell, 6-3.
"This matter of tying the game in the seventh or eighth inning and then letting the visitors scoop it in is becoming monotonous, and people are getting very tired," declared the Inter Ocean. "There were not more than 200 people present yesterday, and it is well for Captain Anson to know that the ball his team is now giving the public is very discouraging.
"Another week of such playing and the park would be deserted."
The Whites played 4 more games that week, before heading out of town, and won them all. Alas, I could not find an attendance for any of the 4.
FEWEST IN 1890-2021
After that game in 1889, the Colts or Orphans had only 1 crowd as low as 250 during the next 10 years, on a rainy Aug. 1 in 1892.
Then they had 4 crowds announced as 250 in a span of 5 days, Sept. 30-Oct. 4, 1899.
Their smallest in 1900, last season before the Modern Era, was 400.
Since 1901, according to data at baseball-reference.com, the Orphans, then Cubs, have played 55 home games attended by fewer than 1,000 spectators. More than half, 28, came in 1901, and 15 more before 1959.
The most recent was on Sept. 21, 1966, when 530 (including me!) saw the Cubs beat the Reds, 9-3.
The last game with an audience of less than 500 was the 314 who watched a 7-4 win over the Phillies on Sept. 24, 1943.
Baseball-reference shows attendances of 30 and 21 for a pair of Sunday games in 1926.
In fact, the first game attracted "more than 30,000," according to the Tribune, and the second took place "before 21,000 folks."
B-R also shows a crowd of 100 on May 21, 1902. The Tribune's box score says it was 1,000. The box score from the Associated Press, published in the Boston Globe, says 1,100
Therefore, the National League game in Chicago during the Modern Era that was played in front of the most intimate gathering turns out to be the Orphans' 6-3 triumph over the Reds on Sept. 15, 1902.
The wire service box score sets the number at an even 200; the Tribune's box, at a more generous 260.
Either figure earns the game the dubious honor, as there never were fewer than 300 at any of the team's 9,445 other home games since the start of the 1901 season.
DAY OF WEEK
During the 25 seasons before the Modern Era, as in the 121 since, the future Cubs almost always drew bigger crowds on weekends than they did on weekdays.
On the 1,291 dates from 1876-1900 for which I unearthed crowd sizes, the team played in front of nearly half of its total audience on Saturday and Sunday, which were less than 30 percent of all dates.
Specifically, weekend dates attracted 48.1 percent of all fans, to 51.9 on weekdays.
But there were only 360 weekend dates, compared to 931 on weekdays, which is greater than than 2.5 times as many.
Baseball was prohibited on Sunday in Chicago until 1893. In that season and the 7 that followed, the future Cubs played on 110 Sundays, in front of 1,117,160 fans, 23.7 percent of all 4,722,736 that saw them play in 1876-1900.
They greeted 24.5 percent of their customers, 1,155,091, on 250 Saturdays. That is only 37,931 more people, in a whopping 140 more dates, an average of just 271 more per date than on Sundays.
The combined attendance for weekend dates was 2,272,251. Weekdays combined for 2,450,485, a surplus of 178,234 despite counting 571 more dates. The difference amounts to 312 per date.
The average crowd on Sunday 10,156, was nearly 2.2 times the average of 4,620 on Saturday.
The Saturday average was 1.75 times the 2,632 on weekdays.
The combined weekend average was 6,312, or 2.4 times the weekday number.
Of the weekdays, Thursday had the most total fans (580,020), the most dates (211, just 1 more than Tuesday), the highest average crowd (2,749) and contributed the biggest percentage of the total attendance for all 25 seasons (12.3).
AVERAGES, OTHER DATA BY DAY
Here are the average crowds, the number of dates, the total attendance for the day and the percentage of the total attendance from 1876-1900 for each day of the week:
Monday: 2,630 average, 179 dates, 470,727 total, 10.0 percent
Tuesday: 2,507 average, 210 dates, 526,474 total, 11.1 percent
Wednesday: 2,582 average, 169 dates, 436,32 total, 9.2 percent
Thursday: 2,749 average, 211 dates, 580,020 total, 12. 3 percent
Friday: 2,697 average, 162 dates, 436,943 average, 9.3 percent
Saturday; 4,620 average, 250 dates, 1,155,091 total, 24.5 percent
Sunday: 10,156 average, 110 dates, 1,117,160 total, 23.7 percent.
Monday-Friday: 2,632 average, 931 dates, 2,450,485 total, 51.9 percent
Saturday-Sunday: 6,312 average, 360 dates, 2,272,251 total, 48.1 percent.
The breakdown by day of week includes every Sunday date that the team played.
Here are the number of dates on each day of the week for which I could not find a crowd size, and the percentage it represents of all 161 such dates:
Monday: 17, 10.6 percent
Tuesday: 35, 21.7 percent
Wednesday: 33, 20.5 percent
Thursday: 29, 18.0 percent
Friday: 14, 8.7 percent
Saturday: 33, 20.5 percent
Sunday: 0, 0 percent
If the average known attendance for each day was added for each of the dates with no attendance for that day, the totals would be 2,785,625 for the combined weekdays and 2,424,711 for the weekends.
The total for all 7 days would be 5,210,336, an increase of 487,600, or 10.3 percent, over the known 4,722,736.
The weekday percentage of the total attendance would rise slightly, to 53.5, from 51.9, while the weekend percentage would slip to 46.5, from 48.5.
The breakdown by dates would be 1,059 on weekdays and 393 on weekends, with weekdays representing 73 percent of all dates and weekends, 27 percent.
According to data at baseball-reference.com, since the Modern Era began in 1901, the Cubs have played in front of home crowds that total 167,628,352 fans.
That's an average of 1,396,903 per season, using 120 seasons, not 121, since there were no fans in 2020.
Add the attendance for 1876-1900 that I documented and the total rises to 172,351,088, leaving the Cubs 2,648,992 away from welcoming their 175 millionth fan for home games as a member of the National League.
Take the total for the Modern Era, add the projected total for the Cubs' first quarter century, and the total is 172,827,632, just 2,172,368 short of 175 million.
The Cubs' annual attendance exceeded the larger target number in 20 of the 21 pre-pandemic seasons, 1999-2019, averaging 3,001,856.
In 2013, the only year they did not reach 2,648,992, they missed it by an eyelash: 6,310 fans!
Before having no fans in 2020 and a pandemic-depressed count of 1,978,934 last season, the Cubs had played at home in front of at least 2,172,368, the projected target, every year since 1995.
That year, they played only 72 home games, as the schedule was reduced by a strike.
Their last full season with home attendance of less than 2,172,368 was 1988, a third of a century ago, when the total was 2,089,034.
So, there is a good chance that at some point in 2022 -- if there is a season! -- Cubs fan No. 175 million will pass through the turnstiles at Wrigley Field.