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Cubs' record crowds since 1901, Part 1

In the last post of a series about the Cubs' home attendance from 1876-1900, I listed the evolution of their largest crowds before the start of the Modern Era:

5,000: May 10, 1876, 23rd St. Grounds (1st home game in NL)

8,000: May 19, 1876, 23rd St. Grounds

10,000: July 4, 1876, 23rd St. Grounds

10,000 to 12,000: July 4, 1877, 23rd St. Grounds

12,000: July 4, 1881, Lake Front Park

15,000: July 10, 1886, West Side Park

16,000: June 30, 1895, West Side Grounds

22,913: July 4, 1895, West Side Grounds

27,489: April 30, 1899, West Side Grounds

Those 9 crowds were among 1,452 home dates that the Cubs -- as the White Stockings, Colts and Orphans -- played during their first 25 seasons in the National League.

Baseball-reference.com has attendance data for only 91 of those dates. I found it for exactly 1,200 more by examining the online archives of contemporary newspapers.

..........

51,000 IN 1929

The Cubs' all-time record for a home game in Chicago is 51,000, set Sunday, April 21, 1929, the sixth day of a season in which the Cubs would win their first pennant in 11 years.

(The Cubs were the home team for a game at Tokyo in 2000 in which the attendance was 55,000. I'm excluding that from "home games.").

In 1929, Wrigley Field's capacity was 40,000. It was changed 19 times between 1938 and 2005, with a low of 36,644 in 1965-71 and a high of 39,600 in 1989.

It did not exceed 40,000 until 2006, when capacity reached 41,118. Since 2017, it has been at an all-time high of 41,649.

...

The record of 51,000 has stood for nearly 92 years and likely will stand forever, unless the Cubs someday move to a new, larger park.

But how many times did the team break its attendance record between 1901 and that game in 1929?

..........

FOUND: 843 CROWD SIZES

The Cubs played 2,225 games at home in 1901-29: 1,152 at West Side Park, through 1915, and 1,073 at Weeghman Park/Cubs Park/Wrigley Field beginning in 1916.

They played 202 doubleheaders, of which 32 required a separate admission for each game, meaning there were a total of 2,055 games for which there was a separate attendance (2,225 minus 202, plus 32).

Baseball-reference has crowd sizes for only 960 of those dates -- 46.7 percent.

So I began searching contemporary newspapers again. By the time I finished, I unearthed crowd sizes for 843 more games, raising the percentage to 87.8.

(Combined, from 1876-1929, B-R has attendance for 1,051 of 3,507 games at which a separate admission charged, which is 30 percent. I found crowd sizes for 2,043 more games, for a total of 3,094 of 3,507, which is 88.2 percent.)

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FIRST OF CENTURY

Among the games for which B-R lacks attendance is the first record-breaking crowd of the 20th Century, on Sunday, May 20, 1906.

The throng earned front-page attention in the Chicago Inter Ocean newspaper:

...

GIANT KILLERS

DOWN GIANTS;

28,000 CHEER

...

Chicago's Largest Baseball

Crowd in History Fights

for Chance to See First

Downfall of World's

Champions Accomplished

by Score of 10 to 4.

...

Here is a large chunk of the story that followed, befitting the historic nature of the turnout:

...

Before the largest crowd that ever witnessed a baseball game in Chicago the Giant Killers utterly crushed their deadly foes, the world's champion Giants, yesterday by the score of 10 to 4.

It was the first time that the two teams, which will probably fight it out for the National League honors, had met this season, and there was not a person in the tremendous crowd who did not leave the field thoroughly satisfied of the superiority of the Giant Killers. . . .

The crowd was estimated at from 28,000 to 30,000, and, according to [Team] President Charles W. Murphy, was 4,000 larger than any other ever gathered in the West Side park.

Four hours before the game every [street] car going in the direction of the park was loaded to the dashboards with enthusiasts and wild eyed fans clamoring in no unmistakable tones for the annihilation of the world's champions.

At 1:30, an hour and a half before the game was scheduled to begin, every seat was filled and the overflow was threatening to cover the entire field. Still the crowd poured into the many gates in an irresistible torrent. Men fought like demons for the privilege of paying their good money to get into the already packed field.

Larger and larger grew the mob at every minute, and the oncoming hordes gave no sign of ever stopping in their onward march. At 2:10 President Murphy decided that it was time to stop selling tickets and to close the gates. He thought that if any more people were admitted there would be no room for the players to cavort about.

The word to close up was passed around, and the ticket windows were shut tightly and the gates barred. Those who had stood in line for an hour to get tickets threatened to tear the fences down when the gates were barred just as they were about to snatch the coveted bit of pasteboard and fight their way through the gates.

At one of the Wood Street entrances the prospective ticket purchasers who had had the window shut in their faces took revenge by storming the office. They smashed the windows and forced the ticket seller to flee with his cash. No attempt was made to molest him, but the mob went ahead and smashed the office into small bits.

The infuriated populace then tried to rush the gates and force its way in, but in this was foiled. An excited police officer had sent in a riot call when the ticket booth was smashed and fifty more policemen were rushed to the scene of what promised to be a deadly battle.

Secretary Williams had computed that fifty policemen would be enough to cope with the masses, but in this he was disappointed, and the 100 finally on the scene had their work cut out for them to keep the crowd in check.

Lucky Ones Refuse Bonuses.

Overall at the more aristocratic side of the grounds there was the same trouble. After the gates were closed the aristocrats tried bribery, but there was nothing doing. As high as $5 apiece was offered for reserved seats in the boxes, but the holders of these open sesames clutched them tightly, and, turning a deaf ear to the voice of the tempter, fought their way to the lonely gate opened for the convenience of those who had reserved seats.

Men who had reserved their seats weeks ahead of time were forced to adopt tactics that would put a football player (under the old rules) to shame. Handsomely gowned women stood by the gates and tried in every possible manner to convince the stony faced and flinty hearted custodian of the gate to admit them, but with the usual result -- nothing doing.

Those who could not gain admission refused to go home, but waited outside until the ninth inning was finished. The more fortunate ones on the inside attempted to keep the luckless overflow meeting informed as to what was taking place in the game.

Every time a great cheer would arise the outsiders would asked what had happened, and the lucky one would shout, "Slagle just made a two bagger," or "Chance scored." The one on the outside would groan, not because Slagle had made a two bagger or Chance had scored, but because he could not see them do it.

Chaotic Mass on Field.

The sight inside the fences made a Russian riot look like a pink tea in a studio. The playing field was lined on all sides by walls of human beings. They were banked up ten to twenty deep and constantly surging forward, only to be pushed back by the police, to surge onward again as soon as the officer of the law had gone on a step to shove the next ones back.

In front of the grand stand the spectators were banked about twenty-five rows deep. Benches had been put out there for the convenience of the overflow, but no one sat on them. During the course of the game crunching and rending sounds would be heard, and the crowd would jump in fear that the stands were giving way, but it was only an oversized bench giving up the ghosts.

Room for one foot on one of these benches was considered a most advantageous spot from which to witness the Titanic struggle. Such places were eagerly fought for. The crowd in front of the stands stopped the view of all behind and nearly every occupant of the grand stand was forced to remain standing in order that he might have even a faint conception of what was going on.

One Glimpse Satisfactory.

To thousands who stood in the tenth or thirteenth row but a single glimpse of the Elysian field was allowed, but even that was enough. And in years to come the one who had the single glimpse will gather his children about him and give them a full and varnished account of one of the greatest baseball games ever fought. . . .

At the Polo Grounds in New York they often put the crowd back by the use of mounted police. This idea was broached to President Murphy and he immediately 'phoned police headquarters for a squad of mounted police. One lonely policeman, who rode a near-fiery horse as though he were sitting a Morris chair, responded to the appeal for help.

The fiery steed and his blue coated master started to shove the crowd back in short order, but with the usual result. After two or three trips around the outfield some irrepressible stander hit the horse and made him bolt, almost unseating his graceful rider. The policeman leaped to the ground in order to punish the one who had shown him up in such a manner.

Dragon Services a Failure.

The riderless steed took advantage of this respite from treading on the toes of people who had never done anything to him and started for a little cavorting over the sward. He ran over toward second base, but when he saw the gigantic form of Johnny Evers towering above him he turned around and was captured.

[Evers stood 5-foot-9.] . . .

The continuous pushing, aided by the eloquent appeals of President Murphy and the huge bulk of Trainer jack McCormick, at length wore down the crowd, and at 3:20 Umpire [Hank] O'Day decided that there was room enough in which to start a ball game.

After a consultation of the managers and umpires it was decided that a hit into the crowd would count for two bases, or, as one fan suggested, a hit that didn't go into the crowd would not count for two bases.

The players on both teams had been driven from their benches and were forced to camp on a narrow strip back of the base lines that had been wrested from the barbarian hordes after the tremendous struggles.

The pent up enthusiasm of the mob was now let loose, and every play or movement of the players, no matter how insignificant, was cheered to the echo.

..........

The Cubs, aka the Giant Killers, gave up 3 runs in the top of the third inning. They tallied 2 in their half, then erupted for 5 in the fifth and were ahead by 7 runs before the Giants notched their final run in the ninth.

The Cubs made 13 hits; the Giants, 7. The Cubs' total included 7 doubles into the crowd, while the Giants managed only 2.

..........

TOMORROW: Later record-breaking crowds

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