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Cubs' record crowds since 1901, Part 2

Second in a series of posts about the evolution of the Cubs' record for largest home crowd, from 1901 through 1929, when they attracted 51,000 for an early-season game against the Cardinals, a total unsurpassed to this day.

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'RED-HOT RIVALS'

The record of 28,000, set on May 20, 1906, lasted barely more than a year.

The Cubs began 1907 by going 15-3, then went 14-6 on a 24-day road trip that took them to every rival city except St. Louis. They returned home, at the end of May, with a 1-game lead over the Giants.

After a rainout, the Cubs won back-to-back 1-run games against the Pirates and increased their cushion to 2.5 games going into a 4-game series with the Giants. Game 1 was on Wednesday, June 5.

"The coming together of the red-hot rivals for National League supremacy brought out an enormous crowd of spectators," said the next day's New York Times, "and not all the fans who knocked at the gate for admission could be accommodated. When the entrances were finally closed the park contained one of the greatest crowds of keenly interested persons that has ever witnessed baseball in the Windy City."

...

But just how many saw the Cubs rout the Giants, 8-2?

The Times does not offer a figure.

Nor does the New York Sun, which characterized the throng as "All of Chicago, except those who were under restraint or for other reasons could not get away."

"Fully thirty thousand persons saw the game," according to the New York Tribune, and that is the number shown on baseball-reference.com's Schedule and Results page for the 1907 Cubs.

The New York Evening Herald says there were 25,000 in the park and "Fully ten thousand witnessed the struggle from the roofs of houses which surround the ground. Householders erected miniature grand stands on the roofs and charged the regular rate -- 15 cents -- for a seat. From every window and cornice overlooking the sward spectators hung like flies."

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'EVERY POINT OF THE COMPASS'

"The fans came from every point of the compass in steady, continuous streams," Frank Hutchinson Jr. wrote in the Chicago Inter Ocean. "Twenty-one thousand fans turned out to rejoice at the expected downfall of the once world's champions, and not one of those who came to gloat over the doings went away without having large quantities of the same.

"It was a tremendous crowd for a week day, but there was still room for a few more around the edges."

In the Chicago Tribune, Charles Dryden explained that "Mordecai Brown, the Nervy Kid, got away to a rocky start, but more than 20,000 of his warm personal friends were there, and he bore up."

So, the turnout may have been as small as 20,000 or as large as 30,000, based on the accounts of eyewitnesses.

Since 30,000 is accepted by baseball-reference, that is the "official" number, making it the biggest crowd in team history to that point.

Attendance was 20,000 the next day, when the Cubs won, 3-2. Rain prevented play on Friday, then the Cubs won again on Saturday, 4-3, in front of 14,000. The 3 wins put them in front by 5.5 games and they never led by fewer than 4 the rest of the way, finishing on top by 17.

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EXACT COUNT

Unlike the 1907 figure, there is no doubt about the next record crowd: 30,247, on Sunday, Oct. 4, 1908.

It came in the Cubs' final home game -- and their first at home since Sept. 9. That day, they had beaten the Cardinals and were in third place, 2 games behind, just as they had been after each of their previous 7 games.

They remained third, 2 behind, following each of 3 wins at St. Louis, then advanced to second place and narrowed the gap to 1.5 games when they completed a sweep of the Cardinals on Sept. 13.

Five days later, they still were second but trailed by 4.5 games.

Then came a 9-1-2 surge. The second tie came on Sept. 23, at New York, in the famous "Merkle's Boner" game, which ultimately was ordered to be replayed at the end of the season if it had a bearing on the pennant race.

The Cubs lost to the Giants the following afternoon, then won 3 in a row at Brooklyn to grab a half-game lead. They lost on Sept. 30 at Cincinnati but won there the next 3 days, leaving them half a game behind the Pirates going into the Oct. 4 game in Chicago.

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"Chicago Cubs, champions of the National League for the third successive time, candidates for a second world's championship!" Harvey Woodruff declared on the front page of the next day's Tribune.

"That was the probable result spelled out at the west side ball park yesterday afternoon when Mordecai Brown pitched his teammates to victory by a score of 5 to 2, in an elimination contest against Pittsburg's Pirates.

"That contest, where defeat meant death to the pennant hopes of either team, was attended by the greatest crowd which ever viewed a professional baseball game, 30,247 persons passing through the turnstiles, according to the official figures issued by the management."

The Pirates were eliminated because it was their last game and their final record was 98-56. The Cubs were 98-55; the idle Giants, 95-55.

New York won its 3 remaining games against Boston to match the Cubs' record and make the replay of the Merkle game a showdown for the pennant. The Cubs won the replay, 4-2, in front of 40,000 or so agitated New Yorkers.

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PRESIDENTIAL VISIT

The Cubs and Giants set another attendance record in Chicago late the following season.

Going into the 4-game series, the Cubs were 5.5 games behind the first-place Pirates, but 12 ahead of the third-place Giants, with 20 games left to play.

The series opener, on Thursday, Sept. 16, attracted everyone from casual fans to the president of the United States, William Howard Taft.

The following story appeared in the Boston Globe, uncredited, but clearly came from a Chicago paper, given the reference to "our pennant hopes." It is not from the Tribune or Inter Ocean, the only Chicago papers whose archives I could locate online.

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CHICAGO, Sept. 16 -- President Taft is absolutely the saddest baseball rooter that the city of Chicago ever saw. He sat through nine innings of our national pastime at Mr. Murphy's palatial baseball emporium on the west side this afternoon, saw the Cubs walloped by the hated Giants, 2 to 1, saw, with the aid of the right field score board, the pestiferous Pirates hang the Cincinnati Reds from a metaphorical yardarm, and in the conjunction of these two catastrophes observed the complete demolition of our pennant hopes.

In the course of that terrible experience the Taft smile faded away as completely as if it never had existed. It disappeared like the aurora borealis with the rising of the polar sun.

He came among us -- there were some 35,000 of us at the obsequies -- flinging off smiles from every pore, radiating happiness, bubbling over with the milk of human kindness -- in short the good old smiling Bill Taft of romance.

In one short inning, and that was the first, he became a changed man. The smiles vanished, the dimples ceased to dimp, the milk of human kindness soured into the buttermilk of human misery.

When the crowd turned around to look at him at the close of that horrible first inning [in which the Giants scored both of their runs] it found that genial Bill had disappeared. In his place was William Howard Taft, stern executive, jurist with the hanging face.

There are some casts of countenance particularly fitted for the depiction of tragedy. Smiling, happy, genial Taft has one just like that. He demonstrated today that he can look terribly sad when he feels that way.

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STRETCHING CREDULITY

According to the Tribune, at one point Taft asked, "How many people are here?"

" 'Forty thousand,' responded a willing guesser.

" 'I'm asking with a judicial mind,' retorted the president, raising a laugh."

The Tribune estimated the crowd as "nearly 30,000."

"At the beginning of the seventh inning," the paper wrote, "the president stood up, explaining that he felt like stretching himself. Immediately the thousands of spectators stood up and waited until the president had reseated himself."

The Inter Ocean observed that Taft "stood up and stretched his legs just like the 'real fans' do."

Taft left Chicago after the game to embark on a "western tour." There is no record of how Taft he reacted when he learned that the Cubs lost the next 2 games to the Giants as well.

They battled to a 14-inning tie in the final game of the series, prompting a replay the next day that the Cubs won, leaving them 8.5 games to the rear.

They went 7-2 the rest of the way and wound up 7.5 behind.

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'HONEST INJUN'

If the crowd for the 1909 game was, indeed, "nearly 30,000" and not 35,000, it did not exceed the record set in 1908.

But the record definitely was broken in 1910.

The Cubs were well on their way to reclaiming the pennant, holding an 8.5-game lead over the runnerup Pirates going into their final home series against the Giants, Thursday-Sunday, Aug. 25-28.

Victories in the first 2 games extended the Cubs' winning streak to 10 games and lured a huge audience for Saturday's contest.

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"Thirty-three thousand, two hundred and sixteen people saw the game," Fred J. Hewitt wrote in the Inter Ocean.

"Honest Injun, they did. [Owner] Charles Webb Murphy's private secretary brought a slip of paper down to the press box, crossed his heart six times and declared that was the official count.

"It is wonderful, such crowds, but still they are possible when two great baseball teams book. Didn't [White Sox owner Charles] Comiskey have thirty-two thousand at the South Side grounds recently?

"Well, why couldn't there be 33,216 at the West Side grounds yesterday. Easiest thing in the world."

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'BIGGER THAN THE DAY BEFORE'

The throng saw the Cubs scored 9 runs on 16 hits, pull off a triple play -- and still lose, 18-9.

The Tribune called the turnout "the largest crowd of the season," but did not print a number. Nor did it do so the next day, after the Cubs battered the Giants in the series finale, 10-2, as Frank Schulte and Jimmy Sheckard each slammed 2 home runs.

"The throng was bigger than that of the day before," said the Tribune, "and therefore easily the largest of the season out there."

Hewitt, in the Inter Ocean, began his story this way:

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Revenge is sweet.

Humiliated terribly before a crowd of thirty-two thousand on Saturday, the Cubs came back yesterday at the West Side grounds and trimmed the Giants, making them dance to the music of a 10 to 2 score before a crowd of 33,063.

Note: This record crowd gag came direct from the box office. Owing to the fact that our time was fully occupied, we didn't have time to count the people and will not make any affidavit as to the authenticity of the enumeration.

Some day we are going to check 'em up, just to see how close we can come to the exact total, but we don't have any suspicion that the person who figures out the attendance is any poor mathematician.

Anyway, it was an enormous crowd -- the largest that ever beat its way into the West Side grounds.

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LONG-TIME RECORD

But 33,063 is less than 32,216, the figure cited for the previous game!

The Cubs never would have a larger crowd until 1921, their sixth season at Weeghman Park, today's Wrigley Field.

So their record before moving to their current home was 35,000, in 1909 -- unless it was 33,216 or 33,063, in 1910.

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TOMORROW: Record crowds on the North Side

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