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Cubs' record crowds since 1901, Part 4

Fourth 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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The Cubs set a franchise record for total attendance in 1926, luring a league-best 885,063 fans to Cubs Park.

Soon after the season ended, the team began construction of a second deck above the grand stand. It hoped to finish the work by Opening Day but failed to do so.

Only the deck on the third-base side was complete when the Cubs hosted the Cardinals on Tuesday, April 12, 1927 at newly renamed Wrigley Field.

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The Cubs gave up a first-inning run, then pounded ex-Cub hurler Grover Cleveland Alexander.

"Under the pressure of those who were once his mates and to a raspberry accompaniment from a vast 45,000 who once howled him encouragement, the venerable right hander went his way and eventually the Cubs emerged triumphant over St. Louis' world's champions by a telltale score of 10 to 1," Irving Vaughan wrote in the next day's Chicago Tribune.

"Those 45,000 patrons, just out of their cages after a long off season, were everywhere. They were in the field, in the aisles, on the rafter."

In a notes column, Vaughan added:

"No official attendance figures were issued on the opener but the actual paid admission was approximately 44,000. Another couple of thousand seeped through the pass gate, which from 2 to 3 o'clock p. m. was about the busiest spot in the park."

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SHORT-LIVED RECORDS

Baseball-reference.com lists the crowd as 42,000. Even that topped the Cubs' previous single-game high of 40,536, for a doubleheader against the Reds on May 30, 1924.

If the Opening Crowd was 42,000, the record was broken again the following Sunday, April 17, when the Cubs lost to the Pirates in front of 45,000, according to baseball-reference -- and 44,000, according to the Tribune.

"So many people wanted to get in for the Sunday show," wrote Vaughan, "that it was necessary to close the gates about ten minutes before game time. Thousands of the disappointed hung around outside to listen to what they couldn't see."

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There was "a howling crowd of 45,000" on Sunday, June 12, when the Cubs beat the Giants for their eighth straight win. Those fans "were draped everywhere except at the top of the flag pole," Vaughan remarked.

The only other crowd in 1927 of at least 40,000 in was on Sunday, Aug. 14, as 42,000 watched the Cubs' triumph over the Reds. The victory left the Cubs in first place by 5 games. By the time they returned from an 18-game road trip, they were second, 2 games behind, and they wound up fourth, 8.5 games to the rear.

They drew 32,000 on their final Sunday, when they lost twice to the champion Pirates. Only a combined 8,000 attended their final 2 games the next 2 days. That raised their season total to 1,159,168. No National League team had attracted a million fans before.

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BIG DAY FOR SCALPERS

The second deck of the grand stand was completed during the off season. The Cubs played their first 7 games of 1928 on the road, then were greeted by a record crowd in their home debut, against the Reds on Wednesday, April 18.

In the eighth inning, the Cubs turned a 5-1 deficit into a 6-5 lead, with the final 3 runs coming on a pinch-hit home run by Earl Webb.

A leadoff error and a pair of doubles quickly put the Reds back in front. They added 2 more runs to earn a 9-6 victory "that spread a blanket of silence over 46,000 cash greeters who shortly before were delirious enough to tear down William Wrigley's new stand and pocket the pieces for souvenirs," according to Vaughan.

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A small secondary story said that "Loop scalpers sold thousands of box seats. The Randolph Street twins, Whitey Gordon and Kid Brodie, are said to have celebrated last night because of the biggest day in their scalping history.

"They bought their tickets, it is charged, at a premium of 25 cents a ticket and sold them at prices ranging from $3 to $7 apiece. The scalpers' explanation of the high prices was based on the premium they paid to get tickets in blocks."

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LARGEST BEYOND NEW YORK

The attendance record was smashed again the following Sunday, April 22, when the Cubs nipped the defending champion Pirates, 3-2. Jimmy Butler tied the game with a 2-run double in the fourth inning, then hit a 1-out sacrifice fly in the eighth to drive in Riggs Stephenson, who had led off the inning with a triple.

"[S]ome 48,000 folks, supposed to be the largest crowd that ever witnessed a league game outside the Yankee stadium," watched the come-from-behind victory, according to Vaughan.

His notes included:

"Eleven men charged with scalping tickets and four charged with vending red hots without a license were arrested outside Wrigley Field before the game. The speculators were getting as high as $10 per ducat."

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'GURGLING ECSTASY'

After 3 straight losses at Pittsburgh on April 30-May 2, the Cubs were 9-12 and in seventh place. They they swept 3 games each at home against the Phillies and Robins (today's Dodgers). A win over the Giants left the Cubs just 1 game behind.

It also prompted a record-tying 48,000 to attend the rematch between the Cubs and Giants on Sunday, May 13.

Edward Burns' story in the next day's Tribune began:

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The score at Wrigley Field yesterday afternoon was Cubs, 6; Giants, 5 -- not an unusual baseball tabulation.

But here are some of the things that little one point margin did:

Brought the Cubs' winning streak to eight in a row.

Made 48,000 witnesses happy in varying degrees, from gurgling ecstasy to smug satisfaction.

Moved the Giants down from first to second place in the National League standing.

Moved the Cubs from fourth to third place, a game behind the Reds, new leaders of the pack.

Cold blooded experts, who watch ball games day after day for a living, would tell you the triumph technically was pretty awful. But who of the 48,000 gives a whoop about analysis when the final score was 6 to 5 in favor of our nine?

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The Cubs led after an inning, 2-0, then fell behind, 5-2, in the third. With 1 out in the fifth, singles by Kiki Cuyler and Hack Wilson, then a double by Stephenson, made the score 5-4.

Wilson was thrown out at the plate when he tried to score on a ground ball to first. But the Giants' shortstop mishandled balls hit to him by the next 2 batters, allowing the tying and go-ahead runs to score. They proved to be the last runs of the day.

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REST OF SEASON

The Cubs played in front of 4 more crowds of at least 40,000 during the rest of the season, including a near-record 47,000 on Sunday, July 22, against the Giants.

Their final home game, on Thursday, Sept. 13, lured 45,000, according to baseball-reference.com; 40,000, according to the Tribune.

Their 6-1 victory that day brought the Cubs to within 2 games of first place. They never came closer, finishing third, 4 games behind the Cardinals.

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TOMORROW: The biggest crowd of all

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