Cubs' previous games in Iowa

Tomorrow night's "Field of Dreams" game against the Reds at Dyersville will be the Cubs' first game in Iowa that counts in the standings.

But it will by far from the first time they have played in the state during the regular season.

Between 1878 and 1989, the Cubs played 24 exhibition games in Iowa during open dates in their big league schedule.

17 of the 24 were at Des Moines, where they faced their farm club each year but one in 1949-57, then annually in 1981-89.

The 7 others were at Clinton, Davenport (2), Dubuque, Muscatine (2) and Ottumwa.

Following is a look at the games, in chronological order.


DAVENPORT: June 26, 1878

Davenport, 175 miles nearly due west of Chicago, is one of the Quad Cities on either side of the Mississippi River, along with Bettendorf, Iowa, and Moline and Rock Island, Ill.

Its population today is more than 100,000. It was about 20,000 when the Cubs, then known as the White Stockings, came to town between games of a National League series at home against Boston.

The next day's Chicago Tribune reported the final score, 9-8, and nothing more. Not a word about the contest appears in any of the available online papers from eastern Iowa or western Illinois.


DUBUQUE: July 29, 1879.

Three years later, the "Whites" journeyed to another river city, 180 miles north-northwest of Chicago, 72 miles due north of Davenport -- and 25 miles east of Dyersville, where the Cubs will play tomorrow night.

Dubuque would be home to 25,254 in the 1880 Census. In 2020, its population was set at 59,667.

"The Chicago champions played the Dubuque champions this afternoon before an audience of 2,000 people," the Tribune reported in 1879.

"The game was a very exciting one up to the sixth inning, only one run having been scored, and that by Dalrymple, who secured his base in the first inning on three strikes.

"Both clubs were playing their very best to hit, but during the sixth inning the Gleasons rolled in such a number of errors that the Chicagos succeeded in touching the plate four times. Only for these serious and inexcusable errors the game would have stood more favorable for the Dubuques."

The host team made 13 errors, helping the Whites to an 8-1 victory.

What the story did not say was that team leader Cap Anson had played despite trouble with his liver and that star catcher Silver Flint had had his thumb nail torn off by a foul ball.


At the time, the Whites led in the NL pennant race by 5.5 games. They maintained that bulge while winning their next 3 games, which made their record 35-12-2.

But neither Anson nor Flint was in the lineup the next day when the Whites hosted Buffalo. Flint soon returned but Anson remained sidelined until late in the season, spending many weeks recuperating at his home in Marshalltown, Iowa, near the center of the state. Flint served as captain in his absence.

The Whites lost 2 of 3 to the Bisons, then 3 in a row at Cincinnati. They won a game at Cleveland on Thursday, Aug. 14, but were shut out the next day, 0-2, and fell into a tie for first place, at 37-18-2.


"It may not be generally known that the blame for all the disasters which have fallen thick and fast upon the White Stockings for the past fortnight is to be laid at the door of Dubuque -- a town somewhere in Iowa -- but such is the fact," the Tribune declared in its Sunday edition.

"The Chicagos had the championship about as good as won before the Buffalos came here, when some malignant and enterprising persons in Dubuque offered to pay the nine's expenses to that city and back, and present the Club with $150, provided the boys would come there and play a game.

"In an evil moment, Mr. Hulbert [team president William Hulbert] accepted this proposition, and from that time, as one of the Club officers neatly expressed it, 'h-ell was to pay.' The Whites not only lost the little one-horse game in Dubuque, but they also lost their grip."


The next afternoon, the Whites lost again at Cleveland, 2-11, and dropped to second.

A loss at Buffalo on the final day of the season, Sept. 30, relegated them to fourth place, at 46-33-4. Since the visit to Dubuque, they had gone 14-21-2, and tumbled from 5.5 games in front to 10.5 games behind -- the first of all-too-many great collapses in Cubs history.


CLINTON: Sept. 14, 1904

Clinton is the easternmost city in Iowa, on the Mississippi River, about halfway between the state's northern and southern borders and 45 miles northeast of the Quad Cities.

In 2020, Clinton's population was 24,469, a decrease of 9 percent from 10 years earlier.

In 1900, it was 22,698, an increase of 67 percent from its 1890 total of 13,619.

The Cubs still were widely known as the Colts when they played a local team during a whirlwind visit in 1904, 2 days after hosting the Pirates and a day before beginning a series at home against the Reds.

This is the full account of the game from the Davenport Daily Times (paragraph breaks added):



Independents Are Defeated by 7 to 3 Score


CLINTON, Ia., Sept. 15. -- The Colts defeated the Clinton independent team yesterday 7 to 3 in a game which took only 1 hour and 20 minutes.

Fourteen hits were made off Eul, the local pitcher, and only two hits were registered off Grothe, who was in the box for the Colts.

Joe Tinker pitched the last two innings and the three runs made by the Clinton team were made off his in the eighth. He gave three bases on balls, was touched up for three hits and made one wild pitch.

Eighteen hundred people watched the game.

The Colts returned home on the 5 o'clock train, being in town only a little over three hours.


Tinker was 24 years old that day and in his third season as the Cubs' shortstop. The future Hall of Famer never pitched in a big league game during his 15-year career.

"Grothe" was Ernie Groth, a 19-year-old right hander, who had appeared in 2 games for the Cubs at St. Louis, on Sept. 6-7, relieving in the first and starting the second.

He did not pitch in another big league game until Oct. 7, when he surrendered 6 runs on 10 hits and 3 walks in 7 innings.

That was the full extent of his Major League career: 3 games, 16 innings and an 0-2 record.


OTTUMWA: Sept. 9, 1910

Ottumwa is in southeast Iowa, about 95 miles southeast of Des Moines.

In 2020, its population was 25,529. When the Cubs visited in 1910, it was 22,012.

The Cubs spent considerably more time in Ottumwa than they had in Clinton.

After the game, the visiting team "was given a great reception by the Elks tonight and attended a large banquet given in their honor at the Elks' rooms," the Chicago Tribune reported. "Before the game there was a parade in which more than 500 members of the order took part."


Few of the Cubs' regulars made the trip. This was the main headline and the start of the story about the game that appeared in the Chicago Inter Ocean the next day:





OTTUMWA, Ia., Sept. 9 -- The Cub utility men, re-enforced by Johnny Evers' youthful brother and Toots Hofman, failed to utilize the necessary amount of baseball perfection this afternoon, and 2,819 southern Iowa fans saw the Ottumwa Central Association club win handily by a score of 10 to 1.


Evers' "youthful brother" was Joe, 10 years younger than Johnny, who turned 19 the following day. Joe appeared in 1 Major League game, as a pinch runner, for the Giants in 1913.


MUSCATINE: June 2, 1913

Muscatine in located on a bend in the Mississippi River, about 35 miles southwest of the Quad Cities.

In 2020, it was home to 23,797. In the 1910 Census, there were 16,178.

The Cubs' visit was a big deal.

"The city declared a holiday in honor of the appearance of the Cubs," the Chicago Tribune wrote in 1913. "Even the schools were closed. The business people entertained the visitors this morning with an automobile ride about the city and a visit to several of the big manufacturing plants."

Said the Davenport Daily Times:

"The exhibition brought out a monster crowd. The stand was packed to capacity and the overflow fringed the field on every side. Auto parties came from all parts of the neighboring country. . . A hundred or more Davenport bugs went down on a special D. & M. [railroad] car at the noon hour."

This is how the Daily Times began its account of the game (paragraph breaks added):


Muscatine went wet again last night. The moisture came from the tears shed by the notorious Heinie Zim, Deerfoot Tom Needham and a gang of [owner Charlie] Murphy's Cubs who hesitated in the lower river city yesterday long enough to drop an exhibition game of ball to "Silver Threads" Boyle's Class C leaguers, 6 to 4.

Muscatine now lays claim to the championship of the earth.

While the large leaguers were wearing their funeral faces, some 4,000 frenzied fans who had witnessed the pastime went through all the motions of a horde of lunatics turned loose for their annual holiday.

Mr. Murphy has been asked by Muscatine today if he doesn't want to trade his Cubs for a real ball club.


The Tribune had this to say:


If Jim Lavender had not been hit on the jaw by a batted ball in the first round, if [Mike] Mitchell had not dropped fly ball on which two scored in the third, and if the Cubs president sent a few more regulars here, the Cubs might have won an exhibition game today with Frank Boyle's Muskies. . . .

The local club officials were wrought up slightly over the failure of [Johnny] Evers and [Jimmy] Archer to appear here. The agreement with the Cubs' president in writing, according to the claim of the locals, called for the manager and either [Roger] Bresnahan or Archer.

When Secretary Block of the Muskies learned that Evers and the others had gone to Chicago he sent a telegram asking about the agreement made earlier in the year. The officials here at first hinted at taking some action, but afterward decided that it would be better to settle the matter peaceably. . . .

[Lavender] was put on the blink in the first inning when he tried to stop a wallop by Sours. Jim never saw the pill until it cracked him in the right side of the chin, and while it dazed him, he managed to recover and throw the man out at first. Upon proceeding to the bench the injured chin was examined, and Doc Hart diagnosed the case as a temporary dislocation of the jaw. After much manipulating the erring joint was returned to normal conditions and the 'spitballer' was able to resume work.


In the third inning, Lavender had knocked Danny Harrell on his back with a pitch. When they faced one another again in the fourth, Harrell smacked a 3-run triple that gave Muscatine a 6-0 lead.

Lavender gave up 7 hits and walked 2 and struck out 5.


MUSCATINE: July 7, 1914

When the Cubs returned to Muscatine about 13 months later, "Three thousand wild eyed fans and fanettes gathered at the South Side park in the hope that the Muskies would repeat the trick which they turned last year when they humiliated the Chicago club," the Tribune reported.

"The visitors came prepared to see that history might not repeat itself and lead which the invaders gained in the initial round never was overcome by the ambitious minors."

The first 3 batters for the Cubs walked, tripled and homered. They scored another run before the inning ended, for a 4-0 lead, and were up 6-0 midway through the seventh.

The final score was 6-3.

"The record crowd which was recruited from every part of Muscatine and neighboring towns as well were disappointed in the showing of the Cubs," the Tribune reported, "for while they swung the war clubs to better advantage than did the Boylers, still the fielding exhibition was below the standard maintained by the Muskies."


DAVENPORT: June 7, 1943

During World War II, the Cubs played 18 games against military teams, including 6 against the Bluejackets from Great Lakes Naval Base, about 40 miles north of Chicago.

The first of the 6, in 1942, took place at the base. In 1943, the teams squared off in Davenport.

The Cubs had been guaranteed $1,000 to play there and the city's Junior Chamber of Commerce raised $10,000.

"Great Lakes fired a few salvos at the Cubs before they really knew what hit them," Edward Prell reported in the Tribune. "The most vociferous of the 8,121 which made up Davenport's choicest baseball crowd in history yelled, 'That's why you're in the cellar' as the Bluejackets smashed Henry Wyse in the first inning for four runs.

"The sailors went on from there to a 5 to 1 victory, their 12th this season without a defeat."


It's little wonder Great Lakes was unbeaten. Its lineup included future Hall of Famer Johnny Mize, a 5-time All-Star for the Giants who had led the National League in runs batted in twice in the previous 3 seasons.

Mize hit a bases-loaded triple off Wyse in the first and scored when a throw to third was off the mark.


The Cubs and Bluejackets played again just 2 days later at Great Lakes, with the sailors winning, 5-1. They also beat the Cubs, 11-7, at Toronto on June 29, as well as in their only meetings in 1944, by 3-2, and in 1945, by 1-0.


DES MOINES: Sept. 7, 1949

The Cubs' were the opening act in a unique doubleheader when they made their first visit to the home city of their Class A farm club.

From the Des Moines Register:


The Bruins whipped their big city cousins, the Cubs, then thrust themselves into the Western League play-offs by turning back Sioux City, 4-1, Tuesday night.

A record Pioneer Memorial Stadium crowd of 7,915 saw the Bruins slip and skid over the muddy diamond to their 7-4 victory over the Chicago National Leaguers.

There were less than 2,000 shivering patrons on hand -- some of whom had been there since the gates opened at 5:30 p.m. -- when the Bruins wrapped up their important league triumph at 11:44 p.m.


The Bruins were managed by Stan Hack, who had concluded his 16-season big league career, all with the Cubs, 2 years earlier.

Hack would manage the Cubs from 1954-56, with little success, as they finished seventh, sixth and eighth while winning 196 games and losing 265.

His Des Moines team broke open the 1949 game by scoring 3 runs in the seventh inning, then 2 in the eighth, to open a 7-1 lead.

The Bruins outhit the Cubs, 12-9, with outfielder Bob Talbot going 5 for 5.

Talbot had been in the Cubs' system since 1946. He would not make his debut with the parent team until 1954. He appeared in 122 games that season and the next, batting .247/.278/.312, with 1 home run among 107 hits.

Those were his only big league games.


DES MOINES: 1950-89

The Cubs returned to Des Moines in 1950-55 and in 1957. After the final year, the Bruins changed their affiliation to the Dodgers. Then they went out of business.

A new team, the Iowa Oaks, began play in Des Moines in 1969, and in 1981 became the Cubs' Class AAA affiliate, succeeding the Wichita Aeros.

The Cubs visited Des Moines on May 18 of that year.

"The Iowa Oaks finally found a team they could defeat and the Chicago Cubs found that playing a minor league team was just another way to lose," said the Des Moines Register.

The Oaks tied the game at 5 with a 2-out home run in the bottom of the ninth, then put a runner on third, who raced home on an infield hit.

"The victory was only the second in the past 12 games for the Oaks, who are in the cellar of the American Association's Eastern Divison," the Register noted. "The loss was seventh in a row for the Cubs, who are buried in last place in the National League's Eastern Division."


The Oaks changed their nickname to the Cubs the following year, when they beat the parent club again, 7-2.

Over the next 7 seasons, Iowa went 4-2-1 against Chicago.

The final meeting was on May 25, 1989.

Here is how the Register described the game:


How thrilling was the exhibition game between the Iowa and Chicago Cubs Thursday night at Sec Taylor Stadium?

All the runs scored on sacrifice flies.

Chicago Cub outfielder Gary Varsho played third base.

Chicago catcher Rick Wrona played first.

Chicago Cub outfielder Andre Dawson, on the disable list because of a bad knee, stayed in the training room.

The only people who took the game seriously were those in the Iowa Cub front office. General Manager Sam Bernabe and ticket manager Todd Guske were last seen smiling ear-to-ear as an armored truck left long after the Iowa Cubs defeated the Chicago Cubs, 2-1. . . .

The crowd of 8,115 was the 10th-largest since triple-A baseball came to Des Moines in 1969.


That crowd may be bigger than the one for tomorrow night's game against the Reds at Dyersville.

Attendance at last year's Field of Dreams game between the White Sox and Yankees was 7,832. The park's capacity is about 8,000.

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