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Cubs and Ladies' Day, Part 2

Second of 2 posts.

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Charles Comiskey had come to Chicago in 1890 to manage the Pirates, the city's entry in the new Players League.

When the league folded after 1 season, he returned to St. Louis, where he resumed managing the Browns of the American Association, as he had in 1883-89.

From 1892-94, he managed the Cincinnati Reds.

Then he bought the Western League team in Sioux City, Iowa, and moved it to St. Paul, Minn. In 1900, he moved the team again, to Chicago, where it adopted the Orphans' historic name, the White Stockings.

The league changed its name, too -- to the American League. The following year, it declared itself a second Major League.

And in his battle to lure fans away from the established Orphans, Comiskey brought back "Ladies' Day," offering free admission for women to selected games at South Side Park.

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The first such game was on Friday, July 19. In describing the home team's 4-7 loss, the Inter Ocean said:

"Quite a number of the fair sex availed themselves of the privilege of ladies' day at the South Side park to witness the game. Whether or not this fact interfered with the playing of Comiskey's men it is impossible to say, but it is certain they put up a miserable exhibition of baseball."

Ladies' Day became a fixture on the south side.

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ORPHANS STAND PAT

In 1890, when the Pirates had launched Ladies' Day, the Cubs (then known as the Colts) quickly did the same.

In 1901, when they were known as the Orphans, they did let women in for free.

The White Sox finished with a higher total attendance than the Orphans that season and did so again in 3 of the next 4 years.

The Sox led the AL in average attendance 5 times in 1901-08, including the last 4 years in a row. The Cubs, as the team became known beginning in 1903, led the NL only twice, in 1906 and 1908.

Over the 8 seasons, the Sox attracted 4.1 million fans; the Orphans/Cubs, 3.5 million. The average difference was 70,553 per season.

In 1909, coming off back-to-back World Series victories, the Cubs outdrew the Sox by more than 150,000.

The same year, the National League's owners voted to ban Ladies' Day.

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NO ESCORT REQUIRED

On March 24, 1914, the Tribune printed this:

"President Charles H. Thomas of the Cubs made two announcements yesterday, one that games at the west side park this season would start at 3 o'clock, instead of 2:30, as last year, and the other than a 'ladies' day' will be given each week.

"Thomas has not decided whether it will be Wednesday, Thursday, or Friday. Members of the fair sex will be admitted free even if they are not accompanied by escorts."

But there is no mention of "Ladies' Day" is any of the Tribune's previews or reports of games during the season.

The Sox continued to offer free admission to women, as did the Chi-Feds, the city's team in the new Federal League.

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"The meanest man has been discovered again," said an item in the Tribune on April 17, 1915. "Accompanied by his wife, he tackled the press gate yesterday with only one pass. On being asked for two pasteboards, he demanded: 'Isn't this ladies' day?'

"On being informed there is no 'ladies' day' at the Cub park, he sent his wife home, came in on the lone pass, and rooted for the Cards."

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WEEGHMAN TAKES UP CAUSE

At a meeting of National League owner on Feb. 14, 1916, Charles Weeghman of the Cubs ""brought up the proposition of having 'Ladies' Day' once a week at the north side park," the Tribune disclosed. "In spite of the fact that Charley Comiskey is permitted to let all the women in free one day in a week, Weeghman will not be accorded the privilege. The National League has a rule prohibiting 'Ladies' Day,' so he is helpless."

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The following December, Weeghman resumed his quest.

"Another fight for a 'ladies' day' at the Cubs' ball park will be made by President Weeghman at the annual meeting of the National League in New York next Tuesday.," I.E. Sanborn wrote in the Tribune.

"The Cub executive put up a plea a year ago for the right to admit feminine fans free one day a week, but was voted down by the other club owners of the circuit. He was not downhearted and will renew the argument.

"Weeghman is for 'local option' in the matter of dealing with baseball patronage and asserts it is an injustice to deny it the right to admit women free on certain dates because the north side club is up against the keenest kind of competition here and is handicapped in the bid for patronage by the fact the south side club has a long established 'ladies' day.'

"It is not the purpose of the Cub president to make this compulsory in all league cities, but to make it optional with the individual club owners."

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There was no follow-up story, but there were mentioned in the Tribune of any Ladies' Days at Weeghman Park in 1917.

It was a different story the next year.

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WOMEN WELCOME AGAIN

" 'Ladies' Day' will be observed at the Cubs park every Friday from now on unless some of the National League magnates succeed again in stopping it," the Tribune declared on April 27, 1918. "All the women need is a 10 cent war tax ticket."

It is unclear if the league formally approved free admission for women, or Weeghman acted unilaterally.

Either way, after 28 years, Ladies' Day resumed at National League games in Chicago.

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In at least one instance, women got to see 2 games at no charge.

"North side fans of the feminine gender called the weather man harsh names yesterday because he kept the Cubs and Phillies from playing, and it was 'ladies' day,' " the Tribune explained on Aug. 17.

"However, the fair sex can take advantage of the bargain day produced by yesterday's rain, as the two teams will play a double header beginning at 1:30 p.m. today."

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FIRST AD

On June 6, 1919, the Cubs for the first time advertised Ladies' Day -- an in a big day.

They bought a 2-column-wide, 5-inch-high ad on the Tribune's society and fashion page, where it appeared along with theater ads and, oddly, more than a column of death notices.

The ad was all text, except for a decorative border. The first word was in large type, as was the first letter of the next. All of it was in italic:

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LADIES

WHEN your husband comes home in the evening in laughing, jovial mood and tells you he has had a wonderful afternoon, that he was out at Cubs Park and saw those same Cubs whale this or that team, did you ever attempt to picture in your own mind just what scenes he has witnessed?

Well, don't try. Come out on Friday afternoon as the guest of the Cubs and see with your own eyes the scenes that have such a fascination for your husbands, your brothers, your sons, your sweethearts.

The Boston Braves, with Hank Gowdy, the first ball player to enlist with Uncle Sam's fighting forces, will oppose the Cubs and it will be "Ladies' Day."

Ladies, a most cordial invitation is extended to you and your only expense will be the small war tax.

FRED F. MITCHELL,

President, Chicago Cubs.

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LATER ADS

The Cubs ran even larger ads, 3 columns wide and nearly half a page high, in subsequent seasons.

This appeared on June 2, 1922:

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Ladies!

THE CUBS

TODAY

at Cubs Park

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The last time the Chicago National League Ball Club invited the women of Chicago as its guests at Cubs Park, it rained, thus depriving them of an opportunity of seeing Killefer's hustling young Cubs in action.

The Chicago National League Club has set aside today, Friday, as Ladies' Day, and extends another invitation to the women of Chicago to come as guests of the managements and no charge will be made for their admission.

Pat Moran's Cincinnati Reds will form the opposition, and let's all pull that the weather man is kind and that the ladies have an opportunity to become acquainted with the National Game.

The game will start at 3 o'clock at Cubs Park.

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It was followed italicized instructions, "How to Get There," from the city's south and west sides.

The Sept. 29, 1922 ad read:

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LADIES

DAY

THE CUBS

TODAY -- at Cubs Park

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Killefer's hustling young CUBS today meet the Cardinals in the first game of the final series of the year at CUBS PARK and it's the

LAST LADIES' DAY

We want to thank you Fannettes for the splendid manner in which you have supported the CUBS and we want to impress upon you that you are especially welcome at this

LAST LADIES' DAY

NO ADMISSION CHARGED FOR THE WOMEN OF CHICAGO

The game will start at 3 o'clock at the Cubs Park

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'BEST ADVERTISERS IN THE WORLD'

Cubs owner William Wrigley some years later told reporters:

"I held that no normal human being remains indifferent to the allurements of baseball after being fully exposed to them. . . . The theory of handing out of a lot of free admissions to ladies was that women are the best advertisers in the world for anything they like."

He also said, "[A] bargain day rush at a big State Street store is a tame event alongside a Ladies' Day at Wrigley Field."

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By 1929, it was estimated that 200,000 women had turned out on Ladies' Days.

Late in the season, with the Cubs seeking their first pennant since 1918, some women tried to persuade the team to move its home games to Soldiers Field, which had a much larger capacity than Wrigley Field.

William Veeck Sr., president of the Cubs from 1919-33, eventually limited the number of free tickets on Ladies' Day to 17,000, which were allocated by lottery from among written requests.

The number was raised to 20,000 in 1932.

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'SMILING STAN'

In 1935, a Ladies' Day promotion backfired in spectacular fashion.

Handsome third baseman Stan Hack, nicknamed "Smiling Stan," was extremely popular with women fans. The Cubs decided to hand out small mirrors with Hack's picture on the back.

Some of the fans promptly used the mirrors to shine light into the eyes of batters for the opposing team. The umpires threatened to forfeit the game unless the fans behaved themselves. They did.

One of the mirrors sold for $371 at an online bidding site in March of 2016.

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FEED THE TROOPS

A game against the Pirates on July 31, 1945, was Ladies' Day with a twist, according to the Tribune. To gain admission, women had to "bring a box of cookies or a cake to gain admission. The goodies then will be distributed at servicemen's centers."

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END OF LADIES' DAY

The Cubs continued to hold Ladies' Day in the seasons that followed, primarily on Fridays.

On Friday, July 20, 1979, the said, the Cubs routed the Braves, 10-2, in front of "a Ladies' Day crowd of 22,646."

That was the last time the paper specifically cited "Ladies' Day" in any story about the Cubs.

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On Sept. 14, it published this item:

"An appeals court in the State of Washington has ruled that 'Ladies Night' promotions staged by the Seattle SuperSonics constitutes sex discrimination. . . .

"The Sonics may appeal to the state Supreme Court. In the meantime, they will suspend the discount for women.

"Will the Cubs' Friday tradition of 'Ladies Day' at Wrigley Field become the next target of the male-rights crusaders?"

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'GENTLEMAN'S DAY'

A letter to the editor on July 2, 1982, said:

"I recently read a Tribune editorial that strongly favored the Equal Rights Amendment. Because Tribune Company also owns the Cubs, I think I have found a way for you to demonstrate that your belief in ERA is not just on paper.

"Put an end to the unfair tradition of Ladies' Day at Wrigley Field. On these days, every man [or boy] must pay full price to enter the ballpark, yet all women [or girls] are admitted absolutely free.

Either the Cubs should abolish this 'unconstitutional' tradition, or they should begin a free day for men. Call it 'Gentlemen's Day.' "

The Tribune did no such thing.

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A few years later, in an essay about ballpark promotions, the Tribune's Steve Daley called Ladies' Day "a charming anachronism."

Those words appeared on Aug. 2, 1987, more than 97 years after Cubs' first Ladies Day, on June 26, 1890.

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