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Baseball's 'Twain' at the Examiner, Part 14

Fourteenth in a series of posts

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In 1914, the Cubs finished fourth, 16.5 games out of first.

In 1915, they finished fourth again, 17.5 games behind.

After each season, the Cubs fired their first-year manager.

However, the 2 seasons were far from identical.

...

During the first, under Hank O'Day, the Cubs never held the top spot in the standings alone. They were 10 games behind after playing just 20, but closed to within 2.5 in late August and were only 3 to the rear on Sept. 8.

But they went just 9-17 the rest of the season, including a 2-10 stretch that ended with only 2 games to go. They won both, to stay above .500, at 78-76-2.

...

The next year, under Roger Bresnahan, the Cubs moved into a tie for first place after their 31st game and held or shared the lead after all but 3 of the next 45 games.

On June 25, they were in front by 4.5 games. Then they unraveled.

By the end of July, they were fifth, 6 games behind, with a .500 record.

They were fourth, but 8 back, 1 game under .500, after a loss on the final day of August.

An 11-inning defeat on Sept. 25 left the Cubs with 12 more losses than wins and dropped them to dead last, 18.5 games out of first.

A 7-2 finish gained them only 1 game on the champion Phillies, but did allow them to claim fourth place -- by half a game over the Pirates, 1 over the Cardinals, 2.5 over the Reds and 3.5 over the Giants. Their final record was 73-80-2.

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Charles Dryden, "the Mark Twain of Baseball," covered the Cubs for the Chicago Examiner during both of those frustrating seasons.

The previous post presented excerpts from some of his humorous accounts of the team's 1914 collapse.

Following are excerpts from a few of his dispatches in 1915.

Dates are those on which the games were played; Dryden's stories, of course, appeared in the Examiner the next day.

Excerpts begin immediately beneath the date. Three dots then separate the end of the excerpt from commentary preceding the next date.

Paragraph breaks have been added to many stories for easier reading.

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May 24, at Boston

[Headline: Cubs Annex Four Straight From the World Champs]

Able-bodied hitting routed Bill James when he was two-thirds of the way across and the Cubs cleaned up the fourth and last game to-day with a 9 to 1 count.

The swatting was so fierce that Bill just couldn't stand it. He was banished in the sixth, which round netted six of the seventeen blows made off two pitchers.

The great Zim [Heinie Zimmerman] was right in the thick of the fuss with four swats, and three of them were doubles. A [2-run] homer by[Frank] Schulte in the first was enough to beat the Braves, but the Cubs went ahead and beat them some more while the beating was good. . . .

Misfortunes are coming thick and fast upon the unhappy Braves. They have lost five games in a row. Managers [George] Stallings is laid up with a mastoid abscess of his right ear, and Mr. [James] Gaffney is building an immense baseball plant.

Furthermore, John Evers, the famous Trojan [and long-time Cub] is down with a broken leg. John was advertised to appear on the coaching line to-day with a crutch. The dope went wrong somewhere and the best we got was a Mr. [Dick] Crutcher on the slab.

He reported in the seventh and was slapped for a pair of doubles in the eighth. The said Mr. Crutcher was a poor substitute for Mr. Evers and the crutch, if the idea was to throw a scare into the Cubs and stop their able-bodied hitting.

...

The Cubs had begun the series in second place, 1.5 games behind the Phillies and 1 ahead of the Braves.

When it ended, the Cubs (20-12) were in front by a game over the Phillies (17-11) and the Braves (14-16) had sunk to a tie for fifth, 5 games to the rear.

...

About that "immense baseball plant":

The Braves were constructing a new ballpark, Braves Field, but construction problems had delayed its opening. It would not be ready until Aug. 15, by which time Braves had played 50 home games at Fenway Park, home of the Red Sox since 1912.

In 1914, the Braves had moved their final 27 games to Fenway, to handle the huge crowds that turned out during the team's miraculous run to the pennant.

12 games behind after losing at home to the Cubs on July 25, the Braves beat the Cubs the next 2 days to begin an incredible 54-14-4 finish, including 31-8-3 in September and October, and finished in front by 10.5 games over the runnerup Giants.

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June 25, vs. Cardinals

Miller Huggins and his misplaced Cards have suffered another severe shock to their pennant aspirations. Filbert [real name: George' Pierce, the affable left-hander with control, snuffed them out in a 5 to 0 contest, and now the Cubs are leading the fleet by four games.

In the misplacing process of the last three days [i.e., 3 straight losses] the unfortunate athletes from St. Looie, Mo., slid down from second to third position. However, the season is still young -- not later than March 1 by the feel of the weather.

[The Cubs' lead actually was a season-high 4.5 games, not 4. The Examiner's standings show the Phillies with 1 too many wins. Their correct 29-26 record meant the Cardinals (32-29) remained in a tie for second, not third. The Cubs were 33-21.]

No less a personage than Willie Do-ack -- so pronounced by the megaphonist -- was the victim in the last defeat, though Dan Griner got walloped a few times in the eighth.

[The pitcher's name was spelled "Doak" and properly pronounced as "Doke," rhyming with "joke."]

While Filbert was shutting out the Cards with four hits the Cubs spanked the opposition ten times and had three tallies in the war chest when Willie Do-ack was sent away in the sixth. . . .

Filbert . . . was subject to feverish spells during which he could not get the pill over the rubber [i.e., plate]. He walked four parties, two of them in succession in the seventh, and then pitched himself out of the difficulty by fanning a pinch hitter.

Pierce consumed considerable time walking around the slab in short circles. Being left handed he always turned to the right. Most athletes turn to the left when in trouble.

The desire to stroll in short circles seized Filbert every time Mr. [Ernie] Quigley called a ball which the southpaw thought should have been something else.

He never said anything to the umpire. Filbert is too polite for that. The short walks with nature tended to soothe his troubled spirit, and by adopting this system the southpaw pitched a swell game of ball.

In whiffing Mr. [Zinn] Beck in the fourth Filbert did it in such a masterful manner that the victim let out a hoarse squawk and tossed his bat into the air. Mr. Quigley canned the culprit and Bruno Betzel sat in at third base the rest of the afternoon.

The change did the Cardinals no good. Bruno couldn't hit Filbert any better than the absent one did.

...

July 14, at New York

Rather than be skinned alive seven times in a row, the Cubs smoked up and beat the Giants, 3 to 1, in the second battle of to-day's double-header, after losing the first game, 6 to 5.

A mob of 15,000 human beings and baseball bugs sweltered through first hot day that has visited these parts. The Cubs got some money and a little glory from the proceedings.

Hot weather was what the doctor ordered for Larry Cheney, but it was too much for Hippo Vaughn. The large southpaw melted and flooded himself off the slab in a regular July thaw in the fifth round of the opening game [when the Giants scored twice to tie the score at 4].

On the other side four pitchers took turns trying to abate the Cubs. In the order name, Mr. [Ralph] Stroud, Mr. [Rube] Schauer and Mr. [Ferdie] Schupp proved failures. It was a bad day for the S. brand of pitchers.

[Jeff] Tesreau hurled the last round and saved the one-run lead for his pals.

The world's greatest finisher, Hambone [real name: Karl] Adams, rescued Hippo and was the whole works for a little while. Hambone fanned a number of Giants and held them hitless in two rounds.

Then he slipped [Dave] Robertson a pass in the eighth and [Art] Fletcher spanked a home run [to erase the Cubs' 5-4 lead].

It was all off then except sweeping the diamond for the next battle.

...

The Cubs had begun the day tied for first place. They ended it half a game behind.

They were 1 game back after splitting the final 2 games of the series, then regained a share of the lead with a 4-0 victory in the first of 4 games at Philadelphia.

The shutout came on Saturday. Since baseball was banned on Sunday under Pennsylvania state law, the Cubs got to savor first place for 48 hours. Then they went into another prolonged, exasperating tailspin.

They lost 3 times at Philadelphia, then 4 times at Boston, with 6 of the 7 losses by 1 run and the seventh by 2. In the final 5 setbacks, they scored 0, 3, 1, 0 and 0 runs. The first shutout came in only 6 innings; the 1-2 loss, in 11.

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July 26, at Boston

Practice makes the Braves so perfect they skinned our poor Cubs 1 to 0 in one hour and a half and made easy the getaway on an early train.

It was a fast, clean battle, in which the Cubs outhit the enemy [by a ratio of] more than 2 to 1 [7-3], but the tallies could not be obtained

"Hambone" Adams held the Braves to a pair of singles in seven rounds. They bunched the two hits in the fourth along with a sacrifice, and scored the important run.

[Braves starter] Pat Ragan blew up in the eighth and filled the bases with none out. [Tom] Hughes relieved him and put the side on the hummer. [Bob] Fisher fanned and [Red] Murray hit in a double play. . . .

Getaway day dawned bright and clear. In fact, it was such a beautiful day that [Manager] Roger [Bresnahan[ decided to beat it home ahead of the bunch.

He may have felt ashamed to travel with the outfit. Either that or he was afraid somebody might step on his sore toe.

The boss left at noon on the fast train and will reach Chicago to-morrow to tell them all about the [4-14] trip. There is no truth in the rumor that Roger carried a large box full of alibis packed in ice. . . .

It has been a sorry trip and the Cubs will feel better when they get home.

...

Not immediately, anyway.

On July 30, playing at the West Side Grounds for the first time in 24 days, the Cubs came up 1 run short yet again, 2-3, in Game 1 of a doubleheader, extending their losing streak to 8 games and dropping them below .500 for the year.

Of the Cubs' 44 losses, 20 had been by 1 run and 5 more by 2.

Bert Humphries stopped the bleeding in Game 2, as he worked around 8 hits and 2 walks to shut out the Giants, 4-0. Even so, the Cubs were 6 games out of first.

The Cubs split a doubleheader with the Giants the next day, then bat the Phillies twice and the Braves 3 in a row, to pull to within 1.5 games of first.

4 straight losses to the Dodgers, by a combined score of 12-31, made the deficit 3.5 games on Aug. 10.

It was 4 after a 2-12 shellacking at St. Louis on Aug. 14, but only 2.5 after a 9-0 romp at Brooklyn on the 18th.

It stayed at 2.5 the next day, despite a 5-6 loss to the Dodgers that lifted the victors (59-51) into a first-place tie with the Phillies (56-48). The Cubs were third, at 55-52.

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Aug. 20, at Brooklyn

Zack Wheat put a fatal kibosh on to-day's combat in the tenth round. With two runs needed to win and men at first and third, Mr. Wheat poled an able-bodied triple to left center. Score, 6 to 5.

The Cubs at once gathered up their camping outfit and rushed frantically away to Philadelphia. That's as good a place as any to go to.

...

The Cubs had trailed, 2-4, after 2 innings, then tied the game with single runs in the fifth and seventh. A double by Fisher and an RBI single by Schulte had put them in front in the 10th. Schulte eventually reached third, but was stranded.

That made all the difference in the bottom half, when Jimmy Lavender hit the first batter, who was bunted to second. An infield hit then set the stage for Wheat's walk-off blast.

Philadelphia proved to be no more hospitable. The Cubs lost both ends of a Monday doubleheader and slipped to fourth place, at .500 again, 55-55.

A win on Tuesday kept their heads above water and left them 4.5 games behind. They never would be that close after any game during the rest of the season.

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Aug. 27, at Boston

An even break cleaned up the Cubs' season here this afternoon in the double header exercises.

Filbert Pierce made a unique record, losing the first game in less than one inning and winning the second in nine. The score was 9 to 4 and 4 to 1.

The last event was a ball game. There is no fit name for the front end of the show.

A proper course to pursue in the opening contest would have been to concede the game to the Braves at the end of the first inning and let them start the next one. Filbert Pierce was as cheese in the hands of a sculptor and six smelly runs went across before the side was anywhere retired.

Pete Standridge, the gentle boil king, was urged to assist [i.e., relieve] Filbert and he subdued the Braves after eleven of them had gone to bat in the first round.

By this time all the joy and gladness had evaporated from our Cubs and they proceeded with as much enthusiasm as a scavenger burying a dead horse.

...

Pierce's 4-hitter in Game 2 only prevented the Cubs from falling even more than their 7 games behind.

That proverbial horse would be beaten in 4 of the final 6 games of the road trip, culminating in a 1-2, 12-inning loss at Pittsburgh on Sept. 4.

The next day, in one of the Pirates' frequent Sunday-only visits to Chicago, the Cubs were throttled, 2-13.

Then they left town again, for St. Louis, where they won once -- and lost by 2-3 in 12 inning, 0-10 in 8 and 0-2 in 9.

...

A 23-game home stand followed. In the first 17 games, the Cubs went 5-12, with 3 of the wins by 1-0. They also shut out the Phillies, 6-0, in the opener of a doubleheader on Sept. 24, only to turn around lose by the same score in the rematch.

The Examiner had begun printing wisecracks in small boxes at the top of its sports pages. The day after the split against the Phillies, one of them said: "Bresnahan is a nature faker. He calls his team the 'Cubs,' but they burrow downward like a pack of gophers."

...

That afternoon, the Cubs tied the score at 4 on a 2-run homer by Alex McCarthy in the ninth. They lost when the Phillies got a run in the 11th on 2 walks, a single and a sacrifice fly.

Dryden did not write the Examiner's account of the game, which appeared on the third page of its Sunday sports section, pushed off the front page by reports about the exciting pennant race in the rival Federal League and summaries of multiple of college football games.

But this, transcribed verbatim, also made the front page:

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Dryden's Swan Song

and

Market Dope on Cubs

...

BY C. DRY

Here we have a comprehensive review of the Cubs for the season of 1915 and an expert forecast for 1916, based on past results.

HOPS -- 1915 crop per lb: Milwaukee, 13@14c; other sections, 14@15c; St. Louis, 15@16c; Cincinnati, 14@15c.

LIVE CHICKENS -- Fowls, 12 1/2@14 1/2c; Springs, 15 1/2@16c; ducks, 12@13 1/2c; geese, 12c. Prices to retail trade in single coop lots, 1/2@1c higher.

CHEESE -- Twins, 14 1/4c; daisies, 14 1/4c; young Americas, 15c; long horns, 15c; Swiss, new, 16@18c; limburger, extra old, 22 1/2c.

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Having seen enough, Dryden had left for his winter home in Ocean Springs, Miss.

Following his departure, the Cubs won 5 in a row and 7 of 9.

A headline-style quip in the Examiner on Sept. 28 said: "C. Dryden Is the Only Man We Know Who Knows How to Enjoy a City Series -- He Leaves Town."

The Cubs lost the series to the Sox for the fifth straight year, in just 5 games.

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TOMORROW: Dryden on the Cubs' continued misery

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