Baseball's 'Twain' at the Examiner, Part 15

Fifteenth in a series of posts


Just past the midway point of the 1915 season, the Cubs were 43-36 and tied for first place.

After a day off, they suffered what would be the first of 8 consecutive losses, which began a 30-44-1 funk that resulted in a final record of 73-80-3

It marked their first losing season since 1902, when they had finished 68-69-6.

During the dozen seasons from 1903-14, the Cubs had won 472 more games than they had lost, compiling an average record of 96-56-2. Their winning percentage was .635.

In 1916, it would be nearly 200 points lower, .439.

Nobody knew what a Pythagorean Projection was in 1916, but based on their run differential, just minus 21, the Cubs would have been expected to win 74 games, 7 more than they actually did.

Only 1 other team underperformed by as many as 3 games: the Reds, who tied the Cardinals for seventh place, at 60-93.

The Cards and the second-place Phillies overperformed the most, 3 games.



Between the end of their 1915 woes and Opening Day of 1916, the Cubs got a new owner: Charles Weeghman, who had been permitted to buy the team as part of the deal that killed off the rival Federal League after 2 seasons.

The Cubs also got a new home, on the city's North Side: Weeghman Park, today's Wrigley Field. Weeghman had built the park 2 years earlier for his Federal League franchise, first called the Chi-Feds and then the Whales.

And the Cubs got a huge influx of new players, starting with 12 who were purchased from the Whales after their demise.

Among those 12 were 2 stars for the Cubs during their glory years, pitcher Mordecai "Three Finger" Brown and shortstop Joe Tinker.

Brown would appear in just 12 games; Tinker, also appointed manager, in only 7.

But ex-Whales Max Flack (141) and Les Mann (127) would comprise two thirds of the Cubs' regular starting outfield.

Supersub Rollie Zeider would take part in 98 games at every position but catcher and centerfielder.

Bill Fischer would catch in 65 games, second only to Jimmy Archer's 77.

Half of the Cubs' 4-man starting rotation would be former Whales: Claude Hendrix (24 starts, 36 total games) and George McConnell (21, 28).

So before the season began, many fans thought the Cubs would have a lot going for them in 1916.

What they didn't get was . . . good.



The Cubs began the season with a 7-1 win at Cincinnati on April 12.

They ended it with a 6-3 win at home against the Cardinals on Oct. 1.

In between, they lost nearly a third more games than they won, 86 to 65, with 3 ties.


They lost 27 games by 1 run and 15 by 2.

They had a winning record in only 2 months: April, when they got off to an 8-5 start, and October, when they won that final game, to wind up 67-86-3.



Along the way, the Cubs used 45 players, 5 more than they had in any previous season. Those 45 would be the team record for 3 full decades, until 1946, when they used 46.

Through 1997, more than 80 years later, 45 would remain in the top 5, as the Cubs used 46 again in 1948, 47 in 1960 and 49 in 1966.

They have used at least 45 in 20 of the past 25 seasons, including every season since 2012. They set a record for any big league team, 69, in 2021, then they used 64 in 2022.


Back in 1916, the Cubs used 34 position players, half of them outfielders (9) and catchers (8). They tried 4 second basemen, 4 third basemen and 3 shortstops.

Only first baseman Vic Saier (147) and outfielders Flack (141) and Mann (127) played in even three quarters of the team's games.

All 11 pitchers made at least 1 start, but 7 of them combined to make just 51, roughly one third of all games.

The remaining 4 all started at least 21, led by Hippo Vaughn, whose 35 were 10 more than runnerup Jimmy Lavender.



Vaughn (17-15) was the only one of the 4 principal starters to end the season with a winning record. Hendrix was 8-16; Lavender, 10-14; and McConnell, 4-12.

Yet those 4 had a combined earned run average of just 2.53, with a low of 2.20 by Vaughn and a high of 2.82 by Lavender.

They lost so many games because the Cubs' hitting was atrocious: a collective .239 batting average, second worst in the league, with the most strikeouts, 662. They ranked sixth in hits and on-base percentage.

The Cubs were second in walks but last in steals.

They did lead the league with 46 home runs. More than a quarter of them were hit by outfielder Cy Williams, whose 12 led all players in both leagues.


In modern parlance, the 1916 Cubs were a hot mess.

Among those recording their failings in the city's newspapers was Charles Dryden, "the Mark Twain of Baseball," for the Examiner.

Following are excerpts from a few of his stories during the season.

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.


After their Opening Day win at Cincinnati, the Cubs lost 4 in a row, the last 2 by 0-2 and 0-1. They snapped the streak with a win at St. Louis, had a game there rained out and returned home, for a day of rest.

Then they welcome their first guests to their new digs at the corner of Addison and Clark streets.


April 20, vs. Reds

This opening day splash was more or less muddled in the main features, but the Cubs won after eleven rounds of hysterical scrambling. The score was 7 to 6.

Each side used four pitchers and with the snipers, or pinch hitters, added, the grand total of athletes employed ran up to an even thirty.

They had one gaily caparisoned jackass and a bear in a silver collar on the premises, but neither was asked to do anything but appear natural.

During two hours and forty-five minutes of actual pastiming the tide of battle ebbed and flowed so as to give the Cub and Red rooter contingents a chance to let off steam.

Many of the latter was snoring at the finish. The strain of riding all night on the Cincy Commissary Special and sitting through all that flubdub was more than human nature could endure.

When the Cubs threatened to win in the ninth, a shower of cushions beaned some of the prominent Cincy persons and aroused them to the business at hand.

Gene Packard and a party entitled [Al] Schulz, both southpaws, were on the hill at the windup. Left-handers were a fitting finish to a game of that sort.

Vic Saier's single behind a double by Cy Williams busted a tie and scored the winning run in the eleventh. Thus the Pepper twins lived up to their reps and brought the Cubs to life at the windup.

Cy and Vic also released about 18,000 folks who had some place else to go and hated to leave while the result was in doubt.


The Cubs won again the following afternoon, 8-7, by scoring twice in the ninth on a single, a bunt and 3 more singles.

They captured their next 3 games, too.


April 28, vs. Cardinals

It happened that [meat-packing magnate] J. Ogden Armour went forth to see the Cubs bring home the bacon, a fine, juicy slab of the very best, all garnished about with scrambled Cardinal eggs -- and a cup of coffee.

What more could a guy desire for the evening meal at the close of a chilly day?

Claude Hendrix blanked the miserable Cards, 7 to 0, and the win places the Cubs in a tie with the Phillies for first honors at the top of the list.

The victory was the seventh straight for the North Side crew, and no less a slabber than Slim Sallee was blown out of the hole in the doughnut, while Hendrix was checking the enemy with two singles.

The pitching of Claude was handsome to behold and the slugging of the men working with Claude made Sallee's head ache.


24 hours later, the Cubs tied the game at 4 with 3 runs in the seventh, then surrendered a run in the eighth on a 2-out error. A 3-run homer in the ninth made the final score 8-4.

A win by the Phillies dropped the Cubs to second place. They never would occupy first again.

And they would have only 1 winning streak of even 4 games, coming in the first week of September, by which time they were 55-69 and in sixth place, 19 games out of first.

The Cubs also had been sixth, at 19-23, but only 7 games back at the end of May, and went 11-11 in June, to stay sixth, 8.5 to the rear.

Their first 7 losses in June were by 1 run, once by 0-1 and by 3-4 in 11 innings and 2-3 in 18. They also lost a 12-inning game by 5 runs.

They began July by winning 5 of 7, with the defeats by 3-4 in 11 innings and 0-1, and claimed fourth place.


July 7, vs. Braves

A ten-foot wire screen erected on the right-field wall killed a home run by [Cy] Williams in the eighth, but his blow won the pastime, just the same.

The ball dented the barrier for two bases, scoring [Rollie] Zeider, who had doubled inside the lot, and the Braves were beaten, 1 to 0, in a fast and interesting duel between southpaws Gene Packard and Frank Allen.

Our gifted side-wheeler shut the Boston crew out with one hit, a single by Mr. [Fred] Snodgrass in the fifth. The Tinks committed four errors, but Gene got away with his task in spite of all that.

Allen held the victors to four blows and walked three of them, while Packard's control was perfect. So was his fielding.

This southpaw seems to have the Indian sign on the Braves, aside from the one worn on the left sleeve of the blouse.


That win evened the Cubs' record at 36-36 and left them 7.5 games out of first.

5 days and 5 losses later, they were sixth, 10 games behind.

They never reached .500 after that, and were as close to the top as 8 games on only 2 days: Saturday, July 15, after a third straight win; and again the next day, when they neither won nor lost.


July 16, vs. Dodgers

Darkness ended the suffering of the athletes in the second battle of the Brooklyn set after sixteen innings of play, with the score a tie at seven runs.

There had been nothing doing after the tenth in which the tenacious Tinks tied the count for the second time. Then with Hippo Vaughn and Jack Coombs on the slab during the closing scenes the deadlock held until the sun went down.

All hands went home late for supper. The guy who tossed baseballs down to the umpire complained of a sore arm, and Piute Pete, the famous wire chief, had his kids lighting matches so that he could see to send late telegraph stuff to a palpitating world.

It was a combat worth looking at, as long as the seeing was good. When Umpire Bill Byron dismissed the congregation but a few of the [16,000] bugs had departed, and they continued to bark for the Cubs with unabated vigor.

The pastime was almost a record-breaker for the number of athletes who came and went during the four hours of play.

Pitchers came and went quicker than any of the others. The pace was too swift for the ordinary slabman.

Our hitters woke up along in the ninth and tenth and drove three Dodger pitchers to the dugout. Colonel Broad [i.e., Dodgers Manager Wilbert Robinson] trotted out six slabsters and Tinker used four.

A total of thirty-three men took part in the fuss, and the bullpen disclosed other earnest pitchers winding up in the semi-darkness near the close. Cash customers got their money's worth, even if there was no decision.

Tinker ran out of athletes toward the end and had [catcher] Jim Archer playing third base, with Captain Zim at short and Count De Brie Clemens catching the game of his life. [Shortstop Eddie] Mulligan retired in the fifth and was replaced by [Rollie] Zeider until a pinch hitter [William Fischer] chased Zeider.


After Fischer reached base, Packard, a pitcher, ran for him. Frank Schulte pinch hit, too. Mann started in right field, then gave way to Flack.

Only first baseman Vic Saier, second baseman Otto Knabe and centerfielder Williams played the entire game at their original positions.

The Cubs finished with 15 hits, including 4 each by Zimmerman and Joe Kelly. A double by Zimmerman was the Cubs' only hit for extra bases.

The Dodgers ended the marathon with 20 hits: 18 singles and a pair of doubles, both by Jack Meyers. They also had 2 players with 4 hits.


And then there was this, from Dryden's notes of the game: "Forty-three baseballs were knocked into the street or the multitude and none of them came back."


The tie was the longest the Cubs ever had played at home. They had fought to a 1-1 draw that lasted 17 innings at Boston in 1908.

The Cubs would host another 16-inning deadlock, 6-6, against the visiting Phillies in 1930.

On May 17, 1939, they would battle to a 9-9 stalemate against the Dodgers, still their longest tie at home.

They tied their road mark in 1946, going 17 innings, 3-3, at Boston.

They have played 3 ties of 14 innings since then, in 1960 (1-1 at home vs. the Giants), 1967 (3-3 at home vs. the Pirates) and 5-5 in 1981 at Atlanta.


The next day's game took only 9 innings, with the Cubs losing, 1-2.

The day after that, the teams battled for 10 innings plus 2 batters.


July 18, vs. Dodgers

This was no way to treat an orphan.

Several squads of homeless little ones accepted Mr. Weeghman's kind invitation to be present yesterday, and Tinker got mad at Umpire Bill Byron, who forfeited the combat to Brooklyn by the conventional score of 9 to 0.

What do you know about putting over that way on a helpless orphan, to say nothing of the cash customers and peanut peddlers?

The score was tied at 4 to 4 in the sixth, and in the first of the tenth the big powwow was staged. The fact that the Dodgers had men on second and third and none out may have had something to do with the restless spirit of the Cubs.

In a mess of language at the plate Umpire Byron ordered Tinker to leave the scene, something which he should have been glad to do. Joe refused, and the game was given to the enemy. . . . The forfeited game carries a penalty of $1,000, which must be paid by the losing club.


The Cubs lost to the Giants the following day, then won by 1-0 in 10 innings on a 1-out walk-off single by Zeider, before losing again, 1-2. They rallied to win the series with back-to-back victories.

Those wins advanced the Cubs to fourth place once more, 9.5 games out of first, as they embarked on a 23-day, 20-game, 6-city road trip.

They began the odyssey with a 2-1 triumph at Boston, thanks to a 2-out throwing error in the 11th inning.

Had they known what lay ahead, they likely would have turned right around and gone home.

They won only 3 of the next 18 decisions, plus 1 tie. They were shut out 5 times, 3 of them by 0-1, and lost 4 more games by a single run. They did not score more than 2 runs in any of the losses until the next to last, a 3-4 loss in 11 innings:


Aug. 13, at Cincinnati

... Strategy that went astray gave the Reds the winning run at the finish. . . .

Tom Griffith shot off a triple to open the [eleventh] round. Tinker ordered that [Hal] Chase and [Ivey] Wingo be walked, and it was done, thus loading the corners with none out.

The Reds are such bum hitters, Joe figured that all the runs would be forced out at the rubber [i.e., plate] or that a double play would save the sidemeat -- slang for bacon.

With the Reds spotted in this manner, [Greasy] Neale hit a short fly to Zeider, who was playing left field by this time. No chance to score on that play.

Bill Louden was next, and he performed according to Hoyle, as Joe figured he would. Bill hit to [shortstop] Chuck Wortman, and he chucked the pill home, forcing Griffith, also according to program.

John Bunny Elliott thought he could get Louden at first, but the play was close and Umpire [Pete] Harrison called Bill safe. All hands had lost sight of Chase. He was tearing along behind Griffith, and Hal counted the winning tally about the time the play on Louden came off at first.

The Tinks were still chewing over that lapse in the program while the Reds were hustling for the shower baths.


A 3-6 loss a day later left the Cubs 20 Cubs a season-worst 20 games out of first.

They were a mere 19 back after a 5-0 win concluded the dreadful 5-15-1 road trip.

The Cubs still had 47 games to play. They enjoyed a 6-1 spurt between Aug. 30 and Sept. 4. Before and after that, they were a combined 14-25-1, including 4-13-1 during their final road trip.

They concluded that trip with 3 losses at Brooklyn. The last, by 0-2, was their 86th of the year, tying the franchise record, set 15 years earlier.

The Cubs managed to avoid setting a new high in losses by closing out the season with back-to-back wins at home that raised their victory total to 67. They had won only 53 in 1901.


Dryden was not on hand to see the last 2 wins. He already had headed south for the winter, to his cottage in Ocean Springs, Miss.

Following is his typically humorous final dispatch about the 1916 Cubs.


Sept. 29

One portion of the Cubs came back to Chicago last night to rest up for the finish of the season Saturday and Sunday.

Correctly speaking, the season ended long ago. The Cubs will wind up the schedule, which is a courtesy they owe the league.

Our boys play the final games with the Cardinals, another crumbling array of blasted hopes and vain desires.

Tinker headed the procession that entered the city under the friendly cover of darkness.

A car load of special talent was switched off at Jackson [Mich.] for transfer to Lansing to stage an exhibition contest to-day. The barnstormers [will] reach home on Saturday morning and engage in the first of the concluding contests with the Cards.

The homeward journey from New York was made through Canada and Detroit, home of the flivver. If the Cubs felt any brotherly sympathy for the flivver while passing through Detroit the emotion was well concealed.

While whizzing across Canada the train halted five minutes at Niagara Falls so that the athletes might view the wonders. Sergeant Benson wanted to know if the falls were natural or if somebody dug them with a pick and shovel.

We informed him that the falls were bored with a well augur, and the genial cop fell for the bunk.


TOMORROW: Dryden on the Cubs' first improvement in years

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