Baseball's 'Twain' at the Examiner, Part 17

Seventeenth in a series of posts


On May 17, 1917, the Cubs led the National League standings by 3 games, with a record of 22-9.

They already had won nearly one third as many games as they had in all of the previous season, when they had finished 67-86-3, tying a franchise record for most losses.

But after being shut out at home in 3 straight games, 2 by the first-place Phillies and 1 by the runnerup Giants, the Cubs found themselves in third, 1.5 games behind, at 28-20.

The next day, a Sunday, they had to face the Giants again at Weeghman Park, today's Wrigley Field.

Among those in the press box that afternoon was Charles Dryden, "the Mark Twain of Baseball," covering the contest for the Chicago Examiner.


Following are excerpts from Dryden's account of that game and others that followed.

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.


June 10, vs. Giants

Rollie Zeider awoke from his long hitless trance in the eighth and combed a double over third base just out of reach of the clutching fingers of the Great Zim [ex-Cub Heinie Zimmerman].

That blow scored two runs, which defeated the Giants, 6 to 5, and a matter of 28,000 people went away in a delirium of pure joy.

The bugs left behind several tons of busted pop bottles, paper junk, cushions and suspender buttons, but this stuff will be cleared off the field in time for another combat with the Giants this afternoon.

Without doubt the crowd was the biggest ever squeezed inside the walls since the Federal League sign blew down. The stands were jammed and a thick ring of bugs encircled the field. So dense was the crowd that the game was played under difficulties.

The managers and umpires spent ten minutes pointing up and down the foul lines before the show started and every time a ball was hit or thrown into the crowd more time was wasted chewing the well-known rag. . . .

[The Giants scored 3 runs in the sixth to take a 5-3 lead. In the Cubs' half, a hit, a walk and a bunt put runners on second and third with 1 out. Dutch Ruether was sent to bat for Hippo Vaughn. When New York changed pitchers, bringing in a left hander, Mitchell swapped pinch hitters.]

Claude Ray Hendrix bobbed up and struck out for Ruether better than Dutch could have done it himself.

[A walk loaded the bases, but a tap to the mound ended the threat.]

Hendrix remained in the game to do the pitching and he did it well. . . . The Kansas spitter baffled the Giants in the seventh and eighth. They never touched Claude's slippery elm.

In the last of the eighth the Great Zim let off a bum heave on [a ball hit by Les] Mann. They had hitched Konrad John Flack [better known as Max] into the game and he laid down a bunt and got away with it.

[Charlie] Deal forced Flack, but Hendrix banged a double off the first pitched ball and Mann galloped home.

Zeider also blazed at at the first thing Slim Sal[lee] offered and another two-bagger went skipping over third base. That hit was fair by seven-eighths of an inch. Deal and Hendrix counted [i.e., scored, putting the Cubs in front]. . . .

Beyond a pinch hitter who struck out in the ninth the Giants failed to report any further progress.


That victory kept the Cubs 1.5 games out of first. It no doubt prompted many of the 11,000 who turned out at Weeghman Park the next day -- an very large crowd for a Monday.

The Giants scored twice in the first and held an 8-0 lead before the Cubs scored single runs in the eighth and the ninth.

The Cubs lost no ground in the standings, as the Phillies were beaten, too.

In the series finale on Tuesday, the Cubs rallied from an 0-5 deficit to tie the score in the fifth, then immediately gave up 5 more runs in the sixth and wound up losing, 6-10.

When the Phillies won, the Cubs slipped 2.5 games out of first.

They would never come closer the rest of the season.

The Cubs improved to 30-22 by winning the opener of a series against the seventh-place Braves (16-24).

Then they lost all 3 remaining games, to finish their homestand just 5-9.


June 19, at Cincinnati

Just to be showing off in the old home town, the Reds smeared another defeat on the Cubs, making an even break of the [4-game] series. To make the spectacle all the more impressive the Reds waited until the ninth to smash a tie for the second time and the game went away 5 to 4.

Ivy Wingo started the ninth with a triple. The next two sent soft boiled pop flies to the infield, but Mr. [Larry] Kopf was there with the goods. He cracked a single and the fearful strain was over.


June 22, at Pittsburgh

Mr. H. [Honus] Wagner, the esteemed fossil, was duly honored here to-day by his fellow townsmen and the Pirates cleaned the Cubs, 4 to 3, in ten innings. . . .

The last of the tenth will be long remembered by those present. [Carson] Bigbee led with a triple Mr. Wagner was additionally honored with a complimentary pass. [Bunny] Brief also was walked intentionally, filling the bases with none out.

It looked as if the Cubs were stalling for rain.

When the stage was thus set with one triple and two deadheads, Hippo Vaughn was summoned to ease the congestion. . . .

Eventually Hippo wound up and pitched the bill to Bill Hinchman, who busted it. Bill rammed a single past [first baseman Fred] Merkle, and Bigbee, who had tripled half an hour previously, cantered home with the main tally of the afternoon.

The large crowd, which had gathered to honor Mr. H. Wagner, arose and departed to its several homes, well pleased with the results of the visit.

Hippo went back to the clubhouse after pitching one ball. There was nothing else for him to do.


June 26, at St. Louis

Our Cubs and the frantic Cards put in an eight-hour day sweating through a double-header.

[Doug] Baird's triple off Hendrix in the fifteenth round, followed by a wild pitch, gave St. Louis the first game, 6 to 5.

The second section was a wild and woolly battle. Tom Seaton and a gang of local slabbers blew up in the shank of the evening. With [Phil] Douglas toiling at the finish, the Cubs won the last game, 8 to 6, in seven innings.

The usual St. Louis package of extra inning cheese just naturally had to be ladled out and the athletes thoughtfully waited until the hottest weather of the season. You can't beat them.

Before play started the grass in the outfield was smoking from the heat, and of their own accord the players cut fifteen minutes from preliminary practice.


June 27, at St. Louis

Once again the Cubs and Cards unreeled 10,000 feet of film depicting their enervating sports and pastimes with the usual 50-50 split.

Hippo Vaughn cleaned up the first game, 4 to 2, against [Willie] Doak, who yielded ten safe blows to five on the other side.

Oscar Egg Hortsman triumphed over Mike Prendergast, 6 to 3, in the second game, which was featured by hitting of the Cards in the seventh. Mike was driven to the shower bath in this frame, leaving the remains to [Vic] Aldridge.

Vaughn plucked the scalded Cards with ease in the first contest while the Cubs were making Doak hotter under the collar than he should have.

Mitchell would have been justified in protesting this game because the Cards did not forced him to play extra innings in accordance with their time-honored custom. We fear the Cardinals are falling down, or losing their well-known grip on the baseball situation in these parts.


In fact, it was the Cubs who were falling down, or losing their grip.

The first-game win had been fifth in 6 games. The second-game loss would be their first of 3 in a row -- and 8 of 9, the last 4 defeats home.


July 4, vs. Reds

Our frivolous Cubs spent the whole glorious day touching off a few damp squibs, leaving the main fireworks to the Reds. That blood-thirsty gang copped both Fourth of July games with little or no opposition.

The morning fracas was a 2 to 0 shutout for Mr. [Fred] Toney, the eminent bovine dumdum. Vic Aldridge tried to oppose him but without success.

From a five-run lead at the start of the second game the Cubs slumped to a 13 to 10 defeat in the presence of 10,000 folks.

While the Reds were blasting the gizzards out of Hippo Vaughn and Phil Douglas the megaphone man announced there would be some fireworks in the evening.

At that moment the Reds have twelve runs and fourteen hits and were out for more.


As the sun set, the Reds were 40-37 and in fourth place, half a game ahead of the Cubs (39-37), who trailed the front-running Giants by 8.5 games -- but a whopping 15 in the loss column, as New York had suffered only 22 defeats while earning 41 victories.


The Cubs gained half a game the next day, when they were idle and the Giants lost. Both teams won the day after that.

But the following afternoon, the Giants swept a doubleheader at home while the Cubs lost at Brooklyn.

Neither team played on Sunday, when baseball was banned in New York by state law.

On Monday, July 9, the Cubs were rained out and the Giants won.

That left the Cubs 10 games behind.

They had played 78 games, winning 40.

They had 76 more to play. But for all intents and purposes, they were out of the pennant race.


3 straight losses at New York, July 16-18, dropped the Cubs to .500, at 43-43. Then they lost 3 in a row at Boston before winning the series to finale to end a 5-9-1 road trip.

A loss at home to the Braves in Game 2 of a doubleheader on the final day of the month made them 9-17 for the month and 48-49 for the year, good for fifth place, 14 games out of first.

After an 8-3 spurt from Aug. 10-20, they were back up to fifth, but still 14 games to the rear.

Their deficit reached 19.5 games by Sept. 6, when they lost for a fourth time in 7 straight games against the Cardinals, 4 at St. Louis and 3 at Chicago.


Sept. 11, vs. Reds

Two ferocious assaults by the shelf-worn Cubs drove the mildewed Reds out of the first division and up to the hour of going to press the banner of Weeghman was proudly waving in fourth place.

The opening combat was a fuzzy free-for-all, which the Cubs captured, 6 to 5. Each side used three pitchers and the shooting was loud and frequent.

In the second splash Hippo Vaughn and Mr. [Fred] Toney appeared as advertised and Hippo trimmed the strong man, 5 to 1.

The Reds blew up worse than ever in the second round and slipped the Cubs three runs. The genial Mr. Toney was ready to forth at the mouth over this exhibition and when he reached the dugout the sight of the water cooler brought on an attack of hydrophobia.

Mr. Toney bit the neck off the large glass bottle and upset the whole works, so that the Reds were without water the rest of the afternoon.


The Cubs (70-68) had moved ahead of the Reds (68-70) by winning their fifth straight game.

They held onto fourth despite a streak-ending loss the next day, and kept their position by beating the Cardinals, making it 6 wins in 7 games.

Then they won just 3 of their final 14.

The tailspin began with 3 straight shutout defeats, 0-6 vs. the Cardinals, and 0-5 and 0-4 vs. the Giants. It was the second time during the season the Cubs had been blanked 3 times in a row.

They had done that only twice before in the Modern Era, in 1902 and 1905, and have done it only 6 times in the 105 seasons since 1917. The 2 most recent scoring droughts, in 1968 and 1992, were the first to last 4 games.


Sept. 22, vs. Phillies

A huge time was had by the Cubs in the farewell double bill with the Phillies. They [Philadelphia] took both games, 4 to 1 and 11 to 4, thus making a clean sweep of the series of five contests.

By winning one of the games yesterday the Cubs could have clinched the pennant for the Giants. The North Siders are not in the mood for helping anybody. They are looking out for themselves in the closing days of the season.


The final Sunday doubleheader of the year had attracted 11,000 fans, most since the afternoon game on July 4. The Cubs had been 8.5 games behind after those 2 games. Now, they were 23.5.

Over the last week, the Cubs played 5 single games at home. Combined attendance: 11,250, with 9,000 coming for the season-ending pair on Saturday and Sunday.


Sept. 29, vs. Braves

In an uproarious battle of long duration the Braves cleaned the Cubs, 8 to 5, while the spectators waited.

Phil Douglas started and was lifted for a pinchless pinch hitter in the seventh. The score was then 2 to 1.

In less than two rounds the enemy scored six runs off Hendrix. The Cubs rallied with four tallies in the ninth, but it was too late in the evening.


Sept. 30, vs. Braves

Headlines above Dryden's story:





Braves Compile a 9 to 2 Victory

and Home Bugs Jeer Our Sad

Bruins during Final Obsequies.


There was a disposition on the part of the mourners to act in an unseemly manner at the burial of the baseball season on the North Side.

When the Braves had planted the Cubs deep on the short end of a 9 to 2 score, a mob of mourners collected outside the gate and waited. The mob may have desired to throw rocks at the hearse or obtain a closer view of the chilled remains as the Cubs departed to their several homes.

The Cubs scored a man in the first inning and seemed to regret it ever after, or until the Braves slipped them another in the ninth. You all know the gifty tally-man on first in the ninth. He steals two bases without opposition and comes in on any old thing. Tremendous cheering.

[The Braves broke open a 3-1 game by scoring 6 runs in the sixth. They already had 3 when Aldridge entered the game and threw so wildly on a pickoff attempt that a runner raced from first to third. He scored moments later on a wild pitch. After 2 hits, a batter trickled a ball in front of the plate, which catcher Pickles Dillhoefer heaved down the right field line, permitting both runners to reach home.]

It was up to Chief Meyers to help the Cubs out of a hole. He had made the first out half an hour previously and could it again if necessary. The Chief skied to center, retiring the side, and the bugs gave the genial Indian an ovation. Mr. Weeghman's welkin rang with cheers.

Retiring one man exhausted the resources of Vic Aldridge, and he retired in favor of Mike Prendergast.

The Braves did nothing to our reliable Mike in the last three rounds. They had inflicted enough damage already while the Cubs were committing hari-kari on themselves.


The Cubs ended the season an inglorious 74-80-3.

In roughly the first one fifth of the year, they had been 22-9, a .710 winning percentage.

In the last four fifths, they were 52-71-3, .425.

From 3 games ahead, they had plummeted to 24 games behind, only 1.5 in front of sixth-place Boston and 2.5 up on seventh-place Brooklyn.


TOMORROW: Better times for the Cubs, sad times for Dryden

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