Cubs' first league season, Part 2

Second in a series of posts about the Cubs, then known as the White Stockings, in 1871, their second season and first in a league, the newly formed National Association.

All excerpts from newspapers are from the Chicago Tribune. Many paragraph breaks have been added for easier reading.


After starting the season 23-0, including 7-0 in NA games, the "Whites" won only 5 of their next 10 games, just 1 against an NA rival.

One of their losses was to an amateur team from Clinton, Iowa.




The Whites had no difficulty against these amateurs, a collection of the city's best.

"The batting of the Whites was immense, Jimmy Wood making two home runs, and one could not help wishing that they had had such a streak the day before" when they had lost a league game to the Washington Olympics, 13-8.




The Whites raced to an 8-2 lead midway through the third inning of the NA contest.

With the score 10-5 and 1 out in the seventh, "[Michael] McAtee went to a first of a daisy-cutter." After a fly out:

"[Charlie] Hodes picked on a knothole in the fence in the extreme left field, and sent a ball there, bringing home McAtee, and coming in himself, in magnificent style, on a home run -- his face wreathed with smiles, as happy as a clam at low tide. Gassette, president of the club, solemnly embraced him, and the crowd cheered the home run -- not the embrace."


When the teams met again the next day at Rockford, there were more seventh-inning fireworks. The hosts scored 14 runs in the inning en route to a 29-14 thrashing of the Whites.

"The details are unworthy of notation. The only word to express the play is damnable."

The lopsided defeat did not affect the Whites' bid for the NA title, however. Under the league's rules, the championship was to be determined by series won, not total wins and losses. Each of the 9 teams was supposed to play its 8 rivals in 5 games. Once a team won 3 games, the series was decided. Additional games could be played, but were designated as exhibitions.


The Whites' next 2 games were official NA contests: wins that made them 2-0 vs. Boston and 1-1 vs. Philadelphia.




The Eckfords, a professional team from Brooklyn, had petitioned to join the NA, but entry was refused. They would play many games against NA teams during the season, 5 of them against the Whites.

After the season ended, they would request that their games be included in the league results. That request was denied, too.

The Whites' first meeting with Eckfords "proved to be one of the neatest and most enjoyable affairs of the season, the display in the field being extremely brilliant, so much so that it was not until the last half of the sixth inning that a tally was made on neither side.

"This was when the Whites, having got the 'hang' of Martin's slow twisters, set to work, by fine batting scored four runs, three of which were fully earned.

"[Fred] Treacey set the pattern by a fair hit high over the right field fence, at least forty feet inside of the foul line. He deserved a home run, and could have made it easily, but was only permitted to take first base, owing to an arrangement to that effect between the two captains -- an arrangement which [captain] Wood intends to enforce in all games hereafter."

The Whites had hit only 9 homers in their previous 39 games, the first 5 on the road, then 4 at home, including 1 by Treacey 10 days earlier against Boston.

"Then there was more bad luck for Fred, the umpire deciding him out after an almost successful steal to second."

Treacy and Wood would wind up sharing the team lead in homers, with 5 apiece in 74 games. Their teammates would hit just 6 more: 2 by Hodes and Marshall King, and 2 by Ed Pinkham and Joe Simmons.

The total of just 16 documented homers was due, in large part, to the increased use of a "dead ball," rather than a "lively ball."

A year earlier, in the same number of games, the Whites had homered 86 times.




"Having figured so creditably in their contest with the Eckfords on Monday, the White Stockings were in a generous mood on yesterday [Wednesday], and, with that exalted courtesy for which the nine has become justly famous of late, they tendered their compliments to their Brooklyn guests in the shape of fourteen runs and a victory at the rate of two to one.

"They regarded the Eckfords as a worthy organization of respectable attainments in the way of base ball, and one which should be encouraged; and so, being in a position to spare a game without missing it, they contributed one to the Eckford record.

"The manner in which they did it was peculiarly happy and appropriate, the design evidently being to avoid any appearance of extreme liberality, but rather to convey the game in a manner so delicate and unobtrusive as to impress the recipients with the conviction that they were only taking possession of that which really belonged to them.

"Among the two thousand people who assemble to witness the presentation it is possible that several persons failed to comprehend the true spirit of the occasion, and, actuated by narrow, selfish view, really took exceptions to the transfer. So it is with all public acts of beneficence; the motives of the giver are always certain to be misconstrued."


They don't write 'em like that any more!




The Saturday game against a top amateur team, almost was not played -- and not because of bad weather or other run-of-the-mill obstacles.

Here is the start of the story that appeared in the next day's Tribune:


The Lone Stars, of New Orleans, champions of the South, were announced to play the White Stockings at 3:30 yesterday afternoon, and long before that hour the ground began to be crowded with people who had not paid their half dollars, and seemed likely not to be called on for them.

The visitors were scattered over the field in practice, and a few of the professionals were engaged in the same pursuit; the rest were grouped around the entrance to the dressing-rooms; and, assisted by about a hundred people, in nondress uniform, were discussing the question as to what kind of ball should be used.

The Stars claimed the right to furnish the missile, and proposed to throw it what is called the "Kelly White Stocking ball," the same which was used in the game between the Clinton Actives and White Stockings.

To this proceeding Captain Wood very strenuously objected, on the ground that the ball was not fit for anybody to use; and that, whether it was or no [sic], the New Orleans chaps had no right to furnish the ball at all.

The question as to who should furnish the ball may be very easily disposed of. The second section of the first rule provides that the challenging club shall furnish the ball for the first and third games of the series. The Chicago were certainly challengers in the present series, the first game of which they played in New Orleans, on March 26 [when the Whites won, 9-6].

They furnished the ball on that occasion; but the Lone Stars claim that the professional also furnished it in the game of April 16 [when the Whites won, 9-7, also at New Orleans].

[Pitcher] George Zettlein, who was captain of the [Whites] in the latter game, explains the matter by stating that the Lone Stars produced a ball for use in the latter game without any stamp on it. Of course he would not allow that; and to prevent the loss of a game, handed in a Chicago ball.

On this rather slim showing of right the Stars took a decided stand, and announced their intention of playing game with the putty ball or not playing it all.

Captain Wood proposed to furnish a later make of the same ball, or any other make; or even to toss for choice, thus giving up his right altogether; but nothing would do but the putty ball. . . .

In the end the visitors had their way, and at fifteen minutes past 4 the putty ball was set in motion. . . .

It was evident from the start that the sense of ill usage had aroused the professionals to play "the best they had in the box;" and the very start of the game showed that they were to have matters their own way.

[end of excerpt]


The Whites, batting first, scored 2 runs right away and led, 8-0, before the Stars managed a run in the sixth. The Whites produced 16 hits, 4 of them by the determined Wood. Zettlein made 3 and held the Stars to the same number.

When the teams met again the following Wednesday, there was no argument over the ball -- at least, none reported in the Tribune.

Nor was there an outcome. After the first 4 Whites who batted in the second inning reached base and scored in the second inning first 4 Whites to bat in the second inning reached base and scored, "the rain, which had been threatening, began falling.

"In a few minutes the players had left the ground, an in about a quarter of an hour one of the most intense storms of rain and hail that has ever been seen here came driving from the northeast.

"The crowd piled into the stand, and huddled together in the least exposed portion, there to stay for about half an hour, when the sun's arrival dispelled the clouds."

The game was abandoned.




"If there was ever a day when Chicago had her fill of base ball glory, that day was yesterday, when the return game took place between the White Stockings and Mutuals, being the second game of the series for the championship."

The Whites had suffered their first defeat against the Mutuals at New York on June 5. Rain had halted a second game moments after it began, and although the weather cleared within about 5 minutes, the Mutuals had refused to resume play.

Nor would they agree to making the game up the following day, the last before the Whites had to leave for Philadelphia.

"Since that time the nine has looked forward, with eager interest, to the day when the Mutuals should make their appearance in Chicago, for the beating of this club was a deeply cherished hope and ambition with them. They believed they could do it, and they only awaited the chance to make good their pretensions to superiority."


A throng of 12,000 turned out, of whom about 500 wound up sitting on the field. They saw the Whites spot the New Yorkers 2 runs in the first inning, pull even with a pair in the second and take the lead in the third, 3-2, on a walk, passed ball, error and groundout.

Then the Whites broke the game wide open in the fifth. They already had scored 6 runs when "Treacey, by a terrific liner to left, made a clean home run, Wood also tallying, whereat the crowd fairly ran riot with enthusiasm and excitement."

Under the rules in 1871, the home team batted in the bottom of the ninth even if it led. When the Whites did so, they made their final 3 runs, 2 on a homer by Wood.


Four days later, the Whites began the month of August by beating the Mutuals again, 15-4, for their fifth straight league victory.




"Something like 2,000 people went to the Lake Shore Park, yesterday afternoon, and saw one of the poorest and least interesting games played this season, the contestants being the Kekiongas, of Fort Wayne, and the White Stockings.

"The latter were victorious by a score of 13 to 10, but the playing was so poor on both sides that but one run was earned in the game -- a home run by Treacey in the first inning. . . .

"It seemed to be an 'off' day for both nines, the Whites winning simply because the other side succeeded in making the largest number of errors.

"King's poor play was entirely excusable, as he was laboring under a severe attack of bowel disease."

Apparently the term "too much information" had not yet come into use in 1871.

King, playing shortstop, made 4 errors. So did second baseman Wood, third baseman Hodes and catcher Tom Foley; the latter usually played center field.

The Whites were charged with a total of 18 errors; the Kekiongas, 19, including 8 by their third baseman. The Whites mustered 8 hits; their guests, 6.




"The only comment necessary on the game is that the home nine were beaten because they could not bat, field, run, throw, or catch as well as the Rockford chaps. In all but these five particulars they were immensely superior.

Fortunately, this was an exhibition game. The next game was not.




The Forest Citys went into the game with a record of 6-13 in league games, having been outscored by 51 runs. They had scored as many as 10 only twice in their previous 10 games and just 2 days earlier had lost to Rockford, 12-5, in a game played at Chicago.

But in 1871, as in 2023, a lesser team sometimes beat a superior team, "because Baseball!"

This was the start of the story in the next day's Tribune:


Forty days have elapsed since the Chicago club have been defeated in a championship contest, and now they have met that fate and succumbed to a club so entirely inferior that the reason of the defeat needs investigation.

Since the 30th of last June the home club have been wonderfully lucky in playing other than whip [i.e., championship] contests on their "off" days; but yesterday they succeeded in putting on record a regular muffin specimen.

They had as opponents the Cleveland squealers, commonly known as the Forest City club. The details of the game are not specially worthy of minute record; but the following itemized score will show some facts which need to be commented upon.

Comparing the records of the clubs it will be seen that each side went to the bat 43 times; each nine made 13 first base hits, and the home club had a trifle the best of it in total bases [19-18], and considerably so in bases given on errors.

Each nine muffed two flys [sic], and the winner scored the greater number of errors [13-11]. Besides this, the losers made 3 earned runs to the winner's 2. This extraordinary state of things demands an investigation.

If the White Stockings entirely outbatted and outfielded the winners, why did the game result as it did?

The answer to this very reasonable query will be found in the fourth, fourth, and fifth lines of the "analysis" which follows the score.

[end of excerpt]


The "Analysis" section of the box score printed after the end of the story began with the usual "Place of game" and "Time of game."

Then it continued:

"Umpire -- Frank Peak, Pittsburgh.

"Errors by the umpire -- 12.

"Runs given by the umpire -- White Stockings, 0; Cleveland, 4."

Those last 2 entries are not exactly standard in box scores!

More from the story of the game:


How Mr. Peak came to be chosen umpire is worthy of mention. The usual list [of prospective umpires] had been sent by the Forest Citys, and the White Stockings promptly selected Mathews and another Kekionga man as their choice.

The Clevelands came here ready to play, but without either of the men which they had named. Instead, Captain Kimball brought forward Mr. Frank Peak; and with a coolness quite refreshing, insisted on his selection, because in all previous games the umpire had been a Chicagoan.

Captain Wood agreed, solely upon the condition that, if Mr. Frank Peak should prove unacquainted with the rules, another man might be substituted.

When, after a little, Mr. Frank Peak had plainly shown that he knew rather less of base ball than he did of Sanskrit, Captain Wood appealed to Mr. Kimball to redeem his promise, and put in another man.

This the Clevelander refused to do, as did also the president of the Forest Citys, when applied to.

As before mentioned, these facts are not stated to show collusion between Mr. Frank Peak and the Forest City club, nor would it be proper to mention for that purpose that Mr. Frank Peak came to the Briggs House, where the Cleveland party are stopping, on yesterday morning; that he appeared to know no one outside their party; that he was with them all day and was brought forward and introduced, and even vouched for, by [Al] Pratt, pitch of the Forest Citys.

The latter went so far as to say that Mr. Frank Peak was a very fine umpire. In which statements he most villanously slandered Mr. Frank Peak, who knows no more of base ball rules than a freshly-imported coolie, and has less judgment in all matters pertaining to the game than James H. Haynie. No more can be said.

[end of excerpt]


And who, pray tell, was James H. Haynie?

None other than the author of the National Association's 1871 rule book!


TOMORROW: The Whites wrap up a 2-month home stand and hit the road

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