Cubs' first league season, Part 3

Third 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 contemporary newspapers are from the Chicago Tribune unless noted otherwise. Many paragraph breaks have been added for easier reading.


The Whites' 6-game winning streak in NA games had been broken on Aug. 10, when they lost at home to Cleveland, 12-10, in a contest that featured a biased umpire.

The defeat left the Whites with a record of 38-9 in all games and 14-5 in league games.

But total wins and losses in league games did not matter in 1871. The championship would be awarded to the team that had won the most best-of-5 series against its 8 rival clubs.

The Whites had clinched their series against the Rockford Forest Citys with 3 wins. They were 2-0 vs. the Boston Red Stockings and Fort Wayne Kekiongas, 2-1 vs. the Cleveland Forest Citys and New York Mutuals, 2-2 vs. the Washington Olympics and 1-1 vs. the Philadelphia Athletics.

They had not yet faced Troy, owing to a dispute over the presence of a player on the Haymakers, catcher Bill Craver, who had been dismissed from the Whites the previous season following alleged misbehavior.

The Whites had vowed never to play any team that included Craver.




"The Recording Angel of base ball affairs yesterday afternoon jotted down another championship series to the Chicago club, paid up by the Olympics, after a tough struggle on their part to make things run the other way.

"Indeed, the game with the Olympics, when Chicago won, have mostly been closely contested [14-4, 9-7, 12-11], and, when Washington won, have been not so closely contested -- to say the least [13-8, 13-3].

"At about 4 o'clock yesterday afternoon there was considerable doubt in the mid of the person above referred to on which page the credit should be written, his belief in Chicago suggesting one, and the condition of the game the other sheet on which to mark his figures.

"But his belief in us triumphed over his sober judgment, and he marked correctly."

The Whites, batting first, trailed, 7-3, after 4 innings, then tied the game by scoring 4 runs in the fifth and went in front with 3 in the sixth, including the only 2 earned runs by either team.

With the score 12-10, the Olympics put runners on first and third with 2 out. An error let in a run, but the next batter was retired, completing the Whites' triumph.

"The winning nine made less first base hits [14-15] and less bases on errors than their opponents, but succeeded in scoring one more run.

"This was the result of the most extraordinarily timid base running on the part of the Olympics that has ever been seen here or anywhere else. Their batters would reach first on safe hits, and then wait to be forced out (as five of them were) or, after getting to second or third, would wait to be left on bases.

"This peculiar temperament which led them to take no chances was the cause of their defeat. This is shown, as before said, in the very large number of their men left on bases as compared with the home nine."


Although the Whites and Olympics had played their 5 championship games, they were by no means done with one another for the season.

Between Aug. 19 and Sept. 2, they would square off in 4 exhibition games, each at a different city. The Whites would lose at home, 8-7; win at Cincinnati, 25-6; lost at Baltimore, 16-15; and win at Washington, 12-10, to end the year 5-4 vs. the Olympics.

The 9 games were 2 more than they would play against any other opponent. They wound up playing 7 against Rockford, and 5 each against Brooklyn, New York and Philadelphia; the first of those was not a member of the NA.


Following their rout of the Olympics at Cincinnati, the Whites returned home just long enough to beat an amateur team from New York. Then they headed to Manhattan to take on their arch rivals, the Mutuals.




The Tribune printed a 4-paragraph account from New York that read as if it had been written solely from the line score, noting how many runs each team had scored in a specific inning.

It concluded: "By this victory the Chicagos take a leading position in the championship arena, as they have a record of three series won."

Just before that, it noted, "The Mutes did the best batting, but the Chicagos outfielded the New Yorkers."

The New York Daily Herald provided its readers a fuller analysis.

"Nine ragged-breeched, bare-footed urchins, such as are seen practicing at the national game every day on any vacant lot they can find, could have played a game with better judgment and far more life than the Mutuals did yesterday. . . .

"The fine play exhibited by the Mutuals in their recent contests with the Rockford and Boston clubs [wins by 6-5 and 15-11] caused many persons to believe that the present struggled would result in an easy victory for the Mutes, and, had the ground not been so heavy and consequently so much against the batting, it is quite possible they would have won easily; but it required something mere mechanical skill to win, and as the Mutuals do not appear to have advanced further than the elementary branches of the game they could not be expected to win against such foxy antagonists as the Chicagoans, especially when the latter were captained by the wily Jamie [actually, Jimmy] Wood.

"The Mutes were warm favorites again yesterday, the pools selling at 100 to 80 in their favor, and once more than did their backers get a severe lesson."


The score was tied at 4 as the Whites came to bat in the top of the ninth. Ed Duffy led off with a single, went to second on a passed ball and to third on a hit by Wood, who then stole second.

"[Fred] Treacey then hit to short, and [Dicky] Pearce fielded the ball to [catcher Charlie] Mills to cut off Duffy at the home plate; but Charlie failed to hold the ball, it bounding out of his hands six or seven feet to the right of the home plate, where he rushed and picked it up.

"Having secured it, he stuck to it, holding it for some extraordinary though no apparent reason till Wood ran from third to the home plate."

A pair of hits, separated by a passed ball, put Mutuals on the corners with 1 out.

Dick Higham, the runner on third, "ought to have gone home on a passed ball; but he stood, as [Tom] Patterson had done in the earlier part of the game, shilly-shallying till it was too late.

"Still another chance offered when Patterson was taken on the fly by Treacey far out in the left field, but instead of being on his bag, ready to run, he stood half way between the base and the home plate, waiting to see if the ball would be caught.

"He was then obliged to return to his base, and of course could not get home.

"Mills was next and was taken on the fly by Wood, the Mutes losing the game and the championship series through nothing but the merest folly and lack of judgment."




"The White Stockings have played another of those fielding games which they produce when it is necessary to win. One wild throw, one missed fly, and one case of slow handling -- all in the sixth inning -- are all the errors to be charged up in a game which was to prove the turning point in the career of the Chicagos."

Those 3 errors resulted in the Athletics' only runs, and gave them a 3-2 lead.

"The balance of the game was played without an error by the Chicagos, and the pitching was so deadly that only nine men went to bat for the Athletics in the three innings.

"Base hits by Wood and Treacey, aided by a throw of [catcher Fergy] Malone, gave Captain Wood an earned run in the eighth inning," which broke a tie at 3.

Under the rules of 1871, the last half of the ninth had to be completed, even if the team leading batted second.

A second summary of the game, printed immediately below the first, reported:

"The White Stockings went to the bat, but the crowd had lost all interest in the game, the Chicagos being one ahead. They added two to their score and the game ended, just as the rain commenced, the Whites being three ahead."

That account continued as follows:


In Chicago the excitement was intense, large crowds thronging Foley's and Kern's, where despatches were received.

Even the friends of the Whites laid odds of $100 to $50 against them, as they were convinced that the nine, in its crippled condition, could not hope to win against the Athletics, who have, of late, come to be regarded as the only dangerous competitors which Chicago has to fear with regard to the championship.

There was, indeed, very little betting at these odds, through lack of takers. The result, therefore, occasioned an intense mixture of surprise and delight, all the more so from being unexpected.

The White Stockings are now regarded as being certain to win the championship. They have but one more regular game to play at the East this time -- that with the Bostons -- and should they chance to lose this, it will necessitates another visit to Chicago by that club to play the deciding game, as will also be the case with the Athletics, who now must meet the Whites on their own ground, and at a time when the latter will, it is hoped, be in good physical condition once more.

The series with the Athletics and Bostons once won, the Whites can snap their fingers at the Haymakers, and can afford to forfeit three games to them. Since the result of yesterday's game was announced in this city, even money has been freely offered that the Whites will win the championship, irrespective of the termination of the jangle with the Haymakers."




The Whites did "chance to lose" at Boston, as they matched their season low of runs in a league game and surrendered twice that number in one fateful inning.

"When the White Stockings defeated the Philadelphia Athletics, a few days ago, it was noticeable that single errors by [second baseman] Wood, [pitcher George] Zettlein, and center fielder [Tom] Foley gave the losers all the runs they scored. To-day, in a game with the Bostons, the result should have been the same -- that is, nine straight whitewashes for the Red Stockings.

"That it was not is due to the efforts of Duffy, Wood, and Foley in the muffin line. Every Red Stockings inning except the fifth may be disposed of with the remark that close fielding and brilliant catching prevented them from tallying."

The Whites took a 3-run lead into the sixth. A leadoff single, an error, a line out, a 2-base throwing error by Wood on an attempted forceout and a double made the score 3-2.

"[Dave] Birdsall then hit safely past [third baseman Ed] Pinkham, and the bases were loaded. [Charlie] Gould then took a position at the plate, and, waiting until he got a nice low ball, hit it a terrific drive, and before it stopped on the outside of the left field fence the bases were emptied, and Mr. Gould trotted home leisurely, amid the most tremendous applause of the audience. . . .

"After the Bostons had scored their six runs the Chicago boys, or at least those who had been playing to win, seemed to lose all heart, and, one after another, they went to the bat only to be retired again."


Two days later, the Whites lost, 15-11, at Brooklyn against the Eckfords, a professional team that had asked to be included in the National Association but had been refused membership.

The following day, they beat the Mutuals, 13-10, in "the first game of a new series" -- i.e., an exhibition game, since the Whites had won the championship series with their previous victory.

The Whites completed their 3-week road trip having won 5 games and lost 3. They were 46-13 in all games, 21-12 against all pro teams, 17-6 in official NA games and 25-1 against amateur clubs.




Had Brooklyn been in the league, the Whites would have claimed another series when they celebrated their return to Chicago by defeating the Eckfords for the third time in 5 meetings.

"Another one of those extraordinary uphill games was played by the White Stockings yesterday afternoon. The nine has been famous for 'winning lost games,' and justly so, for they have pulled out of many a deep rut; but it is doubtful if they ever achieved a more remarkable and creditable victory than that of yesterday. . . .

"[I]t was not without some misgivings that Captain Wood led his crippled team upon the field yesterday afternoon. [Marshall] King was wholly disabled. Pinkham was in a physical condition fitter for the infirmary than for the ball field, and Foley was unavoidably absent from the city. This necessitated the playing of [Bill] Stearns, an amateur, in the [out] field at the beginning at latterly at third base."

The Whites, batting first, had made only 2 hits and were behind by 10-3 when they came up in the sixth inning.

"But they were determined to win, and with hits by [Michael] McAtee, Wood, Treacey, [Joe] Simmons, Pinkham, and [Charlie] Hodes, together with an error each by [shortstop] Holdsworth and [catcher] Hicks, five runs were added to their score, two being earned

"This left the Eckfords but two ahead, and it really began to seem as though the game was not so one-sided after all."

Brooklyn tallied once in its half, making the score 11-8.

The Whites matched that run quickly in the eighth, and after a double steal by Treacy and Duffy, they had runners on second and third with 1 down.

"Treacy should have been out [at home] on Simmons' hit to [third baseman] Nelson, but Hicks muffed the muffed the ball, and Fred tallied.

"Stearns, by a fine liner to centre, got second, and brought in Duffy and Simmons," putting the Whites in front, 12-11.

Pinkham then singled home Stearns with the fifth run of the inning.

The Whites retired the Eckfords in order in the eighth, added a final run in the ninth, then set down 3 straight again to wrap up the victory.




"The White Stockings received a bad set-back in their race for the championship, on yesterday, being fairly outplayed and beaten by the Athletics, of Philadelphia.

"They had won two games from the Athletics, the first in Chicago, and the second in Philadelphia, and had lost but once, so that their chances for winning the series were considered excellent, the more so that it was understood that [Dick] McBride, the Athletic pitcher, was partially disabled, and could not play, or, if he did, he would not come up to his usual standard of effectiveness.

"But McBride had in reality been laying off for this very game. He had sworn that he would pitch on yesterday, though he had to be carried on and off the field, and he kept his word with a vengeance.

"He was never in better play, nor more effective in his life, though the difficulty which the Chicagos experienced in hitting him was in so small degree attributable to the leniency of the umpire, who kindly permitted him to pitch shoulder ball from beginning to end.

"He was, in fact, extremely wild in his delivery, and in each case when the Whites were given bases on called balls it was not until from twelve to fourteen had been delivered; while in one instance the umpire called one ball in six, and in another, one in seven.

"With Zettlein the vase was quite different, one in three being the largest latitude allowed him. In view of these facts it is not altogether surprising that the Whites failed to make a better show at the bat."


The Whites were blanked through 4 innings, after which they trailed, 5-0. They were down, 9-2, after the sixth, 11-5 after the seventh and 11-6 after the eighth.

In the ninth, with 2 out and runners at first and second, "Hodes came to the bat, bent on mischief, and was given his base by the umpire after McBride had pitched fourteen balls over his head.

"The bases were now full again, and Zettlein had a chance to clear them, but he only succeeded in bounding the call straight to [third baseman Levi] Meyerle, who touched out Pinkham running in running to third, and the side was out for a blank, and the game was lost to the White Stockings."


The story was followed by the box score, then this appeared under "ANNOUNCEMENTS":

"The Athletics will not play the fifth and deciding game of the series in Chicago. It will be played upon neutral ground, either in Cincinnati or Brooklyn, at a date to be determined upon."


TOMORROW: A crazy game, a lopsided loss, a win by forfeit and a remarkable upset

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