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Cubs' first league season, Part 4

Fourth 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.

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The championship of the 9-team NA was to be determined not by each club's total wins and losses, but by how many series it won.

Every club was supposed to play up to 5 games against each rival, until one of the teams had won 3 times. If that happened after 3 or 4 games, the teams still could play the remaining games, but they were considered exhibitions.

...

Losses at Boston, on Sept. 5, and to the Philadelphia Athletics, on Sept. 18, had prevented the White Stockings from clinching each series.

They were 2-1 vs. Boston and 2-2 vs. Philadelphia.

They had wrapped up series against the New York Mutuals (3-1), Rockford Forest Citys (3-0) and Washington Olympics (3-2), and were 2-1 vs. the Cleveland Forest Citys.

The Whites were 2-0 vs. the Fort Wayne Kekiongas, who had folded at the end of August.

They had not yet played Troy, due to a dispute over the presence on the Haymakers of catcher Bill Craver, He had been dismissed by the Whites the previous season over alleged misconduct, and the Whites had vowed they never would take on a team that employed Craver.

...

Philadelphia had clinched series vs. Cleveland, Rockford and Washington. It led Fort Wayne and Troy, 2-0; had split 4 games with Chicago and New York; and had lost its series vs. Boston, 1-3.

Boston had prevailed in 3 series, against Philadelphia, Rockford and Washington. It was 2-0 vs. Fort Wayne, 2-1 vs. Cleveland, 2-2 vs. Troy, and 1-2 vs. Chicago and New York.

New York's only series win was over Rockford, 3-1, but had 2 wins each against Boston, Philadelphia and Washington, all teams it would face again. It was 2-1 vs. Fort Wayne and had lost series to Cleveland (2-3), Chicago (1-3) and Troy (1-3).

None of the 4 other remaining teams had any hope of winning enough series to claim the championship.

...

After their loss at home to Philadelphia, the Whites were idle for 5 days. Then they played a one-of-a-kind game against a group of amateurs, followed by a pair of exhibition games against Rockford.

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'MORAL IMPOSSIBILITY'

This short item appeared on the Tribune's sports page on Friday. Sept. 22:

...

AN EXTRAORDINARY GAME

is to be played on the Lake Shore Park to-morrow afternoon. The White stockings are to contend against a double nine, made up of eighteen of the leading amateur players of the city, with [Ed] Atwater as pitcher, and [Tom] Foley as catcher and captain. [Both were reserves on the Whites.]

There will be six outfielders, two third basemen, two first basemen, one pitcher, one catcher, and a player just outside the base line, about midway between the home plate and third and first bases.

With such a distribution of players it would seem a moral impossibility for the White Stocking batters to make a base hit, and it cannot be readily imagined how they are to score many runs under circumstances so unfavorable to tallies.

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SEPT. 23, AT CHICAGO

WHITES 25, SEVENTEENS 8

The Whites had no trouble scoring runs -- maybe because there were only 17 players in the field when they batted instead of the planned 18.

They scored twice in each of the first 3 innings, then 1, 3, 2, 5, 0 and 8.

"A novel and interesting game of base ball was played at the Lake Shore Park yesterday afternoon, the contestants being the White Stocking nine and a collection of the leading amateur players of the city to the number of seventeen.

"It had been arranged that Atwater should pitch and Tom Foley catch for the seventeen, but the first-named individual came upon the ground in an unfit condition for play, and Edwards, of the Actives, acted as pitcher, Willie Foley, also of the Actives, being catcher.

"Of the Whites, [Ed] Pinkham was absent, [Marshall] King playing third base, while Brannock, late of the Actives, of Clinton, occupied right field.

"The contest proved to be one of interest and enjoyment to the spectators, of whom there were about five hundred present.

"With seventeen men in the field against them, it will be readily believed that the professionals were compelled to work for their runs. Edwards' pitching was swift and wild, but they went at it savagely, and although the infield was duplicated in every position, as was also the outfield, the Whites pounded out nineteen first-base hits, twenty-six total bases, and twenty-five runs. One of these was a clean home run by [Jimmy] Wood.

Appended is the score of the regular club, it being impossible to tabulate the record of the opposing seventeen."

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SEPT. 26, AT ROCKFORD

ROCKFORD 17, WHITES 2

"The White Stockings received a terrible thrashing at the hands of the Forest Citys to-day, the defeat being the worst they have suffered this year.

"The day was cloudy and very cold, with occasional sprinkles of rain, and the attendance numbered not over 100 people."

After the Whites went out in order in the top of the first, Rockford tallied 4 runs. It was ahead, 14-0, before the Whites finally scored in the fifth.

"[T]he whole nine were growling at being compelled to stay over and play in such weather, and probably didn't care how badly they were beaten."

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SEPT. 27, AT CHICAGO

WHITES 9, ROCKFORD 0

"About five hundred people assembled at the Lake Shore Park, yesterday afternoon, to witness the game between the Rockfords and White Stockings.

"The latter having been beaten at the rate of 17 to 2 on Tuesday, it was thought that they would make an extra effort to redeem themselves on yesterday, and considerable interest was felt in the game.

"After Mr. George H. Kinzle had been chosen umpire, the game began with the Rockfords at the bat, [Denny] Mack going out at first on a grounder finely gathered by [shortstop Ed] Duffy.

"[Cap] Anson took his position at the plate, and was about to strike, when [Scott] Hastings, captain of the Rockford nine, called 'Time,' and entered an objection to the ball, one of the 'Kelly dead,' of recent make, regulation size and weight, with the maker's name on the cover.

"[White captain] Wood insisted upon the exercise of his privilege, the Rockfords having furnished the ball on Tuesday, and Hastings positively declined to go on with the game with that ball.

"Wood maintained his right to furnish the ball, whereupon Hastings ordered his met to quit the field, and they did so, and the umpire decided the game forfeited by a score of 9 to 0.

"In order to atone for the disappointment of the spectators, an amateur nine was hastily collected, with Atwater as pitcher, the admission money being refunded to such as desired it.

"The game terminated in favor of the Whites by a score of 14 to 5 in seven innings."

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SEPT. 29, AT CHICAGO

WHITES 10, BOSTON 8

This is how the Tribune described the combatants in the official league contest that attracted about 7,000 spectators on a Friday afternoon:

...

The renowned Red Stockings, of Boston, . . . the professed exponents of all that is high-toned and aristocratic in the professional fraternity -- the "plug-bat nine," as they are scornfully termed by some of the less pretentious ball-tossers -- flushed with their success over the White Stockings in Boston three weeks ago, and entertaining no doubt as to their ability to beat Chicago's disaffected, demoralized, and crippled nine, made their appearance upon the Lake Shore Park yesterday afternoon, all the players in high spirits and in the best possible physical condition. There wasn't a lame leg in the party. . . .

[I]t was easy to see, by the air of exalted confidence which they wore, and by the manner in which the red-legged gentry frisked and cavorted about the field before the game began, that they anticipated a brilliant victory. . . . They fully expected to win the game of yesterday, thereby necessitating a fifth game on neutral ground.

They also calculated that the White Stockings would forfeit a series to the Haymakers . . . so that, having beaten the Athletics a series, their route to the championship was smooth and unobstructed.

But these anticipations failed of realization in several respects, and it may be presume that at the present time the Bostons have experienced a change of calculation with reference to the championship.

The White Stockings were in a crippled condition, and ill prepared for a tough game. Pinkham was confined to his bed by sickness, and third base was vacant unless occupied by [Charlie] Hodes, [normally a catcher,] whose lack of practice in that position might have excused the poorest of play.

King, who had scarcely recovered from a badly broken finger, and who had not participated in a game of any character for nearly two months, must be relied upon as catcher, and Foley was placed in right and [Joe] Simmons in centre field.

King had sworn to stop every ball that [George] Zettlein pitched -- if not with his hands, then with his head if need be -- and he kept his oath most faithfully until after he had received an injury so peculiarly painful and enervating as to almost necessitate his retirement from the field.

So it will be seen that, morally and physically considered, the Boston had much the best of the beginning.

[end of excerpt]

...

Yet the Whites scored in the top of the first, blanked the Red Stockings in the bottom, then scored again in the second.

After Boston tied the game at 2 in the fourth, the Whites responded with 2 runs in the fifth. The Reds replied in kind, making the score 4-4 going to the sixth.

Foley led off with a single, reached third with 1 out and came home on a single by Hodes. An error and a hit loaded the bases as Wood came to the plate.

"He had made a poor show so far, having once struck out, and he felt that if there was ever a time to do something stunning, that time had arrived.

"Accordingly he dashed at a hip-high ball, sending a magnificent liner to left, clear to the south fence, bringing Hodes, Zettlein and McAtee home, and himself reaching third, amid a storm of cheers which lasted nearly five minutes."

Then next 2 batters made out, "so that Wood was left on third base after his splendid hit. But there was much satisfaction in the fact that four runs had been scored, three of them being earned, and that the Whites were now four tallies in the lead."

...

Boston got 2 of the runs back in its half, but the Whites added a run in the seventh, then blanked the Reds when left fielder Fred Treacey made a shoestring catch with 1 out and threw to first, doubling off a runner.

A run on a 2-out error in the top of the ninth restored the Whites' 4-run advantage. It quickly was cut in half, however, as Boston opened its final inning with an error, an RBI double, a single, and a wild throw to second on a steal attempt.

After 2 outs, a walk put runners on first and third.

"A two-base hit would [tie] the game in all probability, but [Ross] Barnes failed to produce it. He lifted up a high fly between the in and out fields at the right.

"With all his might Jimmy Wood backed off for it, and while on the run reached behind his head for the ball, which settled securely into his hands -- a magnificent catch -- and the game was ended, and the championship series between the White and Red Stockings was decided in favor of Chicago."

.........

BEST-LAID PLANS

The Whites enjoyed a weekend off.

On Sunday, the Tribune reported that the dispute between the Whites and Troy had been resolved, with the Haymakers agreeing not to use Craver, the problematic catcher, in games between the teams.

It also said:

"Another Eastern tour will be made by the White Stockings as soon as the necessary arrangements can be perfected. The only question of difficulty is the selection of the date, place, and umpire of the game with the [Philadelphia] Athletics, which will probably be played in Brooklyn.

"It is the wish of the Chicago management to have the club start East as early as the 10th of October. The only championship games remaining to be played are one with the Forest Citys in Cleveland, one or more with the Haymakers in Troy, and the deciding game with the Athletics."

...

On Monday, the Whites routed the Aetnas, the city's best unpaid club, 27-4.

On Wednesday, the Tribune disclosed:

"The 12th and 14th of the present month have been fixed upon as the dates of the two Haymaker-White Stocking games to be played in this city. 'Better late,' etc."

That afternoon, the Whites romped past a "picked nine" of top local players, 22-2.

"It was noticeable that none of the Chicago outfielders handled a ball during the game, and that only eight of the Amateurs went to bat in the first three innings." (Someone batted out of order, perhaps?)

...

On Friday, the Whites demolished another group of amateurs, the Athletics, 38-7, despite having only 8 players. Center field was kept vacant.

That morning, the Tribune had announced:

"The third Eastern tour of the White stockings is now partially arranged, at least so far as concerns the fifth and deciding game with the Athletics, which has been agreed upon for the 17th inst., in Brooklyn. The question of an umpire, which promises to be a serious one, has not yet been settled.

"The Whites will start East on the 15th inst., and, proceeding directly to Brooklyn, will play the Athletics there on Tuesday, the 17th.

"They will then go to Troy and play the one or more games necessary to complete the Haymaker series, and, returning, will stop at Cleveland and finish up with the Forest Citys."

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'MARKED DISCOURTESY"

Before hosting Troy, the Whites had yet another exhibition game to play, this one against NA rival Rockford, making its first appearance in Chicago since having forfeited a non-league game on Sept. 27 in a dispute over the ball to be used.

"To-morrow afternoon a game occurs, at Lake Shore Park, between the White Stockings and the Forest Citys, of Rockford," the Tribune wrote on Sunday, Oct. 8. "In view of the marked discourtesy manifested toward the Chicago public by the Rockford club on the occasion of their recent visit to this city -- viz., in withdrawing from a game without any just cause or reason for so doing -- it is not to be expected that the attendance will be large.

"The game should be played to empty benches. In reality, it should not be played at all. The White Stocking management should refuse to hold any further intercourse with the Rockford club until a suitable apology has been offered."

...

And the game would not be played at all -- but not because of ill feeling between the teams.

By Monday morning, the Whites would not have a ballpark, a clubhouse, uniforms or equipment, all having been destroyed by the greatest catastrophe in Chicago's history.

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TOMORROW: A fiery finish

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