FanPost

Cubs' first league season, Part 5

Fifth and last 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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URGENT MEETING

This appeared on page 2 of the Chicago Tribune on Wednesday, Oct. 11, 1871:

"Members of the White Stocking Base Ball Club are requested to meet this afternoon, at 2 o'clock, in Bachelor Hall, on State Street, for the transaction of the most important business."

The business: What to do when a team no longer has a home, uniforms or equipment?

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STOPPED IN TRACKS

On Monday, the members of the Rockford Forest Citys, a National Association rival, had headed to Chicago for play an exhibition game against the Whites.

Still miles from the city, they saw the glow of fire across the horizon. They turned around and returned home.

Fire had broken out around 10 p.m. on Saturday, in the barn of a house that belonged to the O'Leary family. It did not begin when a cow, being milked by Mrs. O'Leary, kicked over a lantern. She and her family were fast asleep when a neighbor shouted that the barn was ablaze.

The Great Chicago Fire ultimately laid waste to about one third of the city, almost 3.5 square miles. It destroyed nearly 17,500 buildings, leaving nearly 100,000 people homeless. It killed about 300.

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14 HEADLINES

The item beckoning the Whites to a meeting was among dozens of the kind printed in Wednesday's edition of the Tribune, its first since the fire. Its front page began with 14 headlines, starting with "FIRE!" and "Destruction of Chicago!" and ending with "The City Without Light or Water" and "Crosby's and Hooley's Opera Houses, McVicker's and the Dearborn Theatres, Wood's Museum, and all the Art Galleries in Ashes."

Lake Shore Park, where the Whites played their games, was a charred ruin, too, as were their clubhouse and team office.

Understandably focused on other aspects of the disaster, the Tribune made no mention of the Whites until Saturday, Oct. 14:

...

Up to Sunday night, the dozen men who formed the White Stocking nine undoubtedly occupied a larger share of the public attention than any other body of private citizens of the city.

By way of contrast, it may be said that they occupied very much inferior positions in the attention of the people on Monday and Wednesday.

When the fire swept over the Lake Park grounds, the men appreciated the situation, and began to make attempts to reach their former homes. [Pitcher George] Zettlein was the only member of the nine who happened to have capital enough to start immediately, and he is probably in New York by this time. The other men have been busy trying to get back, and have partially succeeded.

Captain [Jimmy] Wood has worked in behalf of his men, and within a day or two the whole party, with one exception, will be on their way to New York. The intention of the club is to remain together til the end of the season and play the remainder of their championship games on the Union Grounds, Brooklyn.

By this means the men will be enabled to sustain themselves, and perhaps to make as much money as if they had received their salaries regularly. If they are successful in gaining the championship, they will remain together for another year, and play under the old club name.

The new men engaged for the nine of 1872 have been released from their contracts, and it is not probable that the city will have a professional club next year. The single exception referred to is understood to be [reserve pitcher Ed] Atwater, who has connected himself with the R. E. Lee club, of New Orleans, and will go there immediately.

The loss of the members of the nine was generally heavy, consisting of all of their clothing and personal property. The only exceptions were [Tom] Foley, Atwater, and captain Wood, who all lived outside the limits of the fire.

.........

REQUEST FOR AID

In a letter to the New York Clipper, Wood wrote, "Our only resort now is the generosity of the eastern public in this, our trying ordeal."

The Clipper declared:

"In view of the distress which has been occasioned by the dire misfortune which has afflicted the Lake City, and remembering the large sums of money which the professional clubs of the country have received at their contests in Chicago, it becomes them, one and for all, to join hands in arranging a series of benefit performances, the receipts of which should be handed over to the Mayor of Chicago in response to his call for the sufferers of the great fire."

The Age, a Philadelphia paper, said its NA team, the Athletics, would play home-and-home games against the New York Mutuals. The gate receipts from the first game would go to Chicago's general recovery fund; from the second, to "those of the White Stocking nine who were burned out."

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CRUCIAL GAMES CANCELED

Following the Oct. 9 exhibition game against Rockford, the Whites were to have hosted the Troy Haymakers for 2 official NA games. They would have been the first of the season between the clubs, which had been at loggerheads until mid-September over Troy's employment of catcher Bill Craver. The Whites had dismissed him the previous year, citing multiple instances of misconduct, and vowed never to play any team that included Craver.

The games vs. the Haymakers were of great import. 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.

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SERIES COUNTS

Unable to play at home, the Whites took advantage of free railroad transportation and headed for Troy, to play 2 games there.

Going into the first game, on Saturday, Oct. 21, the Whites had won 4 series, 1 less than Boston and Philadelphia. If the Whites could could win the series against the Haymakers, they would have 5 wins, too.

From Troy, they would travel to Brooklyn, a neutral site, to play a decisive fifth game against Philadelphia. Victory over the Athletics would give the Whites 6 series and the championship.

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SHORT AND SWEET

This was the entire report in the Tribune's Sunday edition of the Whites' return to action:

"TROY, N. Y., Oct. 21. -- The White Stockings of Chicago to-day defeated the Haymakers. Score, 11 to 5."

It followed up on Monday with:

"TROY, Oct. 21 -- The first game of the championship series between Union club, of Troy (Haymakers), and Chicago club, of Chicago (White Stockings), took place on the grounds of the former, in this city, to-day.

"The audience was a large one; and, as might have been expected, strongly partisan, though much less feeling was manifest than might have been expected. The misfortune of the visiting club had undoubtedly much to do with this.

"The game was a finely contested one, and was easily won by the White Stockings, by a score of 11 to 5.

"The second game of the series will be played on the Union grounds, Brooklyn, the third in Troy, and the fourth, should one be necessary, in Brooklyn."

...

SHORT AND SOUR

On Thursday, Oct. 26, 5 days after the 11-5 triumph, the Tribune provided a few more details, including:

"The weather was windy and cold, and the game was attended with a large number of errors on both sides.

"Foley led the batting, making three hits for his base, but was left each time, while [Michael] McAtee and [Fred] Treacey were next in order."

Then it said:

"On Monday the Haymakers defeated the Whites by a score of 19 to 12."

The Tribune never revisited the game. Of the 17 papers in New York state available online, just the Sun, based in New York City, mentioned the contest, but it published only a line score that showed the Haymakers led, 14-0, before the Whites finally scored in the sixth inning.

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SAD FINALE

The Tribune's Thursday item about the Whites had concluded, "The White Stockings play the Haymakers on the 27th and 28th inst., on the Union Grounds, in Brooklyn."

But those games were not played. The paper was silent about the Whites until the following Tuesday, Oct. 31, when it published this, on page 6, two thirds of the way down the first column, beneath a detailed description of a meeting of the city's Common Council:

...

Base Ball.

New York, Oct. 30 -- The deciding game of the championship series between the Athletics, of Philadelphia, and the White Stockings, of Chicago, was played this afternoon on the Union Grounds, resulting in favor of the Athletics by a score of 4 to 1, as follows:

Athletics -- 0 1 1 0 0 0 1 1 0 - 4

Chicagos -- 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 - 1

This gives the championship of the United States to the Athletics.

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TITLE RATIONALE

By beating the Whites, the Athletics had won 6 series, while going 21-7 in all official NA games. The Whites, winners of 4 series, might have matched the Athletics' total by completing and winning their series against Troy, then winning a third game vs. Cleveland.

Even if they did, the Athletics would be declared champions, thanks to taking the series against the Whites.

The Whites' remaining games were canceled, making their final records 19-9 in official NA games, 26-16 in all games against professional teams, 31-1 against amateur clubs and 57-17 overall.

...

Boston, 20-10 in official games, owned 5 series wins and had split 4 games against New York. But the Red Stockings had lost the series to the Athletics, 3-1, giving Philadelphia the tie-breaker if both teams won 6 series.

The Boston-New York game was called off, too.

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OUT-OF-TOWN REPORTS

The Brooklyn Eagle ignored the decisive game between the Whites and Athletics. The Brooklyn Union noted it in the lead item on its editorial page, of all places:

"The ownership of the whip-pennant was decided yesterday at the Union Grounds by the last of the series of base ball matches played by the Athletic club, of Philadelphia, and the Chicago nine. Four to one decided the Athletics the champions . . ."

The Philadelphia Inquirer carried the same short report that appeared in the Tribune, followed by a bit more, listing 3 regulars who were absent from the Athletics and 1 from the Whites.

Then it said:

"The game was devoid of interest except from one circumstance, that it promised to end in the White Stockings being unable to score at all. The run they made in the last inning was through an error."

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SHOCKING SCORE

The Whites' run was their 1,189th in all of their 74 games, an average of 16.06 per game.

It was their 455th in their 42 games against professional teams, an average of 10.83.

And it was their 302nd in their 28 official NA games, an average of 10.78.

The Whites had scored at least 5 runs in 70 of their 73 previous games. The exceptions were losses in league games by 13-3 at Washington and 6-3 at Boston, and in an exhibition at Rockford, 17-2.

They had scored 10 or more runs in 53 games, 18 of them official NA contests, 5 in exhibitions against NA rivals and 3 in exhibitions against the Eckfords of Brooklyn, a professional team that had been denied membership in the league.

The Whites had allowed 4 or fewer runs in 22 previous games. Six were against pro teams: 1 vs. the Eckfords and 5 vs. NA opponents, including a 6-3 victory over the Athletics at Philadelphia on Aug. 30, exactly 2 months before their loss in the championship showdown.

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READ ALL ABOUT IT

While the Tribune barely acknowledged the Whites' season-ending loss in its edition of Tuesday, Oct. 31, the day after the game, it made amends on Friday, Nov. 3.

Following is most of the "Special Telegram of the Cincinnati Commercial" as it appeared in the Tribune. (Several section breaks added.)

...

Not more than six hundred persons were on the ground, and a large portion of them were from Philadelphia.

The Athletics made their appearance on the grounds at about 2:45, but they were short of two of the players on the regular nine, [outfielder Count] Sensenderfer and [second baseman Al] Reach. This did not, however, appear to affect the betting, as they still ruled the favorites, being sold in the pools for fifty dollars against twenty seven dollars for the White Stockings. . . .

The White Stockings very seldom make only four first base hits in a game, but was here that the want of practice told; most of them went out on foul bounds and foul fly balls, the result of inaccurate judgment in striking, although much, of course, is due to the excellent pitching of [Dick] McBride.

...

The errors in the field made by the Chicagoans were few and far between, but they were fatal. [Shortstop Ed] Duffy, who from the effects of chills and fever is a mere shadow of his former self, made one error. [Pitcher] Zettlein made one also, and [first baseman] McAtee showed a deficiency in judgment in throwing from first to third instead of the home plate in the seventh inning.

...

The White Stockings never played a prettier game than yesterday; and they played it, too, under many disadvantages. Not two of the nine were dressed alike, all their uniforms having been consumed at the fire.

They presented a most extraordinary appearance from the parti-colored nature of their dress. All who get white stockings did, but they were not many.

One man wore a Mutual shirt and Eckford hose; another, an Atlantic shirt, Mutual pants, and Flyaway hose, and so on; each man being obliged to borrow a shirt from any one who was willing to lend.

Where so much depends on the freedom of limb, it is very necessary that the uniforms of the players should fit them well and easily, and therefore their play to-day with tight shirts, short pants, and hose in many cases a world too wide, was indeed as creditable as it was surprising. . . .

...

Good batting by the Quaker City boys in the eighth inning gave them an additional run, but the poor Chicago sufferers couldn't get a man across the home plate, keeping the score 4-0.

The ninth was now watched with much interest, as it was evident the Athletics meant to try and "Chicago" their opponents, but in this respect they were not successful. . . .

The "Charmer" [Zettlein] was the first one to handle the willow for the White Stockings, and every eye was fixed on him. The spectators scarcely breathed, the excitement was so intense, when he hit a terrific bat [sic] to [third baseman Levi] Meyerle, which was muffed, and reached his first without being out; he was greeted with tremendous cheers. This was the first muff made by the Philadelphians during the game, but it cost them a run.

McAtee went next to the bat, but was finally fielded out at first base by [second baseman Wes] Fisler and [first baseman George] Heubel, while the "Charmer" got to third.

Pinkham then drove a warm one to short, which [John] Radcliff fielded well, but was afraid to risk throwing the ball home, and contented himself by putting the striker out at first, while "Sterling" crossed the home plate amid shouting.

[Fred] Treacy then made a good drive to right field that was taken on the fly by [Tom] Pratt, and the game closed, leaving the Athletics champions of America for 1871.

[end of excerpt]

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INTO HIBERNATION

Some of the Whites went directly to their off-season homes, while others made their way back to Chicago.

The team's directors and stockholders soon voted to suspend operations for the foreseeable future.

Chicago would be absent from the National Association for 2 seasons, not resuming operations until 1874.

The story of their return will be told beginning tomorrow.

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