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Cubs' hibernation and awakening, Part 3

Third in a series of posts about the rebirth of the Cubs franchise in 1874, after a 2-year hiatus caused by the Great Chicago Fire of 1871.

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The Cubs, then known as the White Stockings, returned to a National Association that had changed greatly since the "Whites" had departed. Just 3 of the 8 other teams from 1871 remained in 1874: the Boston Red Stockings, New York Mutuals and Philadelphia Athletics.

The Fort Wayne Kekiongas and Rockford Forest Citys had not made it to the end of 1871. The Cleveland Forest Citys, Troy Haymakers and Washington Olympics dropped out during 1872. So did the Washington Nationals, 1 of 5 newcomers.

Another addition, the Washington Nationals, lasted only 11 games. The Middletown Mansfields made it through 24. The Brooklyn Eckfords completed the season, then disbanded.

The Baltimore Canaries and Brooklyn Atlantics survived 1872 and 1874. Both would be back to face the Whites in 1874. Not so the Baltimore Marylands, Elizabeth Resolutes and Washington Blue Legs, for whom 1873 was their only season.

A second Philadelphia team, the Whites, was ready for a second season in 1874. The Hartford Dark Blues would round out the 8-team league.

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The Whites prepared for their return to the National Association by playing 8 games between April 23 and May 2 in St. Louis, against 2 of the city's top teams, the Red Stockings and Empires.

They had won the first 3 by a combined score of 16-5. Then they won the final 5 by 143-56, making the average score of all the games 20-3.

And the Whites weren't done beating up on one of the teams they had drubbed. The Red Stockings followed the Whites home to Chicago, where the teams squared off 4 more times.

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HISTORIC EXHIBITION

The first of the games was on Wednesday, May 6. The next morning, the Chicago Tribune featured its account at the upper right of page 2, a prominent location (paragraph breaks added for easier reading):

...

Yesterday afternoon the Chicago nine played a practice game with the Red Stocking Club, of St. Louis, on the grounds at the corner of State and Twenty-third streets.

It was the first base-ball event of any importance since the opening of the season, and was also the first game in which Chicago was represented by her own professional nine on her own soil since 1871.

[In fact, the Whites had not played at home since Sept. 29, 1871 -- 949 days earlier.]

There were about 500 persons present, who manifested considerable interest in the sport.

It would be unfair to closely criticize the play of either club, or to analyze the game in detail, as both nine has but recently stepped from the [railroad] cars after a day's journey, and besides, the afternoon was much too cold for ball-playing.

It may be said, however, that the Chicago players did not appear to the best advantage. Their opponents even acknowledged that it was the poorest game they had seen them play.

The result of the contest, while it did not entirely satisfy those who understood the relative merits of the clubs, was nevertheless creditable in a great degree to our nine.

The final score 14 to 7 in their favor, and the disparity would have been much greater but for one or two unfortunate plays in the infield, and some muffs of difficult fly-catches outside.

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WINDY WIN

The Whites won a rematch the next day, 26-1, then prevailed again, 8-3, on Friday.

"The small score is to be accounted for in a great measure by the wind," the Tribune explained, "which favored the pitching and operated against the batting. It is an ill wind, etc.

"Seven times the ball was carried over the fence [surrounding the field] by the wind, and each time the youth who picked it up gained admission by carrying in the ball."

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BOOKEND BLANKS

The teams met for a final time on Saturday, May 10. The Whites marked the occasion by shutting out the Reds, just as they had when they had begun the exhibition series in St. Louis on April 23.

That game had ended 6-0; in the finale, it was 15-0.

The Whites' pitcher both times had been George Zettlein, a 29-year-old right hander who had returned to the team after spending its 2-year hiatus with teams in Troy, N.Y., and Philadelphia.

"In the ninth inning the Reds led off with two good bats [sic] hit by Redmond and McSorley, and it looked as if they were about to get that much-coveted run, but a fine stop and throw by [second baseman Paul] Hines, off Peters, and a double play by [shortstop Davy] Force, sealed their doom, and the game closed with St. Louis 'whitewashed' nine times."

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IGNORED BY NEWSPAPER

Nearly all forms of entertainment, including baseball, were prohibited by law on Sundays in 1874, so the Tribune understandably made no mention of the Whites in its Monday edition.

But it was silent on Tuesday, as well, except for this short paragraph beneath a brief description of the Philadelphia Athletics' 12-7 win at home over their crosstown rivals, the Whites:

"The Athletics left to-night for Chicago. The betting at Bond & Co.'s pool-rooms to-night was decidedly favorable to their Chicago opponents."

And the paper had absolutely nothing to say about the Whites on Wednesday, May 13, the day on which they were to mark their official return to the National Association against the Athletics -- the same team that had defeated them in their final game before the Whites had suspended operations, a showdown for the championship, played at Brooklyn, more than 2.5 years earlier, on Oct. 30, 1871.

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'GRAND INAUGURAL CHAMPION GAME'

The Inter Ocean printed the following, on its eighth and last page, starting at the bottom of the fourth of its 6 columns and concluding at the top of the fifth (some paragraph breaks added for easier reading):

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Base Ball.

The Athletics, of Philadelphia, will arrive this morning and stop at the Sherman House.

This afternoon will be played the grand inaugural champion [sic] game for the White Stockings. The contest will commence promptly at 3:50 p.m.

The grand stand will seat about 1,500 persons, and the seating capacity of the amphitheater is about 9,000.

The gates of the ground will be opened at 2 o'clock.

The management has peremptorily ordered that no betting should be allowed on the grounds. Of course, this can only be made to apply to the players, and on the field, but the principle inaugurated will be approved by all true lovers of a fair field.

In knowing circles, or those assuming to know, the betting is $10 to $7 in favor of the White Stockings on the game.

Reserved seats and admission tickets may be had at 88 Madison Street, and at Jimmy Wood's, No. 117 Twenty-second Street.

Cars will run from Randolph Street to the ball grounds, near the corner of Twenty-third and State streets, every minute, from 1 o'clock to 3:30, and fifteen minutes before the game closes, as nearly as can be judged, a full complement of street cars will be placed on the line for the accommodation of those visiting the grounds.

A grand game is expected, and there will doubtless be thousands to witness it.

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ASSERTION 'FLATLY DENIED'

And indeed there were.

From the next day's Tribune (some paragraph breaks added):

...

The First Championship Game of the

White Stockings.

...

They Defeat the Athletics by a

Score of 4 to 0.

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A Large Attendance and a Fine Game.

...

The White Stockings played their first championship game this season, yesterday afternoon, on the grounds at the corner of Twenty-third and State streets.

Their opponents were the renowned Athletics of Philadelphia, with whom our former professional nines have had many a stern and exciting fight.

Between 5,000 and 6,000 people witnessed the sport, and by their presence flatly denied the assertion, frequently made of late, that public interest in the national game was dead in Chicago, and could not be revived.

A large number of the most prominent men in the city, accompanied by their families, were observed in the grand stand, which was gay with the bright colors and other finery of the fair sex, and the outside seats were filled with as respectable and orderly an assemblage as was ever fathered together. . . .

The clubs appeared early on the ground (which, by the way, are in excellent trim, and give promise of being the finest in the country), and filled up the time in practice while the audience was finding seats.

At last the diamond was cleared, and the game began. It was a most extraordinary contest, from beginning to end, resulting in the defeat of the Athletics by a score of 4 to 0.

The result was accomplished notwithstanding the fact that the home club was outbatted and outfielded, and can only be accounted for by the great nerve exhibited by the White Stockings at critical points in the game.

The play was at times brilliant, but as a general thing it was not up to the average of either club. Error are scored to every infielder on the side of the Whites except [pitcher George] Zettlein, who played a shrewd and faultless game throughout. . .

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SHAKY START

The Whites won the coin toss that preceded games in the era and elected to bat second.

The leadoff batter for the Athletics reached base on the first of the Whites' eventual 11 errors, 5 more than were committed by the visitors.

Another error and a passed ball followed, but the runners were stranded.

"There being no runs, despite two bad errors, the crowd cheered lustily," the Tribune reported.

..

Ned Cuthbert, the first man up for the Whites was safe on an error, too -- the first of 3 by a young third baseman named Adrian Anson.

A single by Davy Force and a double steal put runners on second and third. They stayed there on one groundout, then Cuthbert scored and Force went to third on another that was bobbled momentarily.

A single by Fred Treacey doubled the Whites' lead.

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NEW BALL, NEW CHALLENGE

The Athletics threatened in several innings, including the fifth, right after "a new ball was substituted for the torn one," according to the Inter Ocean.

With 1 out, "[John] McMullin 'bunted' a ball to drop at his feet and saved his first.

"[Mike] McGeary struck a little bouncer to his feet, which [catcher Fergy] Malone would have taken had it not been for the Quaker boy's trick. He caught the ball on his shoulder as it bounced, and carried it away with him, thus saving his base and sending McMullin to second.

"Captain Malone appealed for judgment, but the umpire did not see that the interference was intentional."

After a forceout, Anson singled.

"With three men on bases and two out, it was an exciting time for all," the Inter Ocean declared. "The Athletics have been wont to look their best and do their prettiest in the fifth inning, and with [Wes] Fisler to bat, they had strong hopes of a tally.

"But Fisler was fated. He went out on a foul bound handsomely taken by Malone, whose effort was enthusiastically applauded."

...

The Whites tallied an unearned run in the seventh on an error, a single, a runner out trying to steal third, a forceout at second and wild throw to first, then yet another error.

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MOMENT OF HORROR

"In the eighth inning an accident occurred which it was feared would lead to the utter defeat of the White Stockings," the Tribune explained:

...

After Anson had hit a safe liner to center field, and was put out on Fisler's hit to [third baseman Levi] Meyerle -- Fisler meanwhile reaching second through a wild throw by [second baseman Paul] Hines, [Ezra] Sutton struck a low line ball with terrible force, and it took Zettlein just below the knee-pan of the left leg.

The concussion could be heard all over the ground, and a murmur of horror ran through the vast throng as the rumor spread that the knee-pan had been shattered to fragments or the leg broken.

It soon became apparent, however, that the accident was by no means so serious, as the players kept on his feet. His fellow players gathered around him, bathed the bruised spot with water and arnica, and in a few minutes he announced himself ready for play, though his leg was hurt badly enough to lay an ordinary man up for a week.

Loud cheers greeted his determination, but there were misgiving that he would not be able to deliver the ball with his accustomed skill. It is needless to say that they proved groundless."

...

When play resumed, Force fielded a grounder at third and threw home for a forceout. Then he made "the prettiest catch of the game" to keep the score 3-0.

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'AN EASY DEATH'

In the ninth, the Athletics "sent four of their heaviest hitters to bat, and only one of them got to first base, and that was accomplished by a safe hit on the part of McMullin. The other three died an easy death."

The hit was the eighth allowed by Zettlein.

But wait -- wasn't the final score 4-0, not 3-0?

Yes, because in 1874, a game consisted of 9 complete innings, with the team in the lead coming to bat even after the 27th out by its opponent.

Malone began the bottom of the ninth with a single, the Whites' sixth hit. An error by Anson, a fly out and an errant throw to second on a steal attempt gave the Whites their final run.

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Through 1879, a game would continue to be incomplete unless BOTH teams had made 3 outs in the ninth inning, regardless of the score.

"In many cases a side that had already won piled up many additional runs against demoralized opponents," Peter Morris wrote in "A Game of Inches," his exhaustive study of the history and evolution of baseball's rules, equipment and strategy.

Morris cited a tournament at Blissfield, Mich, on Aug. 22-23, 1879, in which the Nine Spots, of Sturgis, led a team from Adrian, 5-4, going to the bottom of the ninth.

"But a two-run single won the game and the tournament for Adrian," he explained. "The Nine Spots glumly walked off the field the umpire ruled the game a 9-0 forfeit. The newspapers criticized the club for the breach of etiquette. . . .

"This and similar incidents made it obvious that a custom once designed to promote good sportsmanship was instead creating ill will. The rule was finally changed that off season, so that 'if the side at bat in the ninth innings (sic) secures the winning run, the game is to be called without putting out three men as heretofore.' (Stevens Point [Wisc.] Journal, December 13, 1879."

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TOMORROW: The season continues

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