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Cubs' hibernation and awakening, Part 4

Fourth in a series of posts about the rebirth of the Cubs franchise in 1874.

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Following the Great Chicago Fire of Oct. 9, 1871, the Cubs, then known as the White Stockings, played 3 games, at Troy and Brooklyn, N.Y., then suspended operations for 2 seasons.

On April 17, 1874, they defeated a "picked nine" of Chicago's top amateurs, 44-3. The next day, they beat them again, 24-3.

Then the "Whites" journeyed to St. Louis, where they won 7 consecutive games against that city's best amateur clubs, by a cumulative score of 155-52, an average of 22-7.

When they returned home, they topped the Red Stockings, the best team in St. Louis, 4 times in 4 days, by 63-11. The score of the finale was 15-0.

4 days later, on Wednesday, May 13, the Whites celebrated their return to the National Association with another shutout, 4-0, against the Philadelphia Athletics, the team they had lost to, 4-1, in their final NA game of 1871.

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

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The season that followed can fairly be described as a roller coaster ride. It would not have been at the time, however, as the first patent for a roller coaster was not awarded for 10 more until years, until 1884.

After their 14-0 start, capped by the win over the Athletics, the Whites went 8-15, all in league play, through July 6.

Then they went on an 18-3 surge, capped by 4 straight wins, to improve to 22-18 in the league and 40-18 overall.

But a loss in their first game of September was followed by 6 more over the next 8 days. They never won more than 2 in a row of their remaining 12 NA contests and finished 28-31, in fifth place, 18.5 games behind the champion Boston Red Stockings (52-18), 1.5 in back of the fourth-place Philadelphia Whites (29-29) and 4 ahead of the sixth-place Brooklyn Atlantics (22-33).

Their final league game, a 15-13 win over the Philadelphia Whites, came a day after they had beaten their namesakes in an exhibition game. They played 8 later games against amateur teams and won them all, to close out the season with a 10-game winning streak.

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Scores and margins of the Whites' games varied wildly.

While going 25-0 against amateur teams, they won by as many as 41 runs and by as few as 2. They scored as many as 51 runs and as few as 3. The total number of runs by both teams ranged from 71 (51-20) to 3 (3-0).

The Whites held 14 groups of amateurs to 3 or fewer runs, shutting out 5 of them.

4 of their victories against pro opponents were by double digits: twice by 13 runs, once by 12 and once by 10.

They won 6 games by a single run -- and lost 6 in the same fashion.

3 of the Whites' defeats were by ugly scores of 25-5, 29-6 and 38-1. Because of those 3 games, they were outscored vs. pros by 58 runs, 427 to 485. In all other such games, they were +32, 415-393.

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In National Association games, the Whites tallied 418 runs, which was fifth most, but far behind Boston's high of 735 and the New York Mutuals' second-most 501. The 7 other teams combined averaged 436, or 18 more than the Whites scored.

The Whites ranked fourth in home runs, with a grand total of . . . 4. Boston hit 17; New York, 7; and the Athletics, 6. Hartford and the Philadelphia Whites hit 2 each; Baltimore and Brooklyn, 1 apiece, for a league total of just 40, in 19,342 plate appearances -- 1 of every 484!

The Whites' batting average, .278, tied them with the other Whites for third best, behind Boston (.312) and the Athletics (.286).

Pitching was another matter. They Whites surrendered 8.14 runs per game, third highest in the league and 0.76 more than the average of the 7 other teams.

The 480 runs they allowed were the second most, 25 fewer than by Baltimore and 9 more than by Hartford. All the other teams averaged 427, or 11 percent fewer.

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Following are some highlights and lowlights, on and off the field, after the Whites' first NA victory on May 13, through their final exhibition game on Oct. 28.

All newspaper excerpts are from the Chicago Tribune unless noted otherwise. Paragraph breaks have been added in the excerpts for easier reading. A date followed by a score is that on which the game was played; a date with no score, that when the account appeared in the newspaper.

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FRIDAY, MAY 15

"In our report of the [first NA] game between the White Stockings and Athletics, Wednesday afternoon, credit was unintentionally given to [pitcher] George Zettlein for a remarkably brilliant and effective play in the seventh inning, whereby McMullen was caught napping when the bases were full, and put out by a throw to third.

"[Catcher] Fergus Malone is entitled to praise for the act, as it was he who threw the ball. Those who have a practical knowledge of the game will perceived the difficulty of the play when they are told that Malone was standing close behind the bat, and, to effect his purpose, was compelled to throw over the striker's head, along the base-line, and over the head of the man who was to be put out.

"It is not often that such a play is seen, and when it occurs, proper mention should be made of it. Zettlein made a somewhat similar play in the second inning, and the reporter must confess that the brilliancy of both exhibitions somewhat confused. Hence the error."

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SATURDAY, MAY 13, AT CHICAGO

ATHLETICS 7, WHITES 2

"The Whites showed some fine batting in the third inning, securing thereby two earned runs. [Paul] Hines led off, and was put out at first. [John] Glenn followed with a safe hit. Zettlein went out at first. [Ned] Cuthbert struck a liner to left two bases, but the ball got into a hole, and he and Glenn came home amid loud applause."

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SATURDAY, MAY 23, AT CHICAGO

MUTUALS 7, WHITES 4

"The White Stockings suffered a second defeat at the hands of the Mutuals, of New York, yesterday afternoon in the presence of between 3,000 and 4,000 people. This makes the third out of four championship games they have lost since the opening of the season, the Athletics, it will be remembered, coming off victorious the second time the clubs met.

"The inclemency of the weather or the bad condition of the grounds cannot be urged as excuse for the loss of the game this time, for a finer day or better field for ball-playing could not be desired."

[The Whites took a 4-2 lead with 3 runs in the top of the eighth, only to give up 3 in the bottom. After the Whites were blanked in the ninth, the Mutuals added 2 runs. Under the rules in 1874, a game was not complete until each time made 27 outs, so a team that led midway through the ninth still had to come to bat.]

"To sum, the White Stockings are really better now than they have yet been. There is no great occasion for abuse or fault-finding, and it will hardly be denied that there is plenty of time to regain lost ground."

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MONDAY, JUNE 8, AT CHICAGO

WHITES 8, RED STOCKINGS 3

[Boston had won the first 2 games of the series, the previous Wednesday and Saturday, by 11-10 and 9-2.]

"In the first game between the clubs the umpire did not suit Chicago, and he was excused from anything to do with the others. In the second game a new man gave fair satisfaction to both nines, and they ventured to try him again. The consequence is the Bostons are disgusted with him, and would doubtless cut off their nine right hands before they would consent to his serving in that capacity again in any game in which they are interested.

"The man who was so unfortunate as to incur their displeasure is Tom Foley, the ball-player [now an amateur, who had played 18 games for the Whites in 1871], and it was because he would not change the ball with which the game was commenced after it was found to be ripped a little.

"The Bostons appeared to be unanimous in the idea that they could win the game if a new ball was introduced, because, as they claimed, they were the best batters, and could do more with a whole ball than an injured one. The umpire failed to perceive the logic of this.

"Being a man of ordinary common sense, he could not see why, if they were the more skillful batters, they could not outbat the Whites with one ball as well as another, and he made them play on with the original ball.

"The result was, the Red Stocking men made the rip in the ball worse every time they got it into their hands, and there was a constant wrangle all through the game which delayed it a great deal, and it was very unpleasant to the spectators.

"At last, when the match was almost over, [Boston captain] Harry Wright announced that his club was playing it under protest, because, as he claimed, the umpire was not acting in accordance with the rules.

"We have taken the trouble to examine the new rules on the matters, and find under the heading 'The Materials of the Game,' in Rule 4, the following language: 'When the ball, in the the opinion of the umpire, has become so injured as to be unfit for fair use, a new ball shall be called for by the umpire,' etc. This clearly sustains Mr. Foley, as it was doubtless his opinion that the ball was good enough.

"In view of the fact that it is almost impossible to find a man who will give perfect satisfaction in the thankless position of umpire, we would respectfully suggest to the managers of the White and Red Stocking clubs that, in event of the American eagle's attending the great game to be played by them in this city on the Fourth of July, they make overtures to the distinguished bird, and endeavor to induce him to act.

"The game is a national one, and will be played on our grandest holiday. Why, then, should not our national bird be the umpire, and have all things in harmony? His calm judgment and philosophic mind, when brought to bear on such abstruse questions as 'balls,' 'wides,' 'strikes,' 'underhand throwing,' 'fair-fouls,' and the like, would dispel all doubts as does the sun the morning mists, and no one would dare to question his decisions.

"It is highly probably that the important fowl would refuse, but there can be no harm in asking him. We have thrown out the hint at any rate, and will now proceed to give a synopsis of yesterday's game, and some description of the players."

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[The win made the Whites 4-5 in the league. They evened up their record with back-to-back wins at Baltimore on Thursday and Saturday, June 11 and 13. Then they lost 4 in a row, including the astonishing 38-1 shellacking at New York, in which pitcher Zettlein and Cuthbert were held out of the game amid rumors of contact with gamblers.

[The Whites won at Hartford on Monday, June 24, and took a 7-10 record into 3 games in 4 days at Boston, against the 22-6 Red Stockings.]

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WEDNESDAY, JUNE 25, AT BOSTON

RED STOCKINGS 10, WHITES 2

[The previous day, with great ceremony and many speeches, the cornerstone had been placed for Chicago's new post office building.]

"Even the excitement attendant upon the laying of the corner-stone was not great enough to detract from the general interest felt in the fortunes of the White Stockings, as they wander listlessly through the Eastern states, conquering an insignificant club here and there, and being conquered by every one which it would be an honor to defeat.

"As yesterday was the day fixed for their first game with the Red Stockings in Boston, the places of public resort where telegrams from the games abroad are received were crowded, with eager throngs, which, notwithstanding the intense heat of the afternoon, remained steadfastly at their posts until the news of the last inning was bulletined, and nother crushing defeat was recorded for the home club.

"That a hope, however faint it might have been was entertained that the Whites would win, or at least make a creditable showing in the game, was easily discernible in the exceeding chopfallen [sic] expression and downcast air which everybody assumed when the final announcement was that the score was 10 to 2 in Boston's favor.

"As the crowds separated, such remarks as 'That Meyerle is to blame again,' or 'Perhaps the game was thrown by some of those Philadelphia fellows,' or 'I'll bet the umpire was against them,' or

'Perhaps Nick Young can't manage them,' and dozens of others of like character could be heard on every side.

"The White their accusers and upholders, but neither party could account for the score, or how those five runs were made the Eastern club in the first inning. Chicago would have been comparatively satisfied if the score had been four or even five to two, for that would have indicated a remarkably good game in the field as least, but, generally speaking, something wrong occurs when the discrepancy is so great as ten to two.

"It may be that the batting of the Bostons was extraordinary, but even in that even the pitching of the Chicago must have been, in a great measure, devoid of that skill necessary to enable a club to cope successfully with a powerful rival.

"It is more likely that we were weak at some important point in the field. The Whites were evidently babies at the bat, while the Bostons must have been as nimble as monkeys in the field."

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FRIDAY, JUNE 26, AT BOSTON

RED STOCKINGS 8, WHITES 7

"The batting of the Chicago nine was terrific, and should have won them the game easily, but a single error by both [first baseman Jim] Devlin and [shortstop Levi] Meyerle in the sixth inning gave the Bostons four unearned runs and a lead which could not be overcome, although the Whites struggled hard for victory up to the close of the game."

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SATURDAY, JUNE 27, AT BOSTON

RED STOCKINGS 29, WHITES 6

"The close and exciting contest [on Friday] between the White and Red Stockings had effect to draw out about 2,000 persons to witness the sixth game [of the season series] to-day, but they were treated to a first-class muffin exhibition."

The Whites made 14 errors, 2 more than their number of hits, helping the Reds to score 6 runs in the first inning, 8 in the fifth and 7 in the ninth.

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TUESDAY, JUNE 30

"The St. Louis Globe says:

"The Chicago Base Ball Club has hired two players at Easton, Pa. The great "Chicago Nine" now consists of four Philadelphians, two Eastonians, two St. Louisians, and one Baltimorean. The president, however, is a Chicagoan, and so, we are given to understand, is one of the ticket sellers at the gate."

[The next day, the Whites lost at Philadelphia to the Athletics, 13-7, to end a road trip in which they had begun 2-0, then gone 2-9.]

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THURSDAY, JULY 2

"Isn't it about time the organization of young athletes known as the White Stocking Base-Ball Club came home and rested from their labors? During their Eastern tour they have been beaten out of all semblance of human shape in almost every instance.

"The Eastern clubs have not only defeated them, but they have taken pains to rub in the defeats, and they have piled up figures against them which remind one of the size of the public debt.

"If their manager has any regard for the reputation of Chicago from a muscular point of view, he will bring his athletes home at once, and disorganized them, or set them to playing the remainder of the season with some of our school-boy clubs.

"Such playing as they have exhibited would be a discredit even to St. Louis players, and when it gets to be as bad as that, it is about time to stop.

"Come home and stay. Go to brick-making or sewer-laying, where there is no championship pending, but don't play ball any more with professional clubs. It is growing painfully monotonous."

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SATURDAY, JULY 4

"A party of much demoralized ball-players yesterday arrived in the city, which they consent to call their temporary headquarters, for an in consideration of sums ranging from $1,000 to $2,200 each for about four months of service, such as it is.

"Whether their employers feel good over the bargain, and consider that they have earned their money, is no concern of ours; but, whether these nine or ten professional base ball players have reflected credit upon the city whose name they bear, and have so conducted themselves as to sustain the standing of a deservedly popular class of outdoor amusement, is a matter of some general consequence.

The so-called Chicago club has made a sorry record of its first Eastern trip. In has, in fact, accomplished the most absolute failure of the season, and has attracted a vast amount of attention on that account. Base ball is proverbially prolific of surprises, but the White Stockings have fairly won the title of

THE CHAMPION ASTONISHERS.

"When the nine was first organized, it was unanimously agreed, on the strength of the previous record of the respective players, that the team was second to hone. This was admitted everywhere, and a brilliant season was predicted. But nobody then anticipated that these heavy-salaried importations were going to progress backwards . . . which has come to pass before the season is half over."

[Following a recitation of the season so far, the story continued:]

"THE REASON OF IT ALL

seems to be past finding out. The players themselves appear to be at a loss to account for it. The manager, Mr. Young, when interrogated, gives it up as a conundrum he cannot answer. He bears testimony to the fact that it was not drunkenness or dissipation.

"Never a nine went on the field in better physical condition than they. 'I could get them there in shape to play, but I could not make them do the playing' is the manager's mournful epitome of the trip.

"When asked if any of the players had been tampered with by gamblers, he shook his head and refused to be interviewed.

"The president of the club [Norman Gassette] is equally deficient in theories as to cause and effect, and wishes, for the hundredth time, that the introduction of base ball had been delayed for fifty or sixty years, or at least until he had reached that blissful realm where there shall be neither Meyerles or Zettleins to vex and annoy, and where every man who comes to the bat makes a base hit."

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TOMORROW: A holiday miracle starts a dramatic reversal in fortune

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