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Cubs' first games for charity, Part 2

Second of 2 posts about the first games played by the Cubs from which all proceeds went to charity.

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On July 7 and 28, 1874, the Cubs, then known as the White Stockings, faced the Franklins, a local amateur team, in a pair of exhibition games at the Twenty-third Street grounds.

The first, won by the Whites, 16-6, was a benefit for the Old People's Home. The following day, the Chicago Tribune reported:

"We regret to state that the donation was not as large a one as the charity deserved, or as it would have undoubtedly received if the persons most directly concerned in its success had taken the proper steps to interest the benevolently-inclined of the city in the matter."

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The paper's complete coverage of the second contest consisted of:

"THE CHARITY GAME,

yesterday afternoon, between the White Stockings and Franklins, for the benefit of the Home for the Friendless, was not an astonishing success financially or as an exhibition of skill on the part of either club. The score was 34-5 in favor of the professionals, and if any particularly interest had been taken in the play the discrepancy would have been much greater."

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This appeared immediately below:

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WOOD'S BENEFIT

occurs this afternoon on the Twenty-third Street grounds, on which occasion the White Stockings and Atlantics will play, the latter club having generously consented to remain over [after its Monday game], if by so doing they could do their old companion a good turn.

A noticeable feature of the game will be the fact that it will consist of ten innings, and will be played by ten men on a side. It is expected that the audience will be the largest one of the season, and the entire receipts will be handed to the beneficiary.

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THE FIRST CUB

Jimmy Wood had been the first person hired by the businessmen who pooled their money in October 1869 to form a professional team capable of beating the Cincinnati Red Stockings, who had demolished each of Chicago's top amateur teams that year.

Born in Brooklyn on Dec. 1, 1843, Wood stood 5 foot 8 and weighed 150 pounds. He was the Whites' captain -- i.e., manager -- and second baseman in 1870, when they beat the Red Stockings twice, went 22-7 against professional teams, were 65-8 overall and claimed the national championship.

A year later, the inaugural season of the National Association, the Whites had gone 21-7 in league play. They were denied the pennant when they lost to Philadelphia, in a game at Brooklyn, 3 weeks after the Great Fire, which had destroyed the Whites' grounds, clubhouse, uniforms and equipment.

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The Whites then suspended operations for 2 years, during which Wood played and managed the Troy Haymakers for 25 games and the Brooklyn Eckfords for 7, both in 1872, then the Philadelphia Whites for 42, in 1873.

When the White Stockings resumed play, Wood, now 30 years old, quickly returned to Chicago. But before the season began, he took his pocket knife, planning to lance an abscess on his left leg. He dropped the knife, causing a cut on his right leg that ultimately would prevent him from playing another game.

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READ ALL ABOUT IT

Following is what the Tribune had to say about the the benefit for Wood, played on Wednesday, July 29, 1874. Paragraph and section breaks have been added for easier reading.

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James Wood, former Captain of all the White Stocking nines, and the most admired, as well as the most skillful, ball-player that has yet made Chicago home home, was tendered a benefit yesterday afternoon on the Twenty-third Street grounds.

It was not a mere complimentary affair, or, as is more frequently the case in similar entertainments, an out-and-out mercenary dodge to extract money from the pockets of well-meaning persons for the enrichment of an altogether undeserving individual.

On the contrary, it was gotten up for the purpose of alleviating the real distress, and the thousands of persons who patronized it had that laudable object in view.

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It is well known that Wood has met with great affliction since his last advent in Chicago. During the greater portion of the time he has been a helpless cripple -- a strange accident happening to him when he was enjoying the best of health, and causing an abscess to form on his leg.

With this he was confined to his room fro months, and, when he had sufficiently recovered to be able to move around a little on crutches, another and even more terrible misfortune befell him. His leg had been made crooked by the abscess, but it was becoming straight slowly.

A consultation was held by the eminent surgeon whom Mr. Gassette had secured to attend upon him, and it was decided, after careful diagnosis, to attempt to straighten the diseased member entirely. It was not then imagined that the bones had been rendered as brittle as chalk by the abscess, but such, unfortunately, proved to be the fact, and when a considerable degree of pressure was brought to bear the leg snapped in several places.

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Of course, amputation had to be immediately resorted to, to save life, and thus were Wood's ball-playing days definitely ended. It was to assist him out of the pecuniary difficulties which his physical troubles entailed upon him that the benefit was gotten up, and his host of friends nobly responded.

Over 3,000 of them were on the ball grounds, and, besides the tickets that this large number used, hundreds were sold to others who did not find time to attend. At least $3,000 were realized from the benefit [equivalent to $80,966.05 today], and, though as a matter of fact there is no value to such a donation when it is received at the permanent loss of one's leg, Wood may derive not a little satisfaction from the knowledge that his efforts to please the public have not been forgotten, and that as a beneficiary he was fully as popular as a ball-player.

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The game that was played in his behalf was an exhibition between the White Stockings and the Atlantics, of Brooklyn, the latter club having generously consented not only to remain over and play, but to donate whatever share of the receipts they might in justice be entitled to, to their maimed companion. Chicago will not forget the Atlantics for this when next they visit us.

[end of excerpt]

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NO RETURN

The Atlantics never would play another game in Chicago. The teams would play twice at Brooklyn in September, then twice more in July of 1875. The Whites would win the latter games, 9-2, and 6-3, to extend the Atlantics' losing streak to 18 games. It would reach 31 games with a season-ending loss that made their final record an inglorious 2-42. Soon thereafter, the Atlantics folded.

They were 9-20, on their way to 22-33, when they faced the Whites in the benefit game, which they tied twice, at 2 and 4, by scoring twice in the fourth and seventh innings.

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WHAT CAME NEXT

From the Tribune:

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Each man played his position as if the possession of the championship pennant depended upon his individual efforts on that particular occasion. This can be readily understood from the number of blanks on both sides, and from the smallness of the score.

Up to the end of the tenth inning it was 4 and 4, and it seemed probably, from the way in which the strikers had been put out all along, that the game would be one of the longest on record.

The eleventh inning settled all disputes, however, Fred Treacey winning the game, as he frequently has done before, and the Whites were victorious by a single run, having played a splendid game throughout.

[end of excerpt]

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How did Treacey win the game? Fortunately, another newspaper, the Inter Ocean, saw fit to publish a complete play by play of the game.

Player-manager Fergy Malone led off with a single, then was forced out at second on a grounder by Meyerle. The next batter was retired, but "Treacey made a base hit to the left, which [Eddie] Booth let pass him, and Meyerle came home, making the winning run of the game."

The rules in 1874 required that all innings be completed, even when a team took the lead in its final time at bat, so a single and a fly out followed.

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CHANGE AT THE TOP

The benefit on July 29 was far from Wood's last appearance at the Whites' grounds.

Just 10 days later, on Aug. 8, the Whites lost the second of 3 games to the visiting New York Mutuals, dropping their record to 18-18 heading into a 16-day hiatus in the schedule.

On Aug. 18, the team's leadership was shaken up, with George Gage taking over from Gassette as president

"The new President's duties and responsibilities will be greatly lightened by the competent services of Jimmy Wood, who will be the Manager of the club, responsible directly to the President," the Tribune disclosed on Aug. 20. "No one needs to be assured that this will work well. Steps to secure a nine for next year will be immediately taken."

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REST OF SEASON

The Whites won their first 4 games under Wood, then lost 7 straight. They never won more than 2 in a row the rest of the season, winding up 10-13 under Wood and 28-31 overall, leaving them in fifth place, 18.5 games behind the champion Red Stockings, 1.5 in back of the fourth-place Athletics and 4 ahead of the sixth-place Atlantics.

Wood returned as manager in 1875, when the Whites went 30-37, relegating them to sixth, half a game ahead of the Mutuals (30-38), but 6.5 behind the fifth-place Philadelphia Whites (37-31) and a staggering 35 behind the Red Stockings (71-8).

That marked the end of Wood's managerial career.

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RANK AMONG MANAGERS

You won't find Wood's name among the 61 managers of the Cubs listed at baseball-reference.com, as its list begins with 1876, first year of the National League. But the Cubs, as the Whites, were 59-59-2 during their 3 full and 1 partial season under Wood's direction.

His 59 wins are as many as Jim Essian had in 1991, his only season, and Essian lost 63 games, 4 more than Wood.

Wood won 5 games more than Lou Boudreau (54-83-2, in 1960) and 10 more than Tom Trebelhorn (49-64, in 1994).

Wood's .500 winning percentage is just below that of Leo Durocher (.504: 535-6526-4, in 1966-72) and the same as Jim Lefebvre's (162-162-1, in 1992-93). It is better than those of 28 men who managed the Cubs for at least 100 games, including Dusty Baker (.497: 322-326, in 2003-06), Herman Franks (also .497: 238-241, in 1977-79), Whitey Lockman (.492: 157-162, in 1972-74) and David Ross (.480: 262-284, in 2020-2023).

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REST OF LIFE

Wood was an umpire during the NL's inaugural season, then was involved with citrus interests in Florida and ran a sporting good store in Chicago.

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The headline on the first page of the July/August 2006 report of the Society for American Baseball Research's Biographical Research Committee declared: "Jimmy Wood Found."

The report said that Wood "has long been one of our most interesting missing players" and explained that Lee Allen, a long-time baseball historian, had suggested in a 1963 column that Wood had died in Brooklyn in 1926 or 1927.

"We could never find any proof of that in Brooklyn," the report continued. "It turned out that the date was about right; the location was just 3,000 miles off.

"In our long and fruitless search for Wood we had tracked him to Quebec, New York, Ohio, Illinois, Tennessee, Louisiana, Florida, and Pennsylvania without finding a death certificate.

"Peter Morris was able to find a death certificate that showed he died November 3, 1927, in San Francisco. The birth matches what we have and his body was sent to New Orleans for burial next to his son.

"This is a great find. Wood was on our Top 20 Most Wanted list, so Peter wins the Find of the Month award."

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The newsletter's date of Wood's death is incorrect. He died not on Nov. 3, 1927, but on Nov. 30, 1927, the day before his 84th birthday -- and 53 years, 3 months and 1 day after the 1874 benefit game between the White Stockings and Atlantics.

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