When the Cubs first played the Reds

The Cincinnati Reds who will visit Wrigley Field today began play in 1882, as a founding member of the American Association.

In 1890, the Reds jumped to the National League. They hosted the Cubs in their first NL game, on April 19 at League Park in Cincinnati.

Today's game will be the 2,393rd between the teams.

Make that, the 2,393rd official game.

I recently came across accounts of Cubs-Reds games that took place 3 years before they became their NL rivalry.


In that era, players were under contract through Oct. 31. After completing their league schedules in the first or second week of October, teams would play exhibition games for the rest of the month.

Such was the case in 1887.

While NL champion Detroit and AA kingpin St. Louis met in a 15-game post-season championship series that was played in 10 cities, other teams in both leagues arranged to play one another.

The NL and AA teams in Philadelphia square off. So did Indianapolis and Cleveland, the New York Giants and Baltimore, Washington and the New York Metropolitans -- and the Cubs, then known as the White Stockings, and Cincinnati.


The "Whites" had been tied for first place on Aug. 15, at 50-32-1, but had barely won more games than they lost the rest of the way, 21-18-5. Their 71-50-6 record left them in third, 6.5 games to the rear of pennant-winning Detroit and 3 behind runnerup Philadelphia.

The Reds, officially the Red Stockings, had a better record in the AA than the Cubs had in the NL, 81-54-1. That earned them second place, but they trailed St. Louis by 14 games.

The announcement of the series between the Whites and Reds said there would be 6 games in as many days, Oct. 10-15, the first 3 at Cincinnati and the last 3 at Chicago.

But none of the newspapers from either city that are available online mention a game on the 10th in their editions of that day, nor report on its outcome the following day.


The Cincinnati Enquirer on the 11th included a 1-inch ad:


To-Day at 3:30 O'Clock!




St. Louis-Detroit score received by innings.


Following are accounts of the games in the series.



Newspapers at the time rarely sent writers to cover games on the road. At best, they paid to print the same story that appeared in a paper in the host city.

So the Cincinnati Enquirer provided the best coverage of the first 2 games, played on Tuesday, Oct. 11:




His Team Badly Slaughtered by

the Reds.


Young Smith Proves a Terror to the

Windy City Men.


It only took six innings yesterday to satisfy Anson's Chicago aggregation that Cincinnati could beat them. It was a Waterlook for the Windy City crowd, who were knocked out of shape in the first inning [when the Reds scored 7 runs].

The weather was raw and cold, and it was very uncomfortable even to those who wore heavy overcoats.

Seventeen hundred people witne

ssed the game, which, although very one-sided, furnished great sport for the spectators, most of whom had confidence that the home club would win.

The Chicago team is a fine looking body of men, active in the field and usually good with the stick, but they showed up poorly in the latter respect yesterday.

Elmer Smith again showed himself to be on the of the most effective pitchers in the country.


Could do nothing with him in the entire six innings, only one hit -- a scratch back of second base -- being made off his delivery. Smith had his opponents at his mercy, and no pitcher in the League has held the Chicagos down to one hit this or any other season.

Such sluggers as Burns, Ryan, Williamson, Anson and Pfeffer made little baby hits to the infield or struck out. It was laughable to see how hard the Chicagos tried to knock the ball out of reach, and how lamentably they failed.

The spectators were almost willing to forgive the biting cold wind to see the Reds play with the White Stockings as a cat does with a mouse. Nearly all the Cincinnati boys put up a fine game, and every man in the nine got one or more hits. . . .

[A]t the end of the sixth inning Anson threw up the sponge and acknowledged his club was licked. It was no use to play longer, and the Chicagos will try to do a better job today.




The Enquirer's account began with rhyming headlines:




For Anson's Windy City Crew.


The Cincinnati Reds, Time-Tried and



Dish Up to the California Wonder

a Kidney Stew.


Babe Anson and the rest of the Chicago team left the Cincinnati grounds yesterday fully convinced that they were no match for the Cincinnatis.

For the second time the home club jumped on the gang from the Windy City, and before two innings had been played the famous White Stockings were at the bottom and the Reds at the top of the ladder.

[The score was 5-1 by then. The Reds, batting first, added 3 runs in the sixth and 4 in the ninth, before the Whites tallied 2 in their final inning.]

It was not as cool as the day before, but nevertheless it was not good base-ball weather. About 1,4000 people sat and shivered while the Cincinnati boys danced around the bases at will and made regular monkeys out of the visitors in every manner.

Van Haltren, a left-handed pitcher from the Pacific Slope, was in the box for the Cincinnatis to face. He was an easy mark for the local batsmen.

In fact, they made his delivery as warm as the country he came from.


The Reds rapped out 16 hits, including 3 triples.

When the game was over, teams hurried to catch a train to Chicago, where they would meet again the next afternoon.



Neither the Chicago Tribune nor the rival Inter Ocean devoted as much space to the Friday afternoon game at West Side Park as they would have to a typical regular-season game.

The short reports in both papers appeared beneath stories about the fourth game of the Detroit-St. Louis showdown, in which the Wolverines blanked the Browns, 8-0, to take a 3-1 lead.

From the Tribune:


Yesterday was not a good base-ball day. The air was altogether too cold for good ball playing or the enjoyment of a game by spectators.

It was a particularly bad day for the Cincinnati team. They not only unable to bat Sprague's curves to any extent, but rolled up so many errors [18!] that the crowd, after having laughed for a while at their loose work, lost patience, and began to shout, "Play ball!"

Serad and Baldwin were the visiting battery. Serad gave six men bases on balls, made three wild pitches, and his delivery was batted for fourteen actual hits, including two home runs, a triple, and a two-bagger.


Cap Anson and Jimmy Ryan smacked the homers.

The score was 4-2 after an inning, then the Whites scored 3 times in the second to pull away.



In a see-saw battle, the Whites led, 2-0; trailed, 2-4; led, 5-4; trailed, 5-6; and tied the score at 6 with a run in the fifth.

Then the Reds scored once in their half of the fifth and held the Whites scoreless the rest of the way, while tallying 3 more runs themselves.

From the Tribune:


A cold wind swept over White Stocking Park yesterday, and so thoroughly chilled the 300 spectators of the second Chicago-Cincinnati contest on the home grounds that every one of them was swilling to swear that exhibition games in such weather did not pay.

While the spectators reached this opinion from a sanitary standpoint, it is quite likely that the management, reasoning from a financial point of view, reached the same conclusion.

There was hardly any excuse for playing the game, and certainly none for playing nine innings. But the home team was behind, and it, at least, had to play nine full innings, and until its last chance was gone the crowd remained.


With the victory, the Reds clinched the series.



The teams traded the lead again: 1-0 in favor of the Reds after an inning, 3-1 for the Whites midway through the third, 4-3 for the Reds after the fifth and 5-3 for the Whites after they scored twice in the sixth.

The Reds pulled even with a run in the bottom of the seventh. The Whites went ahead to stay on an error and a wild pitch in the eighth, which proved to be the final inning.

From the Tribune:


Notwithstanding that yesterday afternoon was very pleasant there were not over 400 persons at White Stocking Park to see the final game between the Chicago and Cincinnati clubs.

Krock, the Oshkosh twirler, did not pitch for the home team, as announced. He arrived at the city during the morning and when he reached the grounds asked to be excused from pitching, because he was tired and did not feel like playing.

He was excused, and Van Haltren was put in the box with Daly to support him.


Whites third baseman Patsy Tebeau, younger brother of Reds outfielder George Tebeau, probably wished he had asked for the day off, too:

"In third inning, Reilly drove a terrific liner at Tebeau, who tried to catch it, but, failing to do so, was struck in the abdomen by the ball and knocked out.

"He lay on the ground for about ten minutes and then got up and walked slowly to the club house. Darling was called out of the g rand stand and sent to right field," with the right fielder replacing Tebeau at third.


The series against the Reds may have been over, but the Whites' season was not. They departed for Minnesota, to play 2 games at Minneapolis and 2 at St. Paul.

The Reds returned home, where they played 2 games against the Cleveland Blues, an AA rival, for the "state championship" of Ohio.

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