Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
Before the Ivy

Before the Ivy: The Cubs' Golden Age in Pre-Wrigley Chicago

LAURENT PERNOT
Copyright Date: 2015
https://doi.org/10.5406/j.ctt6wr6vq
Pages: 184
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.5406/j.ctt6wr6vq
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Before the Ivy
    Book Description:

    All Cub fans know from heartbreak and curse-toting goats. Fewer know that, prior to moving to the north side in 1916, the team fielded powerhouse nines that regularly claimed the pennant. Before the Ivy offers a grandstand seat to a golden age: - BEHOLD the 1871 team as it plays for the title in nine different borrowed uniforms after losing everything in the Great Chicago Fire - ATTEND West Side Grounds at Polk and Wolcott with its barbershop quartet - MARVEL as superstar Cap Anson hits .399, makes extra cash running a ballpark ice rink, and strikes out as an elected official - WONDER at experiments with square bats and corked balls, the scandal of Sunday games and pre-game booze-ups, the brazen spitters and park dimensions changed to foil Ty Cobb - RAZZ Charles Comiskey as he adopts a Cubs hand-me-down moniker for his team's name - THRILL to the poetic double-play combo of Tinker, Evers, and Chance even as they throw tantrums at umpires and punches at each other - CHEER as Merkle's Boner and the Cubs' ensuing theatrics send the team to the 1908 World Series Rich with Hall of Fame personalities and oddball stories, Before the Ivy opens a door to Chicago's own field of dreams and serves as every Cub fan's guide to a time when thoughts of "next year" filled rival teams with dread.

    eISBN: 978-0-252-09665-5
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

Export Selected Citations Export to NoodleTools Export to RefWorks Export to EasyBib Export a RIS file (For EndNote, ProCite, Reference Manager, Zotero, Mendeley...) Export a Text file (For BibTex)
  1. INTRODUCTION
    (pp. 1-4)

    MORE THAN A CENTURY AFTER their last victory in the World Series, the Chicago Cubs’ best chance at renewed glory may be a Field of Dreams–like lesson with their predecessors on the West Side of Chicago at Polk and Wood, where one can still stand over part of the old outfield.

    Before the ballpark that would become Wrigley Field and be symbolized by its ivy,¹ Chicago was home to a combination of league builders, sports entrepreneurs, and Hall of Famers with no equals before and few since.

    Prior to its move to the North Side in 1916, the team...

  2. CHAPTER 1 FROM LITTLE ENGLISH ACORN TO GIANT AMERICAN OAK
    (pp. 5-9)

    ON A COLD AND FOGGY LONDON DAY in March 1889, a group of American baseball stars played an exhibition game before Edward, Prince of Wales and future King of England, and hundreds of curious nobles and onlookers. The affair had been arranged by A.G. Spalding, perhaps the game’s greatest early promoter, who painstakingly explained the game’s subtleties to the prince. Though excited by the action on the field, the monarch concluded, “I consider Base Ball an excellent game, but Cricket a better one.”¹

    The goal of the exhibition, which marked the end of a world tour by Spalding and assorted...

  3. CHAPTER 2 THE BASEBALL FRONTIER
    (pp. 10-16)

    IT IS UNCLEAR WHEN ORGANIZED BASEBALL was first played in Chicago, but there is evidence of games taking place by the mid-1850s. As early as 1851, theLockport Telegraphreported on a contest between the Joliet Hunkidoris and the hometown Sleepers. A Niagara Base Ball Club was reported founded in July 1818 in Chicago. The earliest remaining mention of a baseball game in the city proper appears in the August 17, 1858 edition of theDaily Journal. The game between the Unions and the Excelsiors was played with the same rules in place in New York; the Chicago Baseball Club...

  4. CHAPTER 3 CHICAGO’S HIRED GUNS
    (pp. 17-23)

    AFTER THE CIVIL WAR, in 1866 and 1867, the reconstituted Chicago Excelsiors won tournaments against some of the best teams in the region and the Midwest, giving rise to hopes of contending at the national level. But when Washington’s Nationals came to town on July 27, 1867, the locals were humiliated 49 to 4.¹ On June 21, 1868, the Cincinnati Red Stockings crushed the Excelsiors 43 to 22 and, the next day, disposed of the Atlantics 28 to 9.² These newly arranged Red Stockings were revolutionizing organized baseball, disorganized as it was.

    In 1868, what Spalding would later call “the...

  5. CHAPTER 4 THE PHOENIX
    (pp. 24-30)

    IN 1871, FOR A $10 FEE, the team entered Harry Wright’s newly formed National Association of Professional Base Ball Players, which enshrined the concept of professionalism and aimed to put an end to the type of messes that had marred the end of the previous season.¹ Along with the White Stockings, the NAPBBP had entries from Boston, Brooklyn, New York, Philadelphia, Troy, Cleveland, Fort Wayne, and Rockford.² The White Stockings, who could now count on a set schedule, moved to Lake Park, a new facility at Randolph Street and Michigan Avenue.³ The enclosure had a seating capacity of seven thousand...

  6. CHAPTER 5 CHICAGO’S OWN LEAGUE
    (pp. 31-36)

    IN JUNE 1875, THE WHITE STOCKINGS’ new owner William Hulbert scheduled “the biggest string of great games, ever attempted, by a single club in a month” and told his brother Eri that “I am bound to find out what they are made of.” The result was “some wonderful games, but on the whole not up to the standard.”² The Chicagos finished the season sixth, in the middle of the pack. While it had been hoped the NAPBBP would infuse consistency in the schedule, things remained very lax, and yielded rankings that probably were not reflective of true strength. Boston was...

  7. CHAPTER 6 THE BIRTH OF A DYNASTY
    (pp. 37-46)

    FOR THE INAUGURAL YEAR of the National League, 1876, the White Stockings for the first time had the luxury of a clubhouse, located a block from their 23rd Street Grounds at 23rd and Wabash Avenue. Previous teams had been showering and suiting up at home. Now they could boast of a locker room “furnished in the most gorgeous style of the furniture dealer’s art” in what theChicago Tribunecalled a “fine mansion” at 1030 Wabash that even featured a billiards table in the basement. The club was financed through $20,000 in shares.¹ The 1876 White Stockings, now managed by...

  8. CHAPTER 7 KEEPING THE STOCKINGS WHITE
    (pp. 47-50)

    IN JULY 1884, Spalding had his secretary write to the Toledo ball club in preparation for a game. The purpose what to remind Toledo that it had agreed to keep Moses Fleetwood Walker, its black catcher, off the diamond for the game.¹ Spalding claimed to be acting under pressure from his players, which would have been highly unusual.

    Some months earlier, the White Stockings had been prepared to take the field against Toledo when Anson took notice of Walker and deadpanned: “Get that nigger off the field.”² When its opponents refused to play without their catcher, Chicago agreed to play...

  9. CHAPTER 8 WEST SIDE HOME
    (pp. 51-57)

    IN JUNE 1885, the new grounds were ready for the White Stockings’ first game. Spalding was leasing land that had been appraised at $750,000. The $30,000 structure, called West Side Park, was bounded by Loomis to the west, Throop to the east, Harrison to the south, and Congress to the north. The u-shaped grandstand was a wooden structure, but a $10,000 brick wall had been erected around the park, creating, theMirror of American Sportssaid, “without doubt the finest [ballpark] in America, and [...] probably not surpassed by any athletic grounds in the world.” The grandstand counted 2,500 numbered...

  10. CHAPTER 9 THE NATIONAL LEAGUE AIN’T THE WORLD
    (pp. 58-61)

    GONE WERE THE DAYS WHEN WINNING a pennant meant a team could go home as champions. For now, the White Stockings could only claim the title of 1885 National League Champions. They would have to defeat the St. Louis Browns before they could call themselves “Champions of the World.” In 1881, in response to Hulbert’s decision to ban liquor from National League parks and the league’s stance against Sunday baseball, a group of brewers had organized the American Association to sell more beer.¹ Dubbed the Beer Ball League, the group was formally born in Cincinnati, a city that Hulbert had...

  11. CHAPTER 10 THE SABBATH BATTLES
    (pp. 62-66)

    ON GAME DAY, FEW BLUE-COLLAR WORKERS or unsavory characters so feared by Spalding were to be found at the ballpark. Sunday games had been forbidden by the National League in 1878—only a few exhibition games took place on the Sabbath before then—thus precluding workers, whose only day off was Sunday, from attending the games. Immigrants—German and Irish being the most numerous—made up three-fifths of the city’s population. They celebrated Sundays as a day for leisurely activities and beer gardens.¹ Yet, though it was for some of them a stone’s throw away from their home, the Whites’...

  12. CHAPTER 11 “IT WAS STRAIGHT WHISKEY”
    (pp. 67-72)

    THE SETTLEMENT OF THE SUNDAY QUESTION was the culmination of years of a tense relationship between the club and the middle class it purported to emulate and entertain. When West Side Park opened in 1885, its affluent neighbors opposed it as a threat to the neighborhood’s well-being.¹ The makeup of the neighborhood did change progressively over the next few years to include more immigrants.² Between 1890 and 1900, the eleventh ward’s population increased from 35,000 to 37,500. By 1910, the figure would jump to 57,664. What had been in 1890 a community dominated by native whites with some immigrants at...

  13. CHAPTER 12 “MIGHTY CASEY HAS STRUCK OUT”
    (pp. 73-79)

    SPALDING WAS EVEN MORE FORWARD than he had been the previous year in blaming the players for losing the 1886 title to St. Louis. He accused them of having drunk too much before games and denied them their bonuses for the year. Moreover, Spalding thought the team’s fans were ready for “new blood” to replace “the same faces year after year.”¹ He engineered what Anson called “a general shaking up along the line.”²

    Spalding had not forgiven Kelly for his arrogant attitude during the Pinkerton affair, convinced that “Kelly’s habits were not conducive to the best interest of the club...

  14. CHAPTER 13 BASEBALL MISSIONARIES
    (pp. 80-83)

    WITH CLARKSON GONE, the pitching load was spread around in 1888. Gus Krock appeared in thirty-eight games, winning twenty-four. The White Stockings used eleven pitchers altogether. Again, Anson led the team at the plate with .344. Jimmy Ryan had 182 hits, which translated into a .332 batting average. He hit for the cycle on July 28. The team was head and shoulders above most of the league but could not overcome New York, which finished nine games ahead with a phenomenal team ERA of 1.96. In keeping with the Spalding touch, the team did again very well at the gate,...

  15. CHAPTER 14 THE LEAN YEARS
    (pp. 84-86)

    WHEN THEY ONCE AGAIN TOOK THE FIELD against their National League rivals for the 1889 season, the White Stockings were never in the running for the pennant. Shortstop Ned Williamson could not come back to form after knee problems stemming from the world tour. Gus Krock, who had led the pitching staff the previous year, developed arm trouble. Although Anson picked up where he left off with a .342 batting average, the team finished third behind New York and Boston. Though that finish was honorable in a field of eight teams, Chicago was nineteen games out of first and eighteen...

  16. CHAPTER 15 BACK TO THE WEST SIDE
    (pp. 87-91)

    WITH FALTERING HITTERS AND TIRING PITCHERS, the team finished twenty-nine games behind Boston in 1883. Owing to the success of his Sunday baseball experiment at West Side Grounds that year, Spalding moved all of the team’s games to Polk and Wood streets for the 1894 season. The Metropolitan west side elevated, on the path of the future I-294, would soon facilitate the trip to the ballpark when it opened in 1895, and even more so when the line hooked up with the Loop L in 1897.¹

    The new $30,000 stadium had a majesty missing from the team’s previous homes. For...

  17. CHAPTER 16 FROM COLTS TO CUBS
    (pp. 92-98)

    IN SPITE OF A RESURGENCE IN 1894, when he hit .395, Anson clearly was slipping, at least in his own eyes. In 1897, after announcing it would be his last year as a player, he hit “only” .302, the third-lowest total of his twenty-two-year career. That was still good for fifth among position players, and he ranked third in RBIs. But that number, along with his run production, was down. He did set several historical marks that year: he became the game’s first three-thousand-hit player and, at forty-six, the oldest man to hit above .300. Anson had learned to make...

  18. CHAPTER 17 THE SADDEST OF POSSIBLE WORDS?
    (pp. 99-109)

    IN 1903, FOR THE FIRST TIME SINCE 1891, the Cubs finished fewer than ten games off the lead. The very relative resurgence coincided with the first full season to bring together an infield that would become music to fans’ ears and go into history as one of the greatest baseball trios and double-play threats of all time: Frank Chance, Johnny Evers, and Joe Tinker.

    In 1910,New York Worldcolumnist Franklin P. Adams would pen “Baseball’s Sad Lexicon,” one of the most famous baseball pieces ever written:

    These are the saddest of possible words:

    “Tinker to Evers to Chance.” Trio...

  19. CHAPTER 18 “THE FELLOWS WHO MADE THE GAME”
    (pp. 110-121)

    ADJECTIVES IN EARLY BASEBALL COVERAGE were almost as rare as an unassisted triple play. Chicago newspaper writers soon began giving readers more vivid and lively accounts of games with what has been called the Chicago style of baseball reporting. Slang, metaphor, and simile crept into the sports pages on their way to the rest of the paper and the language.¹ This not only helped change how the papers covered everything else, but it expanded the reach of baseball across Chicago through the “new idea in making the reports of the games interesting and entertaining enough to be read by all...

  20. CHAPTER 19 OUT IN LEFT FIELD?
    (pp. 122-129)

    AS SPORTSWRITERS BECAME MORE CREATIVE, more and more of the game’s colorful imagery permeated everyday English in a way achieved by no other American sport. One prominent expression may even have been born at Cubs park. From the clutch hitter who bats a thousand to the pinch hitter who came to play ball and is ready to go to bat for his teammate, the shadow of the ballplayer is present in descriptions of other sports and work situations. “It is interesting to note the number of metaphors that arise out of the teamwork aspect of baseball, and how few arise...

  21. CHAPTER 20 AGAIN, CHICAGO IS CHAMPION
    (pp. 130-135)

    FROM 1903 TO 1905, THE CUBS LIVED at or near the top of the league. The team finished second or third in each of those three years, Chance leading the team every time with batting averages above .300. Collectively, however, the team struggled at the plate with a combined .248 in 1904 and .245 in 1905. On the mound, a new star was emerging. There had been no one to claim the mantle of the great Clark Griffith, who won twenty-plus games for six straight seasons beginning in 1894 for the hapless Colts before being wooed to the White Sox...

  22. CHAPTER 21 COVERING THE BASES
    (pp. 136-138)

    ONE THING CHICAGO POLITICIANS UNDERSTOOD all too well was the rare opportunity for posturing brought about by the first-ever crosstown World Series. On October 8, 1906, the first day of the series, the city council passed an ordinance proclaiming:

    Whereas, the game of baseball has become known throughout the world as the national game of America, and

    Whereas, Through the skill, ingenuity and sportsmanship of the management and members of the two base ball clubs representing the City of Chicago in the National League and American League, said clubs have brought to this city the pennants of their respective leagues...

  23. CHAPTER 22 THREE MORE PENNANTS
    (pp. 139-150)

    IN THE FOUR YEARS AFTER THEIR DEFEAT to the Sox, the Cubs continued to assert themselves as one of the greatest dynasties in the history of the game. In 1907, while the reigning World Champions faltered on the South Side, the Cubs repeated as the best in the National League. Chance managed the team to a 107-45 finish, and led the club with a .293 batting average. Pittsburgh was a distant second, seventeen games behind, in spite of Honus Wagner’s league-high.350. With the Chicago batsmen hitting .250 for the season—nobody hit above .300, and they ranked third in the...

  24. CHAPTER 23 GOING, GOING . . .
    (pp. 151-155)

    CHANCE ESSENTIALLY TOOK HIMSELF OUT of the lineup in 1911, when he batted .239 over thirty-one games.¹ Evers batted .226 in just forty-six games, the victim of a nervous breakdown likely owing to the bankruptcy of a side business and a car accident in which he was the driver and his best friend was killed.² Catcher Johnny Kling was traded. On the mound, King Cole (18-7) and “Three Finger” Brown (21-11) anchored a squad that still got the wins but whose earned-run average was “slipping” to reach almost 3.00. Two players prevented the team from sliding farther than second place...

  25. CHAPTER 24 GONE
    (pp. 156-158)

    ONE FEDERAL OWNER WAS ALLOWED to buy the St. Louis Browns while Weeghman gained control of the Cubs from Charles Taft for $500,000 in January 1916. Among his financial partners were J. Ogden Armour, of meatpacking fame, and William Wrigley Jr., of the chewing gum empire. The Baltimore team, left out of the agreement, sued the major leagues; the U.S. Supreme Court closed the book on theFederal Baseball Club v. National Leaguecase in 1922 with its famous ruling that baseball was a form of entertainment not subject to the Sherman Antitrust Act. Weeghman began his tenure as Cubs...

  26. APPENDIX A: ABOUT THE BALLPARKS: STADIUMS OF THE CHICAGO CUBS AND THEIR ANCESTORS
    (pp. 159-160)
  27. APPENDIX B: THE TEAM THROUGH THE DECADES
    (pp. 161-164)