Tuesday, October 13, 2015
This Week in 1908
The World Series begins in Detroit amid much fanfare, but not a great deal of excitement. The Tigers, led by Ty Cobb, are the prohibitive underdogs and the city of Detroit isn't optimistic that they can win it all.
Big Ed Reulbach, who has been on fire for the past month, is given the ball to start this game and he doesn't quite have it. The Cubs go to the bullpen in the seventh and eighth, calling on their big guns Orval Overall and Mordecai Brown to rescue the win. Neither man pitches that well, but the Cubs come back to score 5 runs in the top of the ninth to win the game 10-6. The bottom of their order, Solly Hofman and Johnny Kling (each with two RBI), are the heroes of this Game 1 victory.
The World Series comes to Chicago for Game 2, but Chicago also isn't nearly as excited as it had been the last few years. There are a couple of good reasons for that.
First of all, many Chicagoans are disappointed the White Sox faltered in the closing days of the season. Another series with the Detroit Tigers isn't nearly as compelling as a rematch of the 1906 crosstown series would have been. But secondly, and most importantly, Cubs owner Charles Murphy takes this opportunity to gouge his fans. He charges 4 times as much for the tickets and conspires with scalpers to charge even more. This blows up in his face. Already wildly unpopular in Chicago, Murphy becomes a pariah. Cubs fans try to organize a boycott to protest Murphy's actions.
Only 17,700 show up for first game in Chicago. This is a respectable crowd, but the Cubs have drawn more for their games against the Giants and Pirates. On the field, Orval Overall pitches a masterpiece. In the eighth inning he is working on a three hit shutout, when the Cubs explode for six runs. Joe Tinker hits a two run home run and Wildfire Schulte adds a triple. Ty Cobb (photo) knocks in the only Tigers run in the top of the ninth, but it's too little, too late, and the Cubs take a 2-0 lead in the series.
The protest continues before Game 3 at West Side Grounds. This time only 14,543 show up. Jack Pfiester, who doesn't have much left in the tank after an injury prone year, has another bad outing. This time he gives up 8 runs and the Cubs are never in the game. The crowd lets them have it, and after the needless drama caused by their despised owner, the Cubs are happy to return to Detroit for the rest of the series.
Bennett Park is not exactly a palace. It's built on a former haymarket and beneath the thin layer of grass is cobblestone. But the Cubs are in no mood to let this series linger long enough to return to Chicago. They finally pitch their ace, Mordecai Brown, and he throws a three-hit shutout. A third inning Harry Steinfeldt RBI single is all the Cubs need to take a commanding 3-1 lead in the series.
Even the Detroit fans lose interest in the series now. It's obvious that their team isn't in the same class as the Cubs. That fact, in addition to the fact that so few Cubs fans went to Detroit, plus the blustery October weather, conspire to bring out only 6210 fans to the clinching Game 5. It remains the smallest crowd in World Series history.
Those 6210 die-hards on October 14, 1908 witness another dominating pitching performance by Orval Overall. Like his teammate Three Finger Brown, Overall pitches a 3-hit shutout. He strikes out ten Tigers and rides the first inning Frank Chance RBI single to victory. (The Cubs added another run in the 5th to win 2-0).
There was no way anyone there could have known it then, but when Tigers catcher Boss Schmidt nubs one off the end of the bat and is thrown out by Cubs catcher Johnny Kling, it marks the final time the Cubs will celebrate a World Series championship.
Charles Murphy (photo above) begins dismantling the team (beginning with a contract dispute with Johnny Kling) soon thereafter. He will later get rid of Frank Chance (while he is in the hospital for brain surgery), Johnny Evers (who wins another World Series with the Braves), and Joe Tinker (who returns after Murphy is gone). Murphy will also run off Mordecai Brown and Orval Overall in contract disputes. But maybe his worst sin is that he lets West Side Grounds deteriorate so badly that fans fear for their lives in this wooden ballpark. The city threatens to condemn it, but Murphy stubbornly refuses to lay out the money to improve it or build a new stadium. Murphy will become so despised that his fellow National League owners will run him out of the game in 1916.
The new owner, Charles Weeghman, will move the Cubs from the west side to the north side, and begin playing at what is now known as Wrigley Field.