With a month left before pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training I’m taking a look back at Cubs yesteryear.
This first post begins in 1901, the first season of the American League as we know it today, and a time in which the Cubs were still two years away from changing its nickname from Orphans to Cubs.
Aside from a slew of fancy names: Cupid, Topsy, Cozy, Jock, Germany, Rube and Mal, the Cubs weren’t much for winning or large crowds at the West Side Park — they finished fifth in the league in attendance (205,071), slightly better than its (53-86-1) sixth place finish in the eight-team National League.
Outfielder Topsy Hartsel lead the team in batting average (.335) and home runs (7). The now well-known Frank Chance was just a young 24-year-old then, in his fourth season, and still honing his skills to an eventual Hall of Fame career. Chance played in 69 games, batted .278 and stole nearly as many bases (27) as he drew walks (29). Pitcher Rube Waddell anchored the starting staff with 14 wins and a sparkling 2.81 ERA.
Despite the team’s poor record, however, this roster soon blossomed as the foundation of a championship club. During the following year, 1902, the Orphans fell just shy of .500 at 68-69-4. By 1903 the improvement was 26 games above .500 and a third place finish.
From 1904 to 1910 the club never fell short of 92 wins, which also included four trips to the World Series — losing in 1906 to the cross-town White Sox, winning back-to-back-titles in 1907 & ’08 against Detroit, and finally dropping the 1910 series vs. the Philadelphia Athletics.
Oh, how we yearn for the days of Cubs yesteryear!