Chicago Cubs Information

The success and fame of the Cincinnati Red Stockings of 1869, baseball's first openly professional team, led to a minor explosion of openly professional teams in 1870, each with the singular goal of defeating the Red Stockings. A number of them adopted variants on the name and colors, and it happens that the Chicagos adopted white as their primary color. After a summer of individually arranged contests among the various teams, the time was right for the organization of the first professional league, the National Association, in 1871.

The Chicago White Stockings were close contenders all summer, but disaster struck on October 8 when a fire began in Mrs. O'Leary's barn on DeKoven Street on the near south side of the city. The Great Chicago Fire destroyed the club's ballpark, uniforms and other possessions. The club completed its schedule with borrowed uniforms, finishing second in the N.A. just 2 games behind, but was compelled to drop out of the league during the city's recovery period, finally being revived in 1874.

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The Cubs again relied on dominant pitching during this period, featuring hurlers such as Mordecai "Three-Finger" Brown, Jack Taylor, Ed Reulbach, Jack Pfiester and Orval Overall, who posted a record for lowest staff earned run average that still stands today. Reulbach threw a one-hitter in the 1906 World Series, one of a small handful of twirlers to pitch low-hit games in the post-season (another was Claude Passeau of the Cubs' 1945 squad). Brown acquired his unique and indelicate nickname from having lost most of his index finger in farm machinery when he was a youngster. This gave him the ability to put a natural extra spin on his pitches, which often frustrated opposing batters.

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Unfortunately, their success did not extend to the post-season, as they fell to their American League rivals each time, often in humiliating fashion. By the late 1930s, the double-Bills (Wrigley and Veeck), were both dead. As the decade wound down, the front office under P.K. Wrigley was unable to rekindle the kind of success that P.K.'s father had created, and the Cubs slipped into mediocrity. They enjoyed one more pennant, at the close of another wartime year, 1945, lost the World Series, and have not been back since then, at least through the 2005 season.

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Derrek Lee, Aramis Ramirez and Moises Alou celebrate a Lee home runIn 1969, The Cubs had an 8-game lead in August led by Hall Of Famers Ernie Banks, Ferguson Jenkins and Billy Williams, but they wilted under pressure, lost key games against the surprising New York Mets, and floundered a shot at the postseason by 8 games (92-70). Many superstitious fans attribute this collapse to an incident at Shea Stadium when a fan released a black cat onto the field, thereby cursing the club. Others have stated that all the day games that the Cubs had to play contributed them to their collapse. Chicago's summers are quite humid (85-90 degrees Fahrenheit on average), and playing in this heat day after day might have taken its toll. In 1984, the Cubs won the first two games of the then-best of 5 National League Championship Series at Wrigley Field against the San Diego Padres. It should be noted that at the time, the Cubs had the better record of the two teams. The team with the better record has home field advantage. Normally, that would have meant the first two games would have been played in San Diego, the remaining three in Chicago. But due to Wrigley Field not having lights (making it impossible for night games), Major League Baseball changed the rules because the day games wouldn't have brought in as much revenue as night ones, and they couldn't have been broadcast in prime time.

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In 2004, misfortune struck the Cubs again. Having the Wild Card lead by a game and a half on September 24, the Cubs proceeded to drop 7 of their last 9 games, mostly to teams with sub .500 records, and relinquished the Wild Card to the then-red hot Houston Astros. This time, the fallout was decidedly unlovable, as the Cubs traded superstar Sammy Sosa in the off-season, after he had left the final game early and then attempted to lie about it publicly. Sosa, already a controversial figure in the clubhouse, alienated much of his fan base (and the few team members who still were on good terms with him) with this incident, leaving his place in Cubs' lore possibly tarnished for years to come. The disappointing season also led to the departure of popular commentator Steve Stone, who became increasingly critical of management toward season's end.

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Inconsistency struck the Cubs for their 2005 season, as the team finished under .500 for the first time since 2002 with a 79-83 record and fourth place in the NL Central. Again, the Cubs were hit by injury to pitchers Mark Prior and Kerry Wood, and shortstop Nomar Garciaparra suffered a groin injury in late April, which kept him out for three months. Despite the bleak ending for the injury-plagued Cubs, the team witnessed a career year from first baseman Derrek Lee (.335 batting average, 46 home runs, 107 RBIs) and the rise of closer Ryan Dempster (33 saves in 35 save opportunities).

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In his 1950 book The World Series and Highlights of Baseball, LaMont Buchanan wrote the following prose next to photos of Wrigley during the 1945 World Series and of their newly-hired manager: "From the sublime to last place! Wrigley Field, the ivy of its walls still whispering of past greatness, watches its Cubs grow less ferocious in '47, '48, '49. New doctor of the cure is smiling Frank Frisch, veteran of previous baseball transfusions who thinks, 'It's nice to have the fans with you.' Chicago has a great baseball tradition. The fans remember glorious yesterdays as they wait for brighter tomorrows. And eventually their Cubs will bite again." Little did anyone realize how long "eventually" might turn out to be.

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Despite their image as "Lovable Losers" during the post-WWII era, the club's longevity combined with their earlier successes add up to a major league record 9,756 victories (for a franchise in a single city) through the 2004 season. In other years the Cubs have shown they can win, or at least contend, when their pitching is superior. Outstanding pitching has been a major difference in every one of their winning seasons since WWII. But although there is no substitute for front-office savvy and on-the-field excellence, the venerable ballpark itself has to be considered a factor in the teams' failures to go farther than they have. When the bleachers were extended into left field in 1937, it shortened the true power alley from a posted distance of 372 feet to about 350 feet, which is too short for major league standards, especially for a left field. Most batters are right-handed, so their natural power alley is left-center.

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During the 2005 offseason, the Cubs revamped their outfield, acquiring speedy leadoff man Juan Pierre from the Florida Marlins for pitcher Sergio Mitre and two minor leaguers, and signing right fielder Jacque Jones to a three year deal. They also added two new arms to their bullpen, signing veterans Bobby Howry and Scott Eyre, both to three year contracts. Disappointing center fielder Corey Patterson, who at one time was a highly touted prospect, was traded to the Baltimore Orioles for two minor leaguers. The Cubs also saw shortstop Nomar Garciaparra depart via free agency to the Los Angeles Dodgers. Starting pitcher Wade Miller, formerly of the Red Sox and Astros, was also signed, getting a 1 year, $1 million contract.

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