Chicago Sports Franchises: Chicago Cubs
March 2, 2011 Leave a comment
World Series Championships: (2) 1907, 1908
Retired Numbers: #10 Ron Santo, #14 Ernie Banks, #23 Ryne Sandberg, #26 Billy Williams, #31 Ferguson Jenkins, #31 Greg Maddux, #42 Jackie Robinson (retired league-wide)
Rivals: Chicago White Sox, St. Louis Cardinals, Cincinnati Reds
Before we get started on the history of the Cubs, it should be noted that the most significant piece of Cubs info is that they have not won a World Series championship since 1908 and have not appeared in the Fall Classic since 1945. Although they have made the playoffs a semi-respectable six times from 1984 to their most recent in 2008, it is the longest title drought in all four of the major American professional sports leagues, which includes the “Big Four” sports we cover here on HFA, including the MLB, NBA, NHL, and NFL. In fact, the Cubs’ last World Series title occurred before those other three leagues even existed. All is not lost, however, as the Cubs have won three fictional World Series titles in the films Rookie of the Year, Back to the Future Part II, and Taking Care of Business.
In 1876, the Chicago White Stockings become one of eight charter members of the National League. Their first game was the first recorded NL shutout, a 4-0 win over Louisville. The White Stockings go on to win the inaugural National League championship. Using nicknames such as the “White Stockings,” “Colts,” and Orphans,” the team has played in five different locations in the 1800s. The Chicago team quickly established itself as one of the sport’s first dynasties, winning six of the first 11 titles in the league’s existence.
The 1900’s were the decade upon which Cubs fans both hang their hats and subsequently pull their teeth out about. In 1902, noting the young players leading the team to success, a local newspaper penned the nickname Cubs for the first time, with it officially being adopted by the team in 1907. The organization enjoyed the most successful decade in its history. In 1906, the Cubs posted all-time major league records for wins in a season (116) and winning percentage (.763) enroute to their first pennant of the 20th century. The only all-Chicago World Series was played with the White Sox winning in six games.
Both disappointed and motivated by this loss, the team, in 1907, won its second consecutive National League pennant and won their first World Series, defeating Ty Cobb and his Detroit Tigers and Ty Cobb, four games to two. They followed this up the next year by winning their second consecutive World Championship, repeating their World Series victory over Detroit, this time four games to one. Their appearance in three consecutive World Series made the Cubs the first Major League club to play three times in the Fall Classic. Additionally, their back-to-back World Series victories made them the first club to do achieve such a feat.
The 1910’s and 1920’s were dubbed the “golden age” of baseball, a feeling emulated by the sparkling play of the Cubs organization. It was during this time that a savvy front office brought back respectability to the Cubs organization, putting numerous future Hall of Famers in Cubs uniforms, including Rogers Hornsby, Hack Wilson, and Gabby Hartnett. They also achieved the unique feat of winning a pennant every three years in the years 1929, 1932, 1935, and 1938, but still could not manage to win the Fall Classic.
The team’s final World Series appearance of the 20th century occurred in 1945, in which the team lost to Detroit in a heartbreaking Game 7. The decades following were ones characterized by generally forgettable baseball, as the drought continue to extend, wrenching the hearts of players and fans alike. As a matter of fact, it was during the 1970’s that the phrase “Lovable Losers” was coined in reference to the enticing yet pathetic championship drought that continued to plague the Cubs organization.
Changes were in store for the Cubs in the 1980s in regards to ownership, postseason play and the park. In 1981, the Wrigley family ended their 65-year ownership of the team, selling the team to the Tribune Company for $20.5 million.
In 1984, the Cubs miraculously won their first NL Eastern Division championship, returning to postseason play for the first time since 1945. Under manager Jim Frey, the Cubs posted a 96-65 record and broke the 2 million attendance checkpoint. It was also during this year that second baseman Ryne Sandberg won the NL MVP, and hurler Rick Sutcliffe went won the NL Cy Young award. However, the drought continued, as the Cubs lost the NLCS to the San Diego Padres in five games.
The team won their second NL Eastern Division championship in 1989. Led by manager Don Zimmer, Chicago enjoyed superb seasons from a numbers of Cubs on the roster, but still fell to the San Francisco Giants in the 1989 NLCS in five. And so the heartbreak continued.
The 1990’s began the era of Sammy. Setting the stage for greater things to come, in 1993 Sammy Sosa became the first player in Cubs history to post a 30-30 season, finishing the year with 33 homers and 36 steals. He duplicated the milestone the next full season and along the way, hit the organization’s 10,000th home run. Winning the 9,000th game in franchise history in 1995, the Cubs have officially won more games than any other one-city professional sports franchise.
The 1998 saw a home run race between Sosa and Mark McGwire of the rival St. Louis Cardinals, but more importantly, a Cubs’ return to the postseason, capturing the Wild Card before falling to the Braves in the first round. Coming off the Wild Card season, the club established single-year marks for home, road and total attendance in 1999.
The 2002 season began with high expectations, but after it ended in yet another year of disappointment, the Cubs hired new manager Dusty Baker and made roster moves like that for outfielder Kenny Lofton, and rode out dominant pitching from Kerry Wood and Mark Prior, leading the division down the stretch. It wasn’t exactly a smooth ride as superstar Sammy Sosa missed a month with a sore big toe and was suspended seven games for using a corked bat, but nonetheless, the Cubs won their first NL Central Division title, posting an 88-74 record in Baker’s first season at the helm. The Cubs then upset the Atlanta Braves in the NLDS, clinching in five games and marking the first postseason series win for the franchise since 1908. The Cubs were five outs away from advancing to the World Series for the first time since 1945, but lost Games 6 and 7 of the NLCS at home and were eliminated by the Florida Marlins.
The 2004-06 seasons were ones plagued by injuries and subpar play, as the Cubs once again returned to playoff-seeking oblivion. However, the hiring of Lou Pinella as manager prior to the 2007 season looked to be a fruitful move, as he guided the Cubs to the NL Central title in his first season at the helm, winning 85 games. The Cubs made their first postseason appearance since 2003, but were swept in the NLDS by the Diamondbacks. The 2008 season was the 100th anniversary of the last Cubs’ World Series championship, and they capped it by winning their second straight NL Central title with a league-leading 97 wins, making it the first time since 1906-08 that the team had advanced to the playoffs in consecutive years. However, the Cubs were swept yet again in the NLDS by the Los Angeles Dodgers.
In 2009, the Cubs missed their bid to three-peat in the National League Central, making it the second time the Cubs had a winning record in three consecutive seasons in the last 70 years. After a successful tenure but still without a World Series title or even appearance, Lou Pinella announced his retirement, effective at the close of the 2010 season, but left mid-season to take care of his ailing mother. Interim coach Mike Quade took over for the final 37 games of the year, leading the Cubs to a 24-13 record, the best in baseball for that time period. These games gave the Cubs an opportunity to see what their roster would look like in 2011, by bringing up minor league talents, and building on the young, raw roster. With the drought still reigning strong, and their NL Central opponents doing some major off-season bolstering, the Cubs’ future is one all seemed to be concerned about. Stay tuned tomorrow as we discuss what’s next for the Cubs’ organization!