1910: Cubs Postmortem

This marks the beginning of the final three posts about the 1910 season (Is that cheering I hear?). The other two will sum up the Athletics season and explain why I think 1910 matters. I’m not going to do a blow-by-blow of the World Series. You can go to Retrosheet and see for yourself  how and why Philadelphia won. Or you can wait a few weeks and Kevin at DMB will run the 1910 World Series for you and you get pick up a taste of it then (and maybe root for an upset).

The year 1910 saw the end of the Chicago dynasty that had dominated the National League since 1906. They participated in four of the five World Series’ (missing 1909) during the period, winning two (1907 and 1908). But the run ended with the loss in the 1910 Series. If you look at the team at the end of 1910, you might figure that Chicago will compete for a long time. It turns out that the next time the Cubs made the Series was 1918. So what went wrong?

To start with, three-fourths of the infield and the starting catcher went by the way in 1911. Frank Chance was effectively done as a player. For the entire rest of his career, he managed to play exactly 46 games.  Johnny Evers played only 46 games in 1911 (talk about statistical coincidences). He did come back in 1912 and 1913, but was sent to Boston in 1914. Boston promptly won the World Series and Evers won the Chalmers Award, an early version of the MVP award. In 1911, third baseman Harry Steinfeldt went to Boston, got into 19 games and was through. By 1914 he was dead. Finally, catcher Johnny Kling started slowly, was traded, and finished his career in 1913. In short, half the everyday players of 1910 were unavailable for 1911, three of them permanently. That’s half the starting lineup that has to be replaced. Doing it with quality players is unusual, and Chicago didn’t have those quality players. The following people replaced the 1910 starters: Vic Saier, Heinie Zimmerman, Jim Doyle, and Jim Archer. Ever hear of any of them? If you’re lucky you may know Zimmerman who won a home run and batting title in 1912 an RBI title in both 1916 and 1917, and was banned for throwing games in 1920. The drop off is both stunning and quick.  

The pitching was aging. Three Finger Brown was 34 in 1911. It was his last good year in the NL (he did OK in the Federal League). Harry McIntire was 33. Orval Overall retired with a bad arm. That left King Cole (who ended up dying in 1916) and third starter (or fourth, depending on your viewpoint) Ed Reulbach. It’s kind of difficult to rely on your third starter.

Having said all that, Chicago still finished second in 1911. But in 1912 they fell to third, stayed there in 1913, then dropped to fourth and finally fifth by 1917. I doubt anyone saw this coming at the end of the 1910 World Series. So Chicago maintained high hopes at the end of 1910. Those hopes were a mirage.

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