September surge fueled 1908 run
Final month boosted Chicago toward its world championship
One hundred years ago, Wrigley Field didn't exist. Fans weren't singing "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" in the seventh inning yet -- it was a new hit song that debuted in 1908, written by Jack Norworth.
One hundred years ago, the Cubs were riding high as the defending world champions, having beaten the Detroit Tigers, 4-0, in the 1907 World Series. That series included one tie game, which went 12 innings and had to be called because of darkness. One hundred years ago, they didn't have night baseball.
The Cubs have been on a roller-coaster ride since that '08 season, and to mark the anniversary of the last world championship, we'll look at some of the highlights in Cubs history. It's been 100 years since the Cubs last won a World Series, but it's 100 years of hope. Baseball historian Ed Hartig did the research, and the series continues today with a look at how the 1908 Cubs did in September.
The Giants won 18 of 19 games to extend their National League lead to 4 1/2 games over the second-place Cubs on Sept. 18, yet the month ended with three teams within a half-game of first. The Cubs went 23-8 for the month, but lost ground in the standings as the Giants went 24-8 and the Pirates went 25-8.
For the month, Cubs batters were solid, but unspectacular, hitting a combined .246. Eight batters scored in double digits, while Joe Tinker, Johnny Kling and Frank Chance each collected more than 30 hits during the month. In classic deadball fashion, the Cubs compiled 104 walks, 60 sacrifice bunts and 53 stolen bases during September.
On the mound, Ed Reulbach and Jack Pfiester combined to go 10-1 with 11 complete games and five shutouts in 12 starts.
Sept. 4: The Pirates beat the Cubs 1-0 in 10 innings in Pittsburgh. With two outs, the Bucs' Chief Wilson singled to drive in Fred Clarke with the winning run. Warren Gill, the runner on first, thinking the game was over, missed touching second base. Cubs second baseman Johnny Evers retrieved the ball in center field and stepped on the bag for the force. Umpire Hank O'Day, however, declared that the game was over and that the run had already scored. O'Day later recognized his mistake, but the NL upheld the Pirates' win.
Sept. 22: The Cubs moved to within .006 of first place behind the Giants after sweeping a doubleheader in New York. Mordecai Brown picked up the win in the first game, 4-3, tossing 2 2/3 innings in relief. Brown then tossed a complete game in the second outing for the 3-1 win.
Sept. 23: This time, umpire O'Day got it right. The Giants appear to win, 1-0, in the bottom of the ninth in New York. Al Bridwell singled to "score" Moose McCormick from third, but Fred Merkle was unable to advance from first to second base. Thinking the game was over, New York players and fans swarmed the field to celebrate. However, Evers retrieved a ball -- likely not the game ball -- and stepped on second base for the third out of the inning. What happened to the real ball? Giants player Joe McGinnity intercepted the relay and threw the game ball into the mob of celebrating Giants fans.
Admist the confusion, O'Day ruled Merkle out at second, which nullified the winning run. With darkness setting in, the umpires declared the game a tie -- a ruling later upheld by NL president Harry Pulliam.
Sept. 26: Reulbach became the first (and only) pitcher to record two complete-game shutouts on the same day when he beat the Dodgers, 5-0 and 3-0. Reulbach allowed only nine hits and two walks for the day. The two games combined took two hours, 52 minutes.
NL standings at close of play
on Sept. 30, 1908
Sept. 29: The Cubs passed the Giants and moved into first place by a single percentage point after defeating the Reds, 6-2, in Cincinnati. Tinker hit an unusual home run in the game when the ball lodged in a light tower erected for an early experiment in night baseball. Tinker didn't stop, while Reds center fielder Dode Paskert tried to get the ball out of the contraption. A side note: The towers were dismantled after two games in 1909, but the first regular-season night game was played in Cincinnati in 1935.
Sept. 30: The Cubs dropped to third place in one day after losing 6-5 to the Reds. They were a half-game behind the Giants, and two percentage points behind the Pirates. The season wasn't over.
Notes: Brooklyn's Nap Rucker, Cleveland's Bob Rhoads and the White Sox's Frank Smith tossed no-hitters this month. ... Pro Football Hall of Fame coach Paul Brown was born on Sept. 7 in Norwalk, Ohio. ... Clayton Moore, the Lone Ranger, was born in Chicago on Sept. 14. ... On Sept. 17, Thomas Selfridge becomes the first fatality of powered flight when the plane he was in, piloted by Orville Wright, crashed in Fort Myer, Va. Wright was hurt, but not too seriously.
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.