Cubs 101 - The Only Cubs Dynasty
Remember what it was like to be a kid and a Cubs fan? It's basically baseball without weights, fandom with no crushing sense of reality. I can remember being nine and having a fight with my best friend - a Yankees fan - because it was 1989 and the Cubs were a better team than New York.
I won't assume that everybody else is like me, but you can probably describe my personality as being "slightly obsessive." Looking back on my childhood, I can see that I always had that trait because as the Cubs put on one of the best seasons of my young life I became a fanatic about their history. And that was how I learned about the only Cubs dynasty.
After the Cap Anson era petered out, the Cubs changed names a few times (from Orphans to Colts and finally in 1903 to Cubs). But between their period of Anson's racist-fueled greatness to the first NL Pennant won by Frank Chance, they experienced a Cubsesque 19-year drought between first place finishes. Imagine that for a second - the Cub fans of the early 20th century probably had some idea as to what it was like to be the Cub fans of the early 21st.
Then in 1905 the team's 28-year-old first baseman, named Frank Chance, took over as the manager mid-season. He'd lead those Cubs to a .625 winning percentage, almost 60 points better than the douche he'd replaced.
What would follow was a five year run in which the Cubs reached the World Series four times, set a still-unsurpassed record of 116 wins in a single season, and they actually won the Series twice!
That's right, our favorite baseball team had perhaps the first great dynasty of the sport.
It's hard to say how much of an impact Frank Chance actually had on the team. After all, do we not believe that a manager may only have a direct influence on a handful of games each year? But his attitude, scrapiness, and talent cannot be contested. Probably my favorite story about Chance centers around how, as a player, he used to dig in over the plate and was consequently regularly beaned.
This was to be expected, even though they didn't wear helmets back then, but there was one pitcher who apparently hit Chance one time too many (I think this was Jack Harper, but even if I'm wrong I do know that whoever it was was a 20-game winner at some point in his career). And so Chance did the one thing he could do to gain revenge - he traded for the guy and never played him, essentially ending his career.
Frank Chance. Rugged, career-wrecking, game-winning bad-ass, and the only manager in the history of the Cubs to win a World Series title.
It was armed with the knowledge of the 116-win Cubs, the first great dynasty, that as a nine-year-old I fearlessly explained to my dejected, idiot friend about why the Cubs were better than the Yankees. Because while I was obsessed with the history of my favorite ball club as a kid, I was still apparently too stupid to realize that "1908" and "1989" had a whole bunch of numbers between them, while the Yankees were running around with an entirely different number back then - 22 World Series titles.
In the next article we'll take a gander at the Wrigley Influence on the Cubs, the introduction of Wrigley Field, and the roaring 20's.
Buy Chicago Cubs and White Sox tickets at Coast to Coast Tickets!