Monday, December 15, 2014

Chicago Cubs: The first ever back-to-back champions

The offseason signing of World Series champion left-hander John Lester gives hope to the north side for competitive years to come in a tough National League Central division.  106 years and counting since the last World Series win for the Cubs. However, many people forget that before winning the World Series in 1908, the Cubs were also champions in 1907, making them the first ever back-to-back world champs.  The Boston Americans won the first ever World Series in 1903 and won the championship in 1904, but there was no World Series against the National League champion New York Giants because of a contradiction preseason agreement.

As part of the original eight National League teams in 1876, the then White Stockings won the first ever National League pennant with a 52-14 record. Over the next 15 years, Chicago changed its name from the White Stockings to the Colts, then Orphans, before coming the Cubs in 1903 on the senior circuit. That same year the American League became an equal league and an arrangement to have a World Series between the league’s two best teams was agreed upon.

While the Orphans finished under .500 in the previous three years, the Cubs finished 82-56 in 1903. The Pittsburgh Pirates would represent the National League and hoist the new trophy in the first ever World Series against the Boston Americans. 90+ wins for the Cubs during the next two years would lead them to 116 wins in 1906, the most ever regular season wins by a team until it was matched by the 2001 Seattle Mariners. 1906 was the first ever Windy City World Series as the White Sox knocked off the Cubs in six games with only a four-run margin between the teams.

1907 would be the year.  It would also become the first World Series appearance for Ty Cobb and the Detroit Tigers.  The first game went 12 innings, but ended in a 3-3 tie due to the game being called for darkness. The Georgia Peach and club would not score more than one run a game the rest of the series as the Cubs took it all in a 4-0 sweep, wrapping up the series with a 2–0 victory on "Three-fingered" Mordecai Brown's seven-hit shutout. 

The following year, the Cubs and Tigers would face-off in a rematch in the 1908 World Series, with Ty Cobb looking for revenge. The Tigers had game one in their paws up 6-5 going into the top of the ninth, but the Cubs would hit six straight singles to score five runs to win the game. The first three games was an offensive outburst compared to the 1907 World Series with the Cubs scoring 19 runs to the Tigers 15. With the Cubs up 2-1, the series would head back to Bennett Park in Detroit. Mordecai Brown and Orval Overall would throw back-to-back shutouts against Detroit, neither giving up more than four hits to finish out the series. Orval Overall would be the first pitcher to strikeout four batters in an inning, and game 5 would be recorded as the smallest crowd to ever attend a series game with 6,210 paid attendees.

The Chicago Cubs were back-to-back champions, atop the baseball world with future Hall of Famers Frank Chance and Mordecai Brown leading the way.  The Cubs would win 104 games the next two years, and stay above .500 until 1914, however they would only win 90+ games 12 times over the next 100 years. The Cubs have had their chances in those years, going to the World Series seven different times between 1910-1945, but lost every one of them. 

Baseball is better when the Cubs are spirited and captivating. The Cubs might be known as a losing franchise with a charming and historic ballpark, but they are also an organization with strong history and tradition.