As one of the charter members of the National League, the Chicago Cubs are suffering through the longest championship drought than any Professional American Sports team. They are the oldest active team in major North American Sports that still resides in its original city.
In their inaugural season in the National League, the franchise signed stars such as Albert Spalding, Ross Barnes, Deacon White and Adrian Johnson while playing at Dexter Park. They would move to the Union Base-Ball Grounds the following season, staying there until they moved again in 1874 to the 23rd Street Grounds. The team won back to back National League Pennants as the Chicago White Stockings in 1885 and ’86.
Al Spalding retired to start up Spalding sporting goods and by the early 1900’s, had reworked his roster to become one of the best teams in the early century. Spalding sold the club to Jim Hart and the team became known as the Chicago Cubs. The team boasted top notch pitchers to include Mordecai “Three-Finger” Brown, Jack Taylor, Ed Reulbach, Jack Pfiester and Orville Overall. Overall joined the club in time for the lead stretch of the 1906 season and lead the Cubs to the NL pennant but lost to the White Sox in the World Series. It wasn’t until the 1907 season that the Cubs took their first World Series Title behind the pitching of Mordecai Brown. The Cubs beat the Tigers 2-0.
The 1908 season carried a number of firsts to include Ed Reulback pitching two complete-game shutouts on the same day against the Dodgers. It was just a few weeks later that the Cubs became the first team to win back-to-back World Series wins after defeating Detroit in five games. The team was also the first to be in three consecutive World Series Contests. The franchise lost star Catcher Johnny Kling in 1909 and the team failed (by 6 games) to make the playoffs.
1910 saw Johnny Kling rejoin the Cubbies and again they would post a winning season with a record of 104-50. The team was led by the pitching of Mordecai Brown who posted 25 wins and 143 strikeouts. The team matched up with the Philadelphia Athletics in the World Series but lost in 5 games. This contest saw all nine players in the lineup for Philadelphia got a hit, a World Series first. Also, Cubby Catcher Jimmy Archer became the first player in World Series history to play for both the American League (1907 Detroit Tigers) and the National League.
In what is referred to as baseball’s “Golden Age,” minority owner William Wrigley Jr, owner of Wrigley chewing gum, increased his ownership. By 1921 Wrigley bought enough shares to become majority owner and changed the name of the field from Weeghman Park to Wrigley Field. The team would win their next pennant in 1918 and began a pattern of winning the pennant every three years winning in 1929, 1932, 1935 and 1938.
The last NL pennant the Cubs won was in 1945 which was also the beginning of “The Curse of Billy Goat.” Team owner P.K. Wrigley tossed out Billy Sianis and his goat (which Sianis bought a ticket for) in game four of the World Series. Sianis was the well known owner of the Lincoln Tavern which stood across from Chicago Stadium. The summer prior, a baby goat fell off the back of a truck in front of the tavern and Sianis nursed it back to health and named it Murphy. Bringing the goat to the game was but one of a number of publicity stunts Sianis pulled. After being tossed, Sianis told Wrigley, “The Cubs, they ain’t gonna win no more.” The Cubs lost game four and the entire series and have not won one since.
It was not until the 1967 and ’68 seasons that the team succeeded in posting back to back winning seasons. It had been well over two decades since they had accomplished that feat. The ’69 Cubbies were managed by Leo Durocher and the team managed a 92-70 record, but was eclipsed by the New York Mets who won 39 of their last 50 games to finish in first. The Cubs fell eight games out of fist. Some relate the fall of the Cubs to a fan releasing a black cat onto Shea Stadium and the “Curse of the Black Cat.”
The franchise would go on to post winning seasons but could not break into the playoffs. It wasn’t until the 1977 season that the team regained their winning form. The team sat 19 games above .500 by the All Star Break but fell off late in the season. In what would be known as The June Swoon, the Cubbies went 20-40 and finished in 4th place with an 81-81 record.
Fast forward to the 1989 season and the Cubs found themselves the NL East Champions led by veterans Ryne Sandberg, Rick Sutcliffe and Andrew Dawson. The team had youth in Jerome Walton (Rookie of the Year) Dwight Smith, Greg Maddux, Shawon Dunston and Mark Grace. The team would eventually fall to the San Francisco Giants in the NLCS.
Before the 1998 season, longtime announcer Harry Caray passed away and Ryne Sandberg retired. It was in that year that Mark Grace had one of his best seasons ever and Kerry Wood pitched a one-hit 20 strikeout game against the Astros, making him a star player. With Sammy Sosa in the lineup, the Cubs were slugging 20 homers a month. The team would eventually fall apart and were swept by the Atlanta Braves in the playoffs.
The 2007 season saw the team bounce back in a worst to first season where they won only 66 games in 2006 but bounced back behind the bat of Alfonso Soriano to post an 85-77 record. They would win the NL Central title and repeated as NL Central champs in 2008, the first time since 1906. They would end the 2008 season with an 97-64 record and met the LA in the NLDS but were swept by the Dodgers.
In 2010, manager Hall of Famer Lou Pinella retired and was replaced by Mike Quade.
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