A huge crowd stormed the Polo Grounds in Manhattan and witnessed baseball history in the Cubs-Giants playoff game on October 8, 1908.
So, what were you doing in 1908? Unless you’re a centenarian you weren’t doing anything, but the Chicago Cubs were on their way to their second straight World Series title in 1908. They haven’t won one since.
You remember 1908. Theodore Roosevelt is President. Mother’s Day is celebrated for the first time. The average cost of a home is $4,500; of a gallon of milk is 38 cents, a stamp is 4 cents. And the average salary for a major league baseball player is $2,500.
In sports, Penn and LSU share the college football championship; there is no BCS. The Montreal Wanderers win the Stanley Cup; James Braid takes the British Open; and Stone Street wins the Kentucky Derby. In the Olympics in London, Italian Dorando Pietri staggers at the end of the Marathon and is assisted across the finish line by officials. Johnny Hayes of the USA is later declared the winner.
In 1908, the Cubs edged out the New York Giants and the Pittsburgh Pirates to win a tight, controversial pennant race which hinged on the so-called Fred Merkle boner in late September. The Giants and the Cubs were tied 1-1 in the bottom of the ninth inning at New York’s Polo Grounds. With two outs, the rookie Merkle was on first base and Moose McCormick on third when Giants shortstop Al Bridwell singled to center.
Thinking the game was won, and with a crowd of happy fans swarming the infield, Merkle bypassed second base and made for the New York clubhouse. But Chicago second baseman Johnny Evers got the attention of the umpire who, after seeing Evers tag second base with a ball declared Merkle forced out at second, nullifying the winning run.
This ignited a storm of protests, counter-protests, and league hearings. Finally, National League president Harry Pulliam ruled that the game would be replayed after the season if it proved to have a bearing on the pennant race.
It did. New York and Chicago finished in a tie, which was broken when Chicago’s Mordecai “Three Finger” Brown, left, defeated Christy Mathewson 4-2 in the make-up game. Matty won 37 games that year, but couldn’t win this one. The Cubs finished with a 99-55 record, one game up on the Giants and Pirates, both at 98-56.
In the American League, a four-team race came down to the wire, with Detroit (90-63) finally slipping past Cleveland (90-64) by .004 percentage points, the smallest margin of victory in AL or NL history. Chicago finished 1 1/2 games back and St. Louis faded late to end up 6 1/2 behind.
For the second straight year, the Cubs won the World Series over the Tigers, this time 4 games to 1. Cubs batters hit .293 off Tigers pitching, while Brown’s 0.00 ERA in 11 innings paced the Chicago staff to a 2.60 ERA. Ty Cobb, the AL batting champion, hit .368 with four RBI and a pair of stolen bases in a losing effort. Cobb, perhaps the greatest hitter in baseball history, never won a World Series.
The Cubs won National League pennants in 1910, 1918, 1929, 1932, 1935, 1938 and 1945, but lost the World Series each time. They haven’t been back since. And they haven’t won a World Series since 1908.