History of the Chicago City Series

This article was written by Emil Rothe - Art Ahrens

This article was published in 1979 Baseball Research Journal

The American League was established in 1900 and the following year pronounced itself a major league. The established National League, however, refused to recognize the newcomer as anything other than a minor league.  Finally, as a matter of self preservation as much as anything, the rivals reached agreement on a two-league system in January 1903 and a tenuous peace was established.

After Boston had won the American League championship in 1903 and Pittsburgh had prevailed in the National circuit, the presidents of these clubs, Matt Killilea (Boston) and Barney Dreyfuss (Pittsburgh) agreed to apost-season meeting of their clubs. A nine game series was scheduled; the first team to win five to be declared the winner.

With the example set by the champions of their leagues, other clubs quickly followed their lead. Post season confrontations were arranged between the two Philadelphia clubs; the two in St. Louis; the Chicago rivals; and even a series between Cincinnati of the NL and Cleveland of the AL for the championship of Ohio.

In subsequent years meetings for a city or state championship were repeated sporadically but only the Chicago series persisted with some degree of regularity.

Through 1942 a total of 26 City Series were contested in Chicago from that 1903 inaugural. The dominance of the White Sox in these autumn affairs defies logic; the Chicago Americans triumphed 19 times while the Nationals could claim Chicago championships on only six occasions. Oddly, the first series ended in a tie. In the years between 1903 and 1942 a total of 161 games were played with the White Sox winning 95 times and the Cubs taking 62 games. Four of the games ended in deadlocks.

The owners of the two Chicago teams, Charles A. Comiskey of the White Sox and James A. Hart of the Cubs, decided to play a 15 game city series to start October 1, 1903. The Cubs were established as prohibitive favorites by virtue of a strong third-place finish in the National League. The White Sox were a poor seventh in their league with a 60-77 won-lost balance sheet.

The opener was scheduled in West Side Park, home of the Cubs, and the home team emphasized its role as favorite with a humiliating 11-0 defeat of the Sox. Jack Taylor allowed the Sox only three hits while his mates amassed ten.

At the home field of the Sox, 39th and Wentworth, the Cubs won the next two, 5-1 and 6-0. In game two Jake Weimer did not allow the Sox a hit until the sixth (they got 3 in all), and, in the shutout, Bob Wicker did not surrender a safe blow until two were out in the fifth.

Fifteen thousand fans, mostly Cub fanatics, jammed West Side Park October 4 only to endure a 10-2 loss to Frank Owen, youngest of the Sox pitchers. The next day, game five went to the tenth inning before the White Sox could push across the winning run, 4-3.

On October 6 southpaw Weimer won again to put the Cubs up four games to two.

Rain washed out a game on October 7 and a day later the Sox battered the Cubs with a 14-hit attack. The Cubs managed 12 hits themselves but a 5-run eighth nailed down a 9-3 victory for the Southsiders.

In the best pitched game of the series, Owen “donated” the game to the Cubs. In the last of the ninth of a scoreless tie, Jimmy Slagle singled to center after the first batter had been retired. Owen then walked Jack McCarthy. With Frank Chance at bat, Owen uncorked a wild pitch and both runners moved up. When Chance dribbled a slow roller toward second baseman George Magoon, Slagle crossed the plate unchallenged with the only run of the game.

On October 10 (game nine) the Cubs scored all their runs in the fourth and triumphed, 4-2. The scene shifted to the South Side Grounds the next day and the crowd was so great that spectators were permitted to overflow onto the field. (In those days of limited seating in the stands, field crowds were not uncommon. Batted balls hit into such crowds were generally ground-rule doubles.) Despite a reduced playing field, Doc White (Sox) and Carl Lundgren provided a fine pitching duel won by the Americans, 2-0.  The Sox closed to within one game of the Cubs on October 12 with Owen besting Taylor, 4-2.

Wicker was again almost invincible as he pitched his team to a 5-1 win and the Nationals climbed to within one game of capturing the Chicago championship. But, the Sox refused to die and took the next two games (October 14 and 15) by identical 2-0 scores behind Owens and Nick Altrock and it was all even at seven.

The series ended at this point because the contracts of all the players expired October 15. Comiskey offered to play a double-header on that last day to complete the schedule, but manager Frank Selee of the Cubs refused the offer. The suggestion of paying the players on a single game basis (past October 15) was also vetoed by the Cubs because Joe Tinker, their shortstop, had to be in Kansas City for his own wedding.

An interesting bit of trivia for today’s baseball buff… all the starting pitchers on both sides hurled complete games with the exception of game #13 when Chance used a pinch hitter for Weimer in the eighth inning. In the 14 games not a home run was made. Doc White, who pitched in four games, played right field in three others, and pinch hit in one, led in batting with a .360 average.

Late in the 1904 season both Chicago teams were still in the running.  But by the end of September the Cubs had been eliminated by the New York Giants; and on October 4 the Boston Red Sox defeated the White Sox and the Chicago Americans were out of the race. Comiskey, wanting to get even with someone, challenged president Hart of the Cubs to a six game series.*

*Player contracts were still written to expire October 15 in 1904 and, since the Season was not scheduled to end until October 9, the earliest starting date for a city series would have been October 10 making only six playing dates available.

Hart replied the next day with a public statement, “I believe games should be played to decide championships of the world. . .of a state .. . or, of a city but  like Caesar’s wife, be above suspicion.  He refused to let his team play until a governing body for both leagues could supervise such post-season affairs with authority to punish wrong-doers. Hart had suspected that one of his pitchers in the 1903 series (Jack Taylor?), not with the Cubs in 1904, had not given his all.

Hart sold the Cubs to Charles W. Murphy in 1905 which paved the way for the Chicago City Series to be resumed. The Cubs won the 1905 opener; the Wlhite Sox evened the series the next day but then the Cubs swept three in a row, 3-2, 6-5, and a 10-5 romp.

The 1906 meeting of the Chicago teams was an intracity series but with the added glamour of being the World Series; the first ever to match teams from the same city. Again, as in 1903, the Cubs were odds-on favorites. They had won 116 games and had lost only 36 during the season. No team since has threatened that win total or that winning percentage. The Nationals had built a dynasty that was to win four National League flags in five years and the only two World Championships (1907-1908) in their trophy case. With the Tinker to Evers to Chance combine, Harry Steinfeldt completed the infield. Wildfire Schulte, Jimmy Sheckard and Slagle manned the outfield, and Johnny Kling was the number one catcher. Three Finger Brown, Jack Pfiester, and Ed Reulbach were the backbone of the pitching staff, abetted by Carl Lundgren and Taylor, who had returned to his former team from St. Louis in mid-season, and-newcomer—-Orvie Overall.

The Sox, on the other hand, hit only .228 as a team in 1906, last in their league-giving rise to the sobriquet, “Hitless Wonders.” A 19-straight win streak in August provided them with a three-game margin over New York at season’s end. Manager Fielder Jones was forced to juggle his infield and utility man, George Rohe, took over at third and emerged the hero of the series with triples in the first and third games that provided the margins of victory in each, 2-1 and 3-0. In between these games, Ed Reulbach fashioned a one-hit win, and Brown shut out the Sox in game four, 1-0.  Frank Isbell’s record-setting four doubles (it’s still the record) in game five was decisive in an 8-6 victory for the Sox, and Doc White won easily in game six, 8-3, to wrap up their conquest of the favored Cubs four games to two.

After the Cubs had won world championships in 1907 and 1908, the City Series resumed in 1909. Comiskey and Murphy agreed to turn over 60% of the proceeds of the first four games to a players’ pool – as was done in the World Series. Overall blanked the Sox in the opener, 4-0; the Cubs also won the second, 5-2; White won the third game for the White Sox, 2-1; and then Overall and Brown won games four and five by 2-1 and 1-0 scores. In the finale Brown permitted only one hit.

The Cubs were in the World Series again in 1910 but in 1911, the White Sox, showing absolutely no respect for their West Side rivals, clobbered the Cubs four straight. This series drew 99,359, including 36,208 in the third game. This was the largest Chicago baseball crowd up to that time and rivaled the biggest World Series crowds of that period.

White Sox disrespect for their Chicago rivals was demonstrated for six consecutive years, through 1916. In 1912 the first two games ended in ties, an 0-0 affair with Ed Walsh permitting the Cubs only one hit before darkness halted the contest after nine innings, and another that went 12 innings to a 3-all standoff before poor visibility intervened. Thereafter the series took an odd turn. The Cubs won the next three and then the Sox shocked their adversaries with four straight, including an 11-inning game, and a whopping 16-0 whitewash in the final contest.

In 1913 the Sox won four of six. The following year it was 4-3 with the Sox on top. In 1915 the Sox won in five, and in 1916 it was again (as in 1911) a sweep of the first four games.

The White Sox won the 1917 World Series from the Giants and the Cubs lost the 1918 fall classic to the Red Sox following a war-shortened season (halted after Labor Day by federal edict). The Sox again appeared in the 1919 series when they lost to Cincinnati 5 games to 3 in a nine game series. The nine game W.S. format was used in 1903 and revived for a three year period (1919-21).

Ugly suspicions about the 1919 series surfaced even as the games were being played and dark rumors persisted all through the next season. Late in September of 1920 Ed Cicotte confessed to accepting bribes and implicated seven teammates. Comiskey suspended those identified, two regular infielders, Swede Risberg and Buck Weaver; two-thirds of his outfield, Joe Jackson and Happy Felsch; two starting pitchers, Lefty Williams and Cicotte; and utility man Fred McMullin. The eighth member of the nefarious “Black Sox” was Chick Gandil who had dropped out of organized baseball after 1919. With Comiskey unable to field a representative team, there was no city series in 1920.

The excision of the Black Sox forced Comiskey and manager Kid Gleason to rebuild the Chicago American League club to large extent in 1921. Players still with the team from the 1919 squad included second baseman Eddie Collins and catcher Ray Schalk as regulars and Red Faber and Dickie Kerr as starting moundsmen Roy Wilkinson, who had appeared in only four games in 1919, had become a 1921 starter-but a losing one (4-19). Harvey McClellan a part-time infielder, and Honest Eddie Murphy, a little used outfielder, were the only other holdovers.

Despite a ragtag collection of rookies and aging castoffs, the Sox fashioned their most convincing conquest of their (now) North Side adversaries in 1921 With the World Series still contested at nine games, the City Series was also scheduled for nine. But, the White Sox needed only five of those games as they swept the series. At this point, the Sox had vanquished the Cubs in THIRTEEN straight contests; the last four of 1915, a four game sweep in 1916, and then the 1921 insult.

The Cubs “broke through in `22.” Tiny Osborne was the pitching standout for the Cubs with wins in the second and third contests (five consecutive days of foul weather had interrupted play following game two) and a 1-0 loss to Faber in game six. Faber had won the opener from Vic Aldridge. Dixie Leverette of the Sox defeated Alexander in the fourth game and Aldridge took the fifth. Alexander and Leverette were matched in the seventh and deciding game (the City Series, as the World Series, had reverted to a seven-game format in 1922) with Alex shutting out the Pale Hose and enabling the Cubs to hold up their heads for the first time since 1909.

The White Sox regained the city championship in 1923 and held on in 1924 by identical four games to two margins. In 1923 the Cubs broke on top with wins in the first two games. Then, as had happened so often, the Sox won four in a row.

Alexander was the only Cub pitcher able to win in 1924. He won the opening game, 10-7, and the fifth contest, 8-3. In the latter, Alex was the whole show, getting four hits, including a double, to reinforce his pitching.  The Sox took the others, a 12-7 hitters’ delight in game two; Faber’s 6-3 victory in the third game, featured by an Earl Sheely home run that bounced into the right field stands in Comiskey Park (today that would only be a ground rule double); Ted Blankenship’s 13-0 whitewash in game four; and Sloppy Thurston’s 5-3 victory, preserved by Ted Lyon’s excellent relief pitching, in the windup.

The 1925 series opened with a spectacular 19-inning 2-all tie in Comiskey Park on a cold October 7th. The aging arm of Alexander endured the whole game for the Cubs as did the young one of his mound adversary, Ted Blankenship. The game was halted, not surprisingly, by darkness. The Bruins then won four of the next five to earn the city title for only the fourth time in 15 tries. Wilbur Cooper, in his first season with the Cubs after 13 years in a Pirate uniform, won two, including the clincher. Blankenship was the only Pale Hose hurler to rack up a win.

The best pitching in the entire history of the Chicago City Series dominated the 1926 fall meeting. The series went full term and four of the games were shutouts. In two others the losers managed to score only one run. Charlie Root turned back the Sox 6-0 in game #1; Percy Jones whitewashed them 1-0 in game #3 and even drove in the only run of the contest with his single; Ted Blankenship started two games, #4 and #7, blanking the Cubs each time, 4-0 and 3-0. Jones came back to add game #6 to the Cubs’ total with a fine 4-1 performance. In game #2 Ted Lyons had the best of a 10-5 game that featured four homers (Bibb Falk and Whispering Bill Barrett connected for the Southsiders as did Charlie Grimm and Hack Wilson for the Cubs). A 13-hit attack by the Sox was good for only three runs in game #5 but that was enough for Red Faber, who held the Northsiders to seven, to win handily, 3-1.

No series was played in 1927 because the Cubs did not issue a challenge (the team losing the previous series was expected to initiate a challenge the following year). On September 20, president Bill Veeck, Sr. issued an official statement, “The Cubs will not play a City Series this year. The season of 1927 contained so many splendid possibilities (the Cubs had been in the N.L. race well into September) that any other than a World Series would be an ill-fitting climax.”

The 1928 Sox-Cubs confrontation provided one of the most exciting of all the series. In two games (the first and fourth) the Cubs had three-run innings in each that provided all the runs they needed in 3-0 and 3-2 victories. Faber was the victim in each. The White Sox had the second game in hand, 2-1, going into the Cub ninth, but Art Shires fumbled a ground ball that enabled the Cubs to tie. Given this reprieve, the Cubs went on to win, 5-3, when Gabby Hartnett’s triple in the 14th drove in two Cubs and he also scored when Johnny Butler doubled. A White Sox rally could push only one marker across in their half. Game three was a hitter’s dream and a pitcher’s nightmare. Nine pitchers (five of them Cubs) tried to stem the 33 hit assault (18 by the Cubs). Six doubles, three triples, and a Hack Wilson home run (he also added two doubles) delighted fans who enjoy high-score games. The Sox won this one 13-11. In the only well-pitched game of 1928, Tommy Thomas stopped the Bruins on four hits and won 2-0 when Riggs Stephenson and Wilson allowed Bill Hunnefield’s fly to fall between them as two runners crossed the plate. Grady Adkins, in his first year with the Sox, breezed in game six when his teammates scored seven times off Guy Bush and Charlie Root in the first three innings to knot the series. In the deciding game, Sheriff Blake and the Cubs clobbered their opponents with a 16-hit barrage to win, 13-2.

By 1929 the Cubs had assembled their best team since the 1906-10 glory years. Grimm, Rogers Hornsby, Woody English, and Norm McMillan provided a solid, hard-hitting infield (a combined B. A. of .309 and 56 homers). The outfield of Stephenson, Wilson, and Kiki Cuyler was even more potent (.355 and 77 round-trippers) and they were equally good defensively. Their regular catcher, Gabby Hartnett, was shelved by injury most of 1929, but Zack Taylor, backed by Mike Gonzalez, provided adequate catching. The pitching supplied by Root, Bush, Blake, Hal Carlson, and Malone’s excellent 22-10 season was good enough to capture the 1929 NL flag by a 10-1/2 game bulge over second-place Pittsburgh and begin a strange chain of winning league championships only at three-year intervals (1929,1932 1935, and 1938).

The Cubs won the city championship in 1930; the only time they ever managed back-to-back city titles. After the first four games had been split, the Cubs captured the next two by identical 6-4 scores. Wilson’s homer in the fifth game was the killing blow and a three-run rally in the ninth of the sixth game overcame a one run White Sox lead.

The crosstown rivals battled through seven games in 1931 before the Southsiders prevailed. Pitchers were in charge for the most part. Faber blanked the Cubs in the opener, 9-0, and Bush brought the Cubs even with a 1-0 shutout in the second game. The teams split one-run decisions in the next two; the Cubs by 2-1 in game three and the Sox by 4-3 the next day. Smead Joiley’s grand slam and another home run by Bill Cissell with two on buried the Cubs in game five, 13-6. The Cubs then evened the series, 3-2, only to fall the next day. Tommy Thomas fashioned a four-hitter and his mates amassed six counters in the fourth inning off Bob Smith, and the White Sox had reclaimed the city championship.

After the Cubs had bowed to the Yankees in the 1932 World Series in four straight, they followed the same pattern in the 1933 City Series. Sam Jones, Faber, Lyons, and Joe Heving were just too much for the erstwhile NL champs. In bowing to Sox pitching, 3-2, 2-0, 9-0, and 5-1, the Cubs managed to accumulate only 25 hits for the four games.

The Cubs bought slugger Chuck Klein from the Phillies for the 1934 season. With an already solid lineup, the Cubs were heavily favored to take the National League pennant. For most of the year, they did stay in the fight with New York and St. Louis, holding solidly to second during July and August. They won only 8 of 21 games in September and faded from contention. When they dropped three of a four-game series to the seventh-place Phillies in mid-September, even-tempered Charlie Grimm, Cub manager, blasted some of his men for not playing to their potential. In light of this disappointing denouement to what should have been a rewarding season, there was no wish on the part of the Cubs to prolong the 1934 season by playing a city series and, perhaps, risking further humiliation.

A sensational 21-game consecutive win streak in September catapulted the Cubs to the NL flag in 1935, but they ran out of miracles in October and succumbed to the Detroit Tigers in the World Series, winning only two games, both with Lon Warneke on the hill.

The Cubs were again denied even one victory in 1936. Vern Kennedy, Monty Stratton, Ted Lyons, and Bill Dietrich were in command 5-1, 11-3, 4-2, and 8-2, respectively.

The 1937 series went to seven games, but in the finale the White Sox employed four double plays to thwart their crosstown rivals, 6-1.

The Cubs won the National League championship in 1938 for the fourth of their “every third year cycle,” but again came up empty in losing four straight to the Yankees.

The year 1939 was another might-have-been for the Bruins. They won three of the first four and had a comfortable 5-0 lead in game five through five innings. But the Hose rallied for two in the sixth and tied the score in the eighth with three runs and then won in the tenth with another three. The disheartened Cubs managed only one run in each of the last two Sox victories, 6-1 and 7-1.

The 1940 series also ran to seven games with the White Sox still the champs of Chicago. It was the third successive series to run full length, with the same result.

The Sox swept the 1941 series; it was the sixth time since the beginning that the Cubs failed to win a game in their post-season contests with their Chicago rivals. A triple play in game three provided the highlight; it was the only triple-killing in Chicago City Series history. With John Rigney holding a 6-0 lead in the fifth, Clyde McCullough, Cubs catcher, received Rigney’s only pass Bobby Sturgeon beat out a slow roller to short. Charlie Gilbert, batting for Bill Lee, lined sharply to Bill Knickerbocker at second. Bill flipped to Luke Appling to double McCullough off the bag, and with Sturgeon almost at second, Appling tagged him for the third out.

The White Sox started the 1942 post season meeting threatening to blank the Northsiders again. The Hose won the first three games, 3-0, 9-5, and 3-2. But, the Cubs rebounded, 5-3, and, the following day, Claude Passeau and Ted Lyons hooked up in a classic pitching match-up that went into the tenth one-all. In the top of the 10th, Phil Cavarretta tripled and scored on Sturgeon’s long fly to give Passeau and the Cubs a 2-1 win. But, the next day John Humphries pitched the Pale Hose to a 4-1 victory to close out the series. It was the eighth consecutive city title for the Southsiders and, as the passing years revealed, the LAST City Series.

Since 1942 the Chicago rivals have occasionally arranged to end the spring exhibition season in Chicago but such games never assumed the formality of a city series. The last such series was played in 1971.

In 1949 the management of the Cubs and the White Sox inaugurated a benefit game in mid-summer to raise funds for the Chicago Park District for boys’ baseball. These games were generally enthusiastically received and well attended. The first, a night game on July 11, 1949 in Comiskey Park, attracted 36,459 fans and the Cubs, behind the pitching of Johnny Schmitz won, 4-2. The last of these was played August 14, 1972 with the Cubs again the winner. In all, this series of benefit games resulted in 13 victories for the Cubs and ten for the White Sox.

There seems little current demand for a revival of a city series in Chicagoland.  However, an October meeting between the Cubs and White Sox in a World Series would rival, if not top, the Chicago Fire in historical importance for a host of baseball fans hungry for a championship to cheer after many long years of short rations.

To summarize the 26 Series played over the course of 40 years, two long service pitchers-Red Faber and Ted Lyons-appeared in the most Series, 14 each; followed by two catchers, Ray Schalk and Gabby Hartnett, 11 each. In games played, Schalk led with 53, followed by Hartnett with 51, and Johnny Evers 50. Evers also led with 13 stolen bases. Earl Sheely hit the most homers, 6, and Eddie Coffins, Buck Weaver, and Vic Saier had 5 triples each. For the players in three or more Series, Jimmy Dykes had the highest batting average, .467, with 14 for 30. Shano Collins was 44 for 126 in five Series for .349.

For pitchers, Red Faber was 11-6, and Ted Lyons 10-7. Reb Russell  was 5-0. Charlie Root lost the most games, 8. Faber, Ed Walsh, and Ted Blankenship pitched the most shutouts, 3.