Jackson: A king in exile and the Cubs’ first curse

From SABR member Frank Jackson at The Hardball Times on February 13, 2015:

Considering the Cubs’ woes in reaching – much less winning – the World Series, it is ironic that in the inaugural season of the National League, the American Centennial year of 1876, just five years after the Chicago fire, the Cubs (then known as the White Stockings) finished first. In a season of just 66 games, they were 52-14 for a gaudy .788 winning percentage. A few mediocre seasons followed, but the Cubs of 1880-1886 met all the requirements of a dynasty.

Thanks in large part to pioneers Cap Anson and Albert Spalding, renowned for their deeds on the field as well as in management, Chicago was the capital of the baseball world in those days. In truth, one could hardly find a better locale for recruiting fans (or cranks, as they were then known), as the city’s population had gone from virtually nothing at the beginning of the 19th century to 503,185 by 1880 – and that total more than doubled by 1890. This was the decade when Chicago surpassed Philadelphia and Brooklyn (then a separate city) and took over second place among American cities, where it remained till it was bypassed by Los Angeles a century later.

Of course, New York has been top dog in population since the first census in 1790. Somewhere between 1870 and 1880 it was the first American city to hit the million mark. The local pro baseball scene, however, did not reflect this status. The New York Mutuals started the 1876 season with the NL but were booted out of the league before finishing the season. The Giants (originally known as the Gothams) did not arrive on the scene till 1883. So in the early days of the NL, Chicago, by default, was baseball’s bellwether city.

Read the full article here: http://www.hardballtimes.com/a-king-in-exile-and-the-cubs-first-curse/

Originally published: February 13, 2015. Last Updated: February 13, 2015.