Lynch: The Cubs and their fight for the 1908 pennant

From SABR member Mike Lynch at The National Pastime Museum on May 30, 2013:

On June 3, 1908, the Chicago Daily Tribune included a blurb about veteran Cubs outfielder Jimmy Sheckard that seemed innocuous enough: He was laid up with a swollen ankle suffered during a slide in an 8-6 loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates on June 1, and was expected to be out of the lineup for about a week. At the time, the Cubs were locked in a battle with the Pirates, Cincinnati Reds, Philadelphia Phillies, New York Giants and Boston Braves, with all four teams at .500 or better and within four games of one another.

Only the Pirates and Giants would hang with the Cubs until the season’s final day, a campaign punctuated by a crucial base-running error by a 19-year-old Giants first baseman named Fred Merkle, who failed to touch second base following what should have been a game-winning hit by Al Bridwell against the Cubs on Sept. 23.

The teams were deadlocked atop the standings with almost identical records —New York held a slim lead of .006 — and a win for either would have swung the pendulum its way. Alas, the Giants lost the pennant by one game and Merkle has taken the brunt of the blame ever since, going down in history as “Bonehead” Merkle.

Thanks in part to Merkle’s mistake, the Cubs captured their third consecutive pennant and went on to win their second straight Fall Classic by beating the Detroit Tigers in five games — the last time the Cubs have won a World Series. But what few realize is that the Cubs almost imploded when a clubhouse fight in early June jeopardized the career of one player, landed another in the hospital, left skipper Frank Chance battered and bruised and divided the team.  

The same day the Tribune reported about Sheckard’s wrenched ankle, the Boston Globe detailed a far more serious incident, claiming that while Sheckard was treating his ankle, a bottle of ammonia exploded near his face when he pulled out the cork.

Read the full article here:

Originally published: May 30, 2013. Last Updated: May 30, 2013.