When the Cubs ruled the World (Series) . . .
Despite the magical 2016 season, ``Cubs’’ and ``World Series’’ are not phrases often seen in the same sentence. Especially at this time of year. Given that Thursday (October 10) is the 110th anniversary of Game 1 in the 1908 World Series, when Tinker-to-Evers-to-Chance ruled, here’s an excerpt from my historical novel, The Run Don’t Count: The Life and Times of Frank Chance and His 1908 Chicago Cubs.
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After beating the Giants in New York to win the 1908 pennant, the Cubs boarded a train to Detroit for the start of the World Series. Punched in the throat by an angry Giants fan, manager Frank Chance had difficulty speaking, so shortstop Joe Tinker relayed his remarks to the team, including an affectionate jab at second baseman Johnny ``the Crab’’ Evers.
By the time we were finally on the train and heading safely out of New York, it was nearly midnight. The exhaling from the players was as noticeable as the sound of the train’s air brakes.
Frank couldn’t talk above a whisper, and even that seemed painful. So he spoke softly to Tinker, who relayed the Peerless Leader’s words.
“All right, you mugs – I mean, champions!” Tinker said. The roar from the guys, who were sitting and standing around in our private parlor car, drowned him out. Everybody was cheering and congratulating whoever was close to them. It was a scene I’ll never forget.
A couple of porters appeared with bottles of whiskey and glasses. Beer glasses were put down. All who wanted a stiffer drink were soon holding one
Frank raised his glass and whispered something to Tinker.
“Frank says he’s never been prouder of a team than this one,” Tinker said. “We might not always see eye to eye – ”
At that point, everyone roared.
“ – we might not always get along, he says. But he’s never seen a team that worked together better to get around problems.”
When the cheers died down, Chance whispered again to Tinker.
“He says he’s glad the Crab is on our team. Because he wouldn’t want to listen to that whiny crap from the other bench.”
This provoked a loud round of chuckles. Evers grinned and shook his head.
“And he says that’s the last time those Giants fans will send death threats to an opposing pitcher. Because that didn’t work out so good for them.”
Miner nodded and raised his glass toward Chance, who toasted right back.
“And finally,” Tinker said, “Frank says to drink up and enjoy. Because we’ll have a day off in Detroit tomorrow before we give it to the Tigers.”
Tinker leaned over toward Chance.
“And now, Frank says he ain’t talking no more. Because his throat is killing him.”
With that, the Cubs downed their whiskey. Those who wanted got refills.
Sitting by a window where I could see the lights go by, I kept quietly to the beer in front of me, watching this bewildering scene. Here were grown men, paid to play a boys’ game, celebrating like schoolboys after winning a contest that seemed as close to war as men who didn’t use deadly weapons could get.
Mr. Sanborn, the author of the “pretzel curve” and other fanciful words, approached me with a small glass of whiskey in each hand.
“You should try a wee taste of this brown whiskey,” he said. “It’s a fine bourbon, I.W. Harper, from president Pulliam’s fine commonwealth of Kentucky. At this moment, Mr. McGraw himself would tell you, the Cubs should be toasting the larcenous Harry Pulliam.”
“Oh, I don’t know, Mr. Sanborn,” I said. “I barely drink beer.”
“Like a good German lad from Chicago, I’m sure,” he said. “On this occasion, a small bit of fine bourbon is in order. Even more to the point, the I.W. Harper distillery was founded by Isaac Wolfe “I.W.” Bernheim, a cousin of Pirates owner Barney Dreyfuss, who got his start as the distillery’s bookkeeper and then advanced from there.”
I remained hesitant.
“It was Mr. Dreyfuss, of course, who brought along Harry Pulliam,” Mr. Sanborn said, “and helped his ascension to the National League throne, from which he issued the ruling that elevated the Cubs past the Giants. And so, there could not be a more fitting beverage than I.W. Harper to toast the Cubs’ 1908 success.”
I looked over and saw Frank watching me, and Mr. Sanborn holding an extra whiskey. Frank whispered something to Kling, and the catcher came over to us.
“Frank says it’s OK to have a bit of bourbon if you want it,” Kling told me. “He says that if this is the first time you’ve ever tried a hard drink, you might as well learn from a pro … like this sporting news writer here.”
“Touché to Frank,” Sanborn said.