Back in the Good Old Days

Damon Runyon

The Morning Post/April 27, 1928

It would appear from the reports of the opening game attendance that the Chicago Cubs have about regained all the oldtime popularity of the National Leaguers on the Boul’ Mich.’

William Wrigley, the first ladies’ man of the U.S.A., had to extend his baseball premises the past winter to take care of the renewed interest in his pastimers, and it seems that he didn’t grab off enough additional territory at that. A lot of clients couldn’t squeeze in.

You may attribute this interest mainly to the fact that the Cubs of 1928 seem to be solid pennant contenders. I pick them no worse than second in the National League. The basis of baseball popularity in any city in the land is not the ownership of a club, nor the color of the manager’s hair. It is GAMES WON.

But it is good to see the Chicagoese once more properly excited about the Cubs. It may result in a return to the grand old days of the fierce rivalry between the city on the shores of Lake Michigan and our own Manhattan Island, when a visit to Chicago with the Giants was a real adventure.

In those days the citizens of Chicago would heave segments of building material at the Giants, and when the Cubs came to New York the infuriated Manhattan Islanders would gladly return the courtesy. Only the Islanders used pop bottles instead of building material, in the interests of economy.

“Cheer Up, Muggsy,” Sent “Mac” to the Hay

I think it was along in 1908, the year of the celebrated play-off game, that the Cubs licked the Giants, including Mathewson, the mighty, by a score of 19 to 0.

On the occasion of the Giants’ next visit to Chicago the gentlemanly members of the Chicago chamber of commerce unleashed nineteen balloons over the baseball yard, one after the other, and finally set up a balloon carrying an effigy of John J. McGraw. Incidentally, the Cubs won again that very day.

In those perilous times the popular son of the day was “Cheer Up, Mary!” and that evening, wherever Mr. McGraw went, the proletariat seemed to be chanting a parody on the song that went something like this:

“Cheer Up, Muggsy, Don’t be Crying,” etc., and so forth.

After poking his ears into divers and sundry sports of the times in Chicago, and invariably having them assailed by the above words, Mr. McGraw retired to bed in one of the highest dungeons on record. He never did care for persons calling him “Muggsy” anyway.

The stormy petrel of the big leagues, and the greatest advertisement the island of Manhattan ever had, McGraw and his Giants always caused more excitement in Chicago than a mob war does nowadays. Those were the days of Frank Chance and his Cubs, one of the all-time greatest baseball machines.

McGraw will always feel that these Cubs won a pennant from him illegally in 1980, when Fred Merkle failed to touch second on a play that won the game for the Giants.

Those Were the Torrid Times

The National League authorities upheld the protest of the Cubs, and ordered the game played over. The Cubs and the Giants wound up the season in a tie that year, so this game would have been the Giant’s margin of pennant victory. In the play-off the Cubs won.

Those were heated times, my hearties. In this era, were the conditions the same, the lads out in Chicago would probably have a lot of “pineapples” on hand as welcome offerings for our noble boys. A “pineapple” is a bomb. The term, old in New York, seems to have reached Chicago only recently. I do not know the market quotations out there, but in New York a 60-cent “pineapple” is sufficient to wreck a building, while a $1.50 “pineapple” will desolate a township.

Those old-time Cubs were mighty baseball men, at that. The great Chance himself played first base, and John J. McGraw thinks that Chance was one of the finest baseball players of all time. Chance is dead. He came back to the big leagues after his Chicago triumphs to manage the Yankees under Frank Farrell’s ownership, but had no luck.

He was accounted well fixed when he died. Most of those old-time Cubs have done very well in a business way. Several are reputed rich.

Behind the bat for the Cubs of the Chance regime was the Willowy Hebrew, Johnny Kling, who rates in baseball history as one of the best. Also he was the first Hebrew to attain any real fame in baseball.

Here’s Where They Go After They’ve Gone

He was an artist back there in the shade of the hickory switches, a wonderful thrower, a marvel at handling a pitcher. Kling conducts a big billiard room in his home town, Kansas City, Mo., and is said to be wealthy.

Squatting Jimmy Archer, who has almost as graceful as Kling, and who succeeded Johnny as the first-string catcher of the Cubs, is a cattle buyer at the Chicago Stock Yards. Pat Moran and Tom Needham, other catchers for the Chance machine, are dead. Moran won a world’s championships with the Cincinnati Reds.

Of the pitchers, old Mordecai “three-fingered” Brown is an athletic director at Decatur, Ill.; Orvie Overall is a banker at Visalia, Cal; Edward Ruelbach is a wholesale grocer at Covington, Ky.; Carl Lundgren coaches the University of Illinois, and Chick Frazer is a National League scout.

Jack Taylor is a fireman out of St. Louis, and Bob Wicker is a retired rancher at Bedford, Ind. They were both pitchers. Harry Steinfeldt, the third baseman of the club, is dead, and Heinie Zimmerman, who came after him, is a plumber up in the Bronx.

Jimmy Sheckard, the left fielder, is in the automobile business at Columbia, Pa.; Jimmy Slagle is in the junk business in Chicago, and Frank Schulte is with the Standard Oil Company at Richmond, Cal. Arthur Hofmann, the famous utility first baseman, is business manager of the Oakland Club of the Pacific Coast League.

Charley Williams, secretary of the club for twenty-seven years, is manager of the West Side Hospital, in Chicago. And the newspaperman who traveled with the old Cubs under “the Peerless Leader,” Bill Veeck, who wrote under the name of Bill Bailey, is now the president of the club. 

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