Friday, August 6, 2010

On Fire

     One hundred and four years ago today, on August 6, 1906, the Cubs beat the Giants in New York by a score of 3-1. Their record was now an enviable 69-30 (.697), and they led the defending world-champion New Yorkers by 5½ games. But better was yet to come.
     The Cubs won the next two days as well, making it three in a row. They traveled across town to Brooklyn and swept four from the Dodgers. Then they returned home to Chicago, where they swept three more from the Dodgers, then beat the Giants on August 18 to extend their winning streak to 11.
     The Cubs lost to the Giants, 7-0, on August 19. Then they won 14 in a row.
     They lost to the Cardinals, 5-2, on September 2. Then they won 12 more in a row.
     The Cubs’ 5-1 victory over the Pirates on September 16 was their 37th in the past 39 games. They had lost only twice in a stretch of games that represented, in those days, more than a quarter of the season. The Cubs’ record now stood at 105-32 (.766). They were 17½ games ahead of New York and 20½ in front of Pittsburgh.
     After the greatest sustained run in baseball history, the Cubs cooled off a bit, winning “only” 11 of 15 for the rest of the season. They finished at 116-36, 20 games ahead of the Giants, with a percentage of .763 that still ranks as the best of all time.
     Of the Cubs’ pitchers, only Bob Wicker compiled a losing record. He was 3-5 before being traded on June 2 to St. Louis for Orval Overall, who went 12-3 for the Cubs and became a mainstay for the next several years. The records of the other Cub pitchers were as follows: Mordecai “Three-Finger” Brown 26-6; Jack Pfiester 20-8; Ed Reulbach 19-4, Carl Lundgren 17-6; Jack Taylor 12-3; Fred Beebe 6-1. The team earned-run average was 1.75.
     When asked whether he was amazed that the Cubs had won 116 games, Reulbach said, “I wonder how we came to lose 36.”
     The White Sox, no slouches themselves, were propelled to the American League pennant by a 20-game winning streak that overlapped with the first half of the Cubs’ sensational 37-2 run. From August 2 through August 18, the two Chicago clubs combined for a mark of 29-1.

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