1918 Chicago Cubs

1918 Chicago Cubs1918 Chicago Cubs

Charles Weeghman, the War and Babe Ruth pitches against the Cubs in the World Series.

Charles Weeghman did not spend a lot of time with the Cubs,  but it certainly was in important time in Cubs history.  Weeghman is the man who built the stadium we know today as Wrigley Field.  But the stadium wasn't for the Cubs originally.

Weeghman first owned the Chicago Chi-Feds (and Whales) of the Federal League.  The first game ever played at Wrigley was by the Chi-Feds rather than the Cubs in 1914.  The Cubs did not move into Wrigley Field until 1916 when Weeghman became majority owner of the Cubs. 

Weeghman ran the operations of the Cubs in a very aggressive way.    I would compare him to an owner like George Steinbrenner of the Yankees in the 1970's in that Weeghman was ready and willing to spend a lot of money to help the team win quickly. 

Weeghman and his efforts to improve the 1918 Cubs

Weeghman made some aggressive trades to improve the team in 1918.  Some did pay off, like Dode Paskert, who was a key player on the 1918 team, however the Cubs also picked up future Hall of Fame pitcher, Pete
"Grover" Alexander who after just 3 games with the team was drafted into the war effort and didn't return to the team until the 1919 season.  And after researching some of the players closely, I was still unable to find the story behind how Weeghman acquired Charlie Pick, an infielder who joined the Cubs late in the season and played very well for the team in a position that had been weak offensively all year (2B). 

Charles Weeghman's Cubs transactions to improve the 1918 team

December 11, 1917
Cubs trade Mike Pendergast, Pickles Dillhoefer and $60,000 to Phillies for Pete "Grover" Alexander (P) and Bill Killefer (C)

December 29, 1917
Cubs trade Cy Williams to the Phillies for Dode Paskert (CF)

January 4, 1918
Cubs trade Larry Doyle, Art Wilson and $15,000 to the Braves for Lefty Tyler (P)

During the season, the Cubs were not very productive at second base and picked up Charlie Pick, I was unable to verify whether it was via trade or free agency, but Pick had a strong end of the season offensively and led the Cubs in hits in the 1918 World Series

The War, 1918 and a Cubs World Series at Comiskey Park

The Cubs were not the big story as the season began.  It was the Giants, one of the few teams even less impacted by the War effort than the Cubs, that got off to an 18-1 at the beginning of the season. Eventually, the great Cubs pitching led by Hippo Vaughn, Claude Hendrix & Lefty Tyler (another offseason trade by Weeghman) helped the Cubs dominate the league on their way to an impressive 84-45 season.  World War II didn't just have an impact on various teams having players drafted and joining the armed forces.  On August 1st an announcement was made to shorten the season so that it will end on September 2 to allow players to report for duty or take jobs needed for the War effort.  The Cubs even got an advantage by having more home games due to playing more doubleheaders and other teams giving up home dates.  Weeghman took nearly every advantage he could to bring in more revenue to the team.  Even doing something that would seem unthinkable today, he made the decision to play the 1918 World Series at Comiskey Park, the White Sox home stadium because it had more seating capacity.

Cubs monthly record for 1918

April    6-3
May    17-9                  (23-12)
June   19-6-1             (42-18)
July    18-14               (60-32)
August  22-12-1     (82-44)
Spt     2-1                     (84-45)

Best Cubs winning streaks in 1918

  • 9 game winning streak (April 24 to May 5)
  • 5 game winning streak (May 22 to May 27)
  • 9 game winning streak (May 30, GM2 to June 11)  14 of 15 wins
  • 7 game winning streak (June 22 to June 29)
  • 5 game winning streak (July 11 to July 14)
  • (2) 4 game winning streaks (8 of 9) (Aug 18, GM2 to Aug 25 GM1)

New York Giants began season 18-1

Cubs 1918 season record 84-45
NY Ginats 10.5 games back 71-53

Cubs scored 538 runs
Cubs gave up 393 runs

The Red Sox, Babe Ruth and a crazy World Series

This was the first year that the Red Sox noticed that Babe Ruth was not just a great pitcher, he could hit also.   Ruth was a primary member of the Red Sox rotation all year, but on non-pitching days he did play some outfield also.  It's rather interesting that it's 100 years later that we may have another prominent 2 way player with the Angels and Shohei Ottani.  In 1918, Ruth only played 95 games, but still managed to lead the league in home runs with 11 along with a slugging percentage (.555) and OPS (.966).  Ruth will only pitch regularly in the following season (1919) before moving to the field to become one of the greatest hitters in MLB history.  In the World Series against the Cubs, both Ruth's bat and pitching arm killed the Cubs.  Ruth won both games he started, giving up just 2 runs in 17 innings and in the game 4, 3-2 victory at Fenway, Ruth drove in 2 of the 3 runs with a triple.  Ruth's teammate, Carl Mays was the 2nd pitcher in a one, two combination that the Cubs could not figure out as Mays won both games he started, giving up just 2 runs in 18 innings pitched.  All 4 Red Sox victories were by one run which even made it possible for the Cubs to outscore the Red Sox in the overall series 10-9 in a Series dominated by pitching. 

Weeghman and the Cubs

Weeghman's efforts helped the Cubs get to the World Series, but it also made some of his financial problems even worse.  Weeghman became wealthy with lunch counters and other retail type enterprises that were really hit hard by the War and the Depression that followed.  Shortly after the 1918 season, Weeghman slowly started selling his interest in the Cubs, with Charles Murphy becoming the next majority owner of the Cubs.  Weeghman Park was renamed Cubs Park during the Murphy ownership era and when PK Wrigley became the next owner of the Cubs, the park was renamed to Wrigley Field in 1926. 

Gambling and the 1918 Cubs?

The 1919 Black Sox scandal has been widely reported (even a movie made about it), but there is evidance to suggest that gambling may have impacted the 1918 Cubs as well.  The most prominent incident along with other situations in 1918, was Cubs leadoff hitter, Max Flack getting picked off base twice in the same game (the only time this has happend in World Series history).  Gambling had become so common around this time that the gambling often took place right at the ballparks and with racetracks closing down due to the War effort, many gamblers switched to baseball instead.  The suspicions go deeper considering that the teams travelled together by train and were counting up the gate receipts of the previous 3 games.  Here is the article that I found that details the possibility of how gambling may have impacted the 1918 World Series.  I haven't read this one, but there is a book about it by Sean Deveney at the link below. 

NY Times article-Gambling and the 1918 World Series

The Cubs offense

To give you an idea of how times were different in 1918, Babe Ruth was a full-time pitcher and part-time outfielder, but led the league in home runs (11).  As a team, the Cubs hit just 21 home runs all season long. 

The 1918 Cubs offense had a very strong team, but without any superstar players.  Charlie Hollocher was theirbest hitter, Fred Merkle had his best offensive season as a Cub and most of the other positions were strong
as well.  I've broken down the 1918 Cubs by WAR and WRC+ and you will notice that the Cubs were above league average at nearly every position on the field.  Even Pitcher, Claude Hendrix had an above league average WRC+, this is a very un-common occurrence so you can certainly see how Weeghman's offseason activity to improve the team did pay off to a World Series appearance. 

1918 Cubs Lineup

Charlie Hollocher             134  (SS)
Fred Merkle                         121  (1B)
Dode Paskert                      122  (OF)
Art Mann                               118  (OF)
Max Flack                              113  (OF)
Charlie Pick                          147  (2B)
Claude Hendrix                  127  ( P)
Bob O'Farrell                      131  ( C)

Charlie Hollocher had a 5.5 WAR  (SS)
Fred Merkle had a 3.5 WAR  (1B)
Dode Paskert had a 3.3 WAR  (OF)
Les Mann had a 2.3 WAR  (OF)
Max Flack had a 2.2 WAR  (OF)

Bill Killefer  (C)
Bob O'Farrell  (C)

Charlie Deal  (3B)

Charlie Pick  (2B)  (August 3)
Rollie Zeider (2B)
Pete Kilduf  (2B)

The Cubs 1918 Pitching

The Cubs pitching staff was the primary strength of the team.  I reviewed the top NL pitchers (by WAR) and the 4 primary rotation starter for the Cubs finished 1st, 3rd, 5th and 14th in the NL.  The Cubs overall pitching WAR for the season was 18.0, 2nd place was the Pirates with 13.9.  That's a
significant gap that reflects the Cubs pitching dominance.  Unfortunately, the Red Sox were also a very good pitching team and defeated them in a 6 game World Series. 

Cubs 1918 Pitching 

  • Hippo Vaughn,       22-10          1.74              5.2 WAR (Best in NL)
  • Lefty Tyler                19-8             2.00              4.5 WAR (3rd in NL)
  • Claude Hendrix     20-7             2.78              3.7 WAR (5th in NL)
  • Phil Douglas            10-9             2.13               2.5 WAR (14th in NL)

Team Pitching Stats
Cubs                   NL 1st      18.0
Pirates               NL 2nd    13.9

This Day in Chicago Cubs History-1918 Chicago Cubs

April 16, 1918
Pete (Grover) Alexander makes his first start for the Cubs, coming to the team in an o
ffseason trade, but Cubs lose to the Cardinals 4-2. 

Alexander was a great pitcher for the Cubs for many years, however, in 1918, the nation was at war and he was drafted after making only 3 starts for his new team. 

April 24, 1918
At Weegham Park, Hippo Vaughn pitches a complete game facing just 29
batters (2 over minimum), giving up just one hit to Hall of Famer, Rogers
Hornsby.  Cubs defeat the Cardinals 2-1.

May 3, 1918

At Weeghman Park (Wrigley Field), the Cubs score 4 runs in the 9th inning to defeat the Reds.  Fred Merkle's RBI single was the walk-off winner.  Claude Hendrix didn't pitch that well (8 runs, 6 earned), but did hit a home run in the game.  To give you an idea of how rare home runs were in 1918, the Cubs hit just 21 in the regular season.

May 4, 1918
Lefty Tyler pitches a 4-hit shutout as the Cubs defeat the Braves 1-0 at Weeghman Park (Wrigley Field). 

May 5, 1918
Hippo Vaughn backs up Lefty Tyler's 4-hitter from the day before with a 3-hit shutout against the Cardinals at Weeghman Park (Wrigley Field).  It is the Cubs 9th straight win bringing their record to 11-3.  But the Cubs are still 2.5 games behind the New York Giants who started the season with a record of 181.  

May 17, 1918
At Weeghman Park (Wrigley Field), the Cubs defeat the Phillies 2-0.  Hippo Vaughn pitches a 4-hit complete game shutout, strikes out 8 and walks just one batter.

May 30, 1918
In game 2 of a doubleheader at Weeghman Park (Wrigley Field), Hippo Vaughn strikes out 12 and walks one as Cubs defeat the Reds 2-1.  The Reds win game 1. 

June 6, 1918
The Cubs defeat the Phillies 3-0 at the Baker Bowl in Philadelphia.  Phil Douglas pitches a 3-hit shutout.  The Cubs finally overtake the New York Giants with a record of 28-12.  It is the Cubs 6th win in a row and 11th victory in 12 games. 

June 8, 1918
For the 2nd game in a row, the Cubs get a complete game shutout against the Philles at the Baker Bowl (Philadelphia).  On 6/6/1918, Phil Douglas pitches a 3-hitter and on this day, Lefty Tyler gives up just 2 hits to the Phillies. 

June 11, 1918
The Cubs open up a 4 game series with the 2nd place New York Giants at the Polo Grounds (New York) and defeat the Giants 5-3.  It is the Cubs 9th consecutive win, 14th win in 15 games and gives the Cubs a 2.5 game lead over the Giants.  The 2 teams will split the 4 game series. 

June 12, 1918

The Giants break the Cubs 9 game winning streak with a 1-0 victory over the Cubs on an inside the park home run by George Burns.  Lefty Tyler is the tough luck loser for the Cubs despite pitching a 2-hitter for the 2nd straight start. 

June 19, 1918

At Forbes Field, the Cubs defeat the Pirates 1-0.  Phil Douglas pitches a 3-hit, complete game shutout. 

June 26, 1918

At Weeghman Park, the Cubs defeat the Cardinals 2-0 as Hippo Vaughn pitches a complete game 4-hit shutout, striking out 10 batters and walking just 2.

June 29, 1918
At Redland Field in Cinncinatti, the Cubs defeat the Reds 2-0 as Hippo
Vaughn pitches a 8-hit shutout.

July 4, 1918

At Robison Field in St. Louis, the Cubs sweep a doubleheader against the Cardinals with back to back 1-0 victories.  Lefty Tyler goes 10 innings in GM1 and Claude Hendrix shuts out the Cardinals in Game 2.  

July 6, 1918

Hippo Vaughn pitches a 12 inning shutout and drives in the only run in a 1-0 victory over Giants at Weeghman Park.

July 11, 1918

At Weeghman Park (Wrigley Field), the Cubs sweep a doubleheader against the Braves 4-3 (10 innings) and 3-2.  Phil Douglas pitches 2 scoreless innings in relief to earn the win in the first game and pitches a complete game to earn the victory in GM2 as well. 

July 17, 1918
Lefty Tyler of the Cubs sure earned this win as he pitches 21 innings in a 2-1 victory
over the Phillies at Weegham Park (Wrigley Field).  Max Flack's 5th hit of the game is the walk-off RBI single. 

August 1, 1918
Hippo Vaughn throws a 1-hit shutout against the Giant at the Polo Grounds in New York.  
Heinie Zimmerman, who previously played for the Cubs, got the only hit for the Giants.  An announcement is made on this day that the season will end on September 2 to allow all drafted players enter the war effort and others begin jobs that help the war effort.

More about how the War impacted the 1918 MLB season

This Great Game

August 14, 1918

At Weeghman Park, Hippo Vaughn pitches a 4-hit shutout as the Cubs defeat the Pirates 2-0.

August 17, 1918
At Weeghman Park (Wrigley Field), the Cubs sweep the Phillies in a doubleheader with
2 shutouts.  Claude Hendrix, a 5-hit CG in GM1 & Lefty Tyler with a 4-hitter in GM2.

August 23, 1918At Weeghman Park (Wrigley Field), the Cubs get a walk-off victory over the New York Giants on Bob O'Farrell's bases loaded double to give the Cubs a 3-2 walk-off victory.

August 29, 1918At Weeghman Park, the Cubs clinched the NL pennant to advance to the WorldSeries with a doubleheader sweep over the Reds.  In game 1, Cubs pitcher
Lefty Tyler won his 18th game of the year pitching a 5-hit, complete game
shutout in the Cubs 1-0 victory.   Cubs win 2nd game of doubleheader 6-4