The 1906 Crosstown World Series
Yes, you’d need a time machine to see it, but that doesn’t necessarily mean a trip into the future. The thing that Chicago baseball fans often fantasize about has actually already happened, way back in 1906. That was the first and last time the Chicago White Sox and the Chicago Cubs met in the World Series.
It’s as difficult to imagine both teams meeting in the Series as it is to imagine the city not completely imploding under those circumstances. Chicagoans are often hard-pressed to talk about anything but baseball when the teams meet during interleague play in the regular season or the occasional exhibition match. Even spring training games between the two clubs, featuring mostly rookies and prospects with no shot at making the opening day roster, become the focus of the city’s attention. If Chicago was the scene of rioting after the Bulls championship victories in the early nineties, wouldn’t we see a repeat of the Great Chicago Fire after each World Series game? Would Mayor Daley be safe to walk on the North Side donning his Sox cap? If the Cubs held home field advantage, would Chicago-native Barack Obama throw out the first pitch in a Sox jersey? Would Bill Murray get mobbed in the stands at the Cell while rooting for the Cubs? Would the CTA’s Red Line get anyone to the games on time?
What makes the 1906 Series even more special, and even more improbable, was that it was the first World Series appearance for both clubs. The Cubs had dominated the regular season, going 116-36 to reach the championship as the heavy favorites. The team was led by the legendary, poetry-inspiring infield-trio of short stop Joe Tinker, second baseman Johnny Evers and first baseman Frank Chance, all Hall of Famers, along with pitcher Mordecai “Three Finger” Brown.
The White Sox, on the other hand, began the season in sixth place and had to put together a 19 game winning streak late in the year to make the postseason. The team had been semi-affectionately dubbed “The Hitless Wonders,” due to the fact that they finished with a league-worst .230 batting average.
Game 1 was played on October 9th, and the city shut down — literally. Snow flurries drifted over the skyline as bar fights and shouting matches became the norm. City Hall closed for the day. The White Sox took Game 1 at the Cubs’ West Side Grounds 2-1 in a poorly fielded game. “Three Finger” Brown, the Cubs ace, was on hook for the loss against winning pitcher Nick Altrock.
Snow fell again the next day at South Side Park for Game 2. The Cubs exploded for 10 hits and took the game 7-1, evening the series. Game 3 continued the trend of the “road” team winning, as the Sox, behind Hall of Famer “Big” Ed Walsh, who allowed only two first inning hits, won the game 3-0.
Mordecai Brown redeemed himself in Game 4 back at South Side Park, pitching 5 and 2/3 innings of no-hit ball to even the series at two games a piece. Walsh came out and pitched six shaky innings in Game 5, but the Sox’ 12 hit, 8 run attack and three innings of stellar relief from Doc White earned them an 8-6 victory, putting the White Sox within one win of their first World Series title.
Twenty thousand people crammed into South Side Park on Sunday, October 14th, with thousands more crowding the streets to be a part of the potential clincher. A Game 7 seemed all but certain as the Cubs again sent Brown to the mound. He didn’t make it out of the second inning, as the Sox put up seven runs against him. The Cubs managed to narrow the gap to 8-3 going into the bottom of the 9th, with Sox pitcher Doc White again taking the ball. With two outs, Frank Schulte hit a dribbler back to the mound. White flipped the ball to first and then began celebrating as his teammates and fans rushed the field. The White Sox took the series 4 games to 2.
The city was illuminated by bonfires and buzzing with the sounds of Sox fans celebrating in the street. Frank Chance summed up the sentiments of the stunned and bitter Cubs faithful when he said, “There is one thing that I will never believe, and that is that the Sox are better than the Cubs.”
The last time both teams seemed to have a legitimate shot at meeting each other in the World Series was in 2008. The Cubs compiled an impressive 97 win season, and the Sox forced a one-game playoff for the American League Central Division title, beating Minnesota 1-0 in the “Blackout Game”. The city was electrified at the possibility of both teams facing off, especially on what was the 100 year anniversary of the last Cubs World Series title. For a Cubs fan, what could be sweeter than to break the ten-decade “curse” against the hated South Siders? And for the Sox, what more satisfying than a second title in three years, with the added incentive of further tormenting the Cubs? Unfortunately, both teams went out in disappointing fashion, eliminated in the first round of the playoffs. The Cubs were swept by the Dodgers and the Sox went down in four games to the Tampa Bay Rays.
Until both teams get on a roll in the same year, all we have are yellowed newspaper clippings, or the hope of serious advancements in time travel. Especially to long suffering Cubs fans, a time machine might seem more likely in this lifetime than another trip to the World Series. Either way, it’s pure fantasy.