Anyone who hasn’t been living under a rock for the past century knows that the Chicago Cubs haven’t won a World Series since the Roosevelt administration. Theodore Roosevelt that is. Cubs fans have multiple reasons – curses – to point blame at as to why the team hasn’t won. Whether it be the Billy Goat, the black cat in 1969, Leon Durham pulling a Bill Buckner two years before Buckner, or Steve Bartman, there are multiple excuses as to why the Cubs haven’t won the World Series since 1908.
In fact, before this season, the Cubs hadn’t even celebrated a postseason series win at home…..ever. The Cubs won the 1907 and 1908 World Series clinching games on the road and they won the 2003 NLDS in Atlanta. When they beat the Cardinals in Game 4 of this year’s NLDS, it was the first clinching celebration on a Cubs home field…..ever. They didn’t win another game this postseason, having been swept by the New York Mets in the NLCS.
Fans were quick to point out more curses. With the Mets’ Daniel Murphy almost single-handedly taking the Cubs out of the equation, fans were quick to remember that the name of the Billy Goat was in fact, Murphy. Someone even changed the name of Murphy to Daniel Murphy on the “Curse of the Billy Goat” Wikipedia page.
I’m not a firm believer in curses. I do believe that a person or group of people can be manipulated to believe a certain thing if they tell themselves that thing over and over. A mind over matter sort of thing. But not curses. Let’s forget all that for a minute and pretend that I believe in curses. Could it be that the real curse for the Chicago Cubs, is in fact, Wrigley Field?
Follow along for a little. When the Cubs last won the Series in 1907 and again in 1908, they did it at their former ballpark, West Side Park. Wrigley Field, when it was built in 1914, was known as Weeghman Park and wasn’t built for the Cubs, it was built for the Chicago Whales of the Federal League. The Whales played there for the 1914 and 1915 seasons. In 1915, the Whales won the Federal League championship.
Joe Tinker – yes THAT very same Tinker as in “Tinker to Evers to Chance” was the manager of the Whales. They finished the season with an 86-66 record. There had been multiple rain-outs that season and not all of them were made up, so the champ would be decided by win percentage. Their .566 win percentage was .001 ahead of the St. Louis Terriers (87-67) and were therefore named the champs.
After the 1915 season, the Federal League folded. With the owners of the American and National Leagues buying out half of the eight owners in the Federal League. Whales owner Charles Weeghman – along with others including chewing gum magnate William Wrigley Jr. – bought the Chicago Cubs and moved the team into his then two-year-old ballpark.
The Federal League had fought prior to the 1915 season to bring an antitrust lawsuit against the American and National Leagues. They wanted recognition, a piece of the action. The case was heard by Federal judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis, who in just four more years would be brought in to be the first Commissioner of Major League Baseball. Landis delayed making a ruling, instead urging the sides to continue negotiations, but the delay of a real verdict hurt only the Federal League, forcing them into the financial troubles that forced the league to fold a year later.
There remains today, but one piece of the Federal League. That, is what is today known as Wrigley Field. And while the Federal League didn’t have a postseason, the Chicago Whales were named the champions of the league in 1915, their last year of existence. And where was the Whales’ final game played that season? The one that gave them the title? Yes, Weeghman Park.
The Chicago Whales celebrated the last Federal League championship in the league’s history at Wrigley Field and the Cubs moved into the park the next year. They haven’t won the series since and in fact watched the Detroit Tigers celebrate winning the 1945 title AT Wrigley Field, the last year the Cubs even went to the Fall Classic.
Perhaps the curse afflicting the Chicago Cubs isn’t a Billy Goat, or a black cat, or Steve Bartman. But it’s the curse of the long-forgotten Federal League, specifically the Chicago Whales, who won the last championship of the Federal League, and is now keeping the Cubs from bringing a title back to Chicago, which could wipe out the memory of the Chicago Whales and the Federal League once and for all.
The fact that the Cubs actually clinched a series at home this past season could mark the beginning of the end for the curse. Perhaps now that the stadium has gone 100 years without a title, it is finally time for the Cubs to break the curse once and for all in 2016. Or perhaps, the curse will live on, until the Cubs leave Wrigley and find themselves a new home.