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1943_09_11--020_SP The Decline and Fall of the Cubs

CHICAGO DAILY Most critics blame the plight of Chicago's once mighty Cubs on "the James boys" —pilot Jimmy Wilson (left) and general manager Jim Gallagher. Under their leadership the club has been fighting to get out of the second division since 1940. NEWS PHOTO The Decline and Fall of the Cubs By STANLEY FRANK CHICAGO baseball fans, always known as patient, fair-minded citizens reasonably devoted to the home team, threw their reputation and restraint out of the window at Wrigley Field on the afternoon of June twenty-seventh. A crowd of 37,792 reared back on its hind legs and howled its indignation at the floundering Cubs on the field and the blundering in the front office. The customers denounced Philip K. Wrigley for the pinch-penny policy that had squeezed Lou Novikoff, their outraged hero, and they indicated, raucously and pointedly, that they wanted no part of Jim Wilson, the field manager, and Jim Gallagher, the general manager, whom the Chicago Times calls "the James boys." Old inhabitants of Wrigley Field say it was the most violent demonstration against the Cub management since the wolves attacked Rogers Hornsby in 1932. On that occasion Hornsby crushed the mob by hitting a pinch home run with the bases loaded to beat the Braves. Wilson was powerless to silence the outburst or to make the bleacher clients tear up their signs reading: NOVIKOFF FOR MANAGER-THE BABE Rum OF 1943—NOVIICOFF—OUST THE JAMES BOYS. The Cubs lost a double-header to the Cardinals, blowing the first game in the ninth inning and the second game in the eighth, to fall within half a game of last place. In the Cubs' next game, three days later at Boston, Wilson put another match to the smoldering antagonism back home by benching Novikoff in the sec- Outtraded, outsmarted, outplayed, the one-time gold mine of the National League now draws more catcalls than customers. and inning. The Mad Russian was told to sit down after he had struck out and played a pop fly into a double. What the Cubs were doing near last place in midseason is, in the first place, the most important baseball story of the year. Casual fans are aware that the Cubs, inheritors of the proud tradition founded by Pop Anson, nurtured by Tinker to Evers to Chance and kept alive by four pennants during the decade of 1929-38, have been sagging badly since 1939. But perhaps only the experts, who picked the Cubs to challenge the Cardinals for the pennant this year, realize how complete the collapse has been. That Jim Wilson himself has a pretty firm grasp on the idea was indicated recently when a friend approached him while he was batting fungoes and informed him that Bucky Harris had just been fired by the Phillies. "That's strange," Wilson said, lifting a high one to right field. "I thought I was the next manager to be bounced." The significance of the situation extends far beyond Chicago. The financial structure of the National League has been jolted severely by the sharp nosedive into the second division of the legendary Cubs and the Giants—McGraw's Giants—the good providers of the other members. It is very well to say that constant circulation of the pennant is a fine thing for stimulating interest, but if the league is to prosper, it must have strong, contending teams annually in Chicago and New York. Once the bitter rivalry between the Cubs and the Giants, winners of fifteen championships apiece, invigorated the entire organization. The ancient feudists' dreary struggle to escape the cellar this season has hurt the league where it lives, at the box office. In 1929 the Cubs established the all-time attendance record by drawing 1,485,166 paid admissions at home, a figure that even the Yankees, with a ball park of twice the capacity of Wrigley Field, never have approached. For five successive years, from 1927 through 1931, the Cubs played to more than a million people in Chicago each season. Last year they barely attracted 600,000 cash customers. Harsh critics assert, however, that the Cubs last year did as well on the balance sheet as some of the old pennant winners. The answer to this riddle is that Wrigley, who formerly paid whopping salaries and fancy prices for new players, has put the team on a stringent budget, a practice rarely successful in baseball. The defense says Wrigley ran his team on a loose, lavish basis and dissipated a small fortune without getting results. Quick as a flash, the prosecution retorts that Wrigley still would have his money and a good team if he had not been a gold-plated 20


1943_09_11--020_SP The Decline and Fall of the Cubs
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