With the Cubs and Red Sox playing in Boston this weekend for the first time since the 1918 World Series, and some recent hoopla over the possibility that the 1918 series was thrown, I went through the Chicago Tribune archives, looking to see how they covered the last game of that series, on September 11, 1918.
The coverage was hidden far inside the front of the Tribune, with no picture or cartoon of the Cubs or Red Sox, only a short game story, a few sidebars, the box score, and the cumulative series stats. Why? Well, Joseph McCormick had just won election as the Republican nominee to be the next junior Senator from Illinois: the Tribune’s huge headline was “McCORMICK WINS”
Look at the cropped front page, which supplies ample proof of Chicago’s love for local politics:
McCormick had been a publisher and owner of the Tribune (the McCormicks ran the Tribune for decades), so you can almost understand why the paper spent so much time on him winning the primary.
This was a single day’s worth of casualties: it’s been decades since the U.S. had to grapple with anything near that volume of death in combat. Because of the war, the 1918 season was shortened and the World Series was being played in early September, not early October. Here’s the Tribune’s page on the conclusion of the series:
A few excerpts from the page show how deeply the war was overwhelming the World Series. The start and end of the game account:
“For the duration of the war Boston’s Red Sox made themselves world’s champions today by defeating the Cubs, 2 to 1, in the sixth game of a series which has been remarkable for its closeness. . . . The Cubs were inoffensive in the ninth, and professional baseball made its curtain bow until the end of the war.”
And three sidebars:
“Another delegation of wounded soldiers and sailors invalided home saw the game, and their entrance on crutches supported by their comrades evoked louder cheers than anything the athletes did on the diamond.”
“Among Chicago’s throngs of busy people, the news from Boston yesterday afternoon telling of the Cubs’ defeat for the world’s championship passed as an incident of little consequence. Where a year ago crowds gathered to get news bulletins from the annual combat, only a few were found, and those few took the result passively.
“The general feeling for the last six weeks that playing ball was not helping much in winning the war practically killed interest even in the annual series for the world’s title. Then, to cap the climax, the players had to engage in a row with the national commission over the division of the spoils during the series, which brought disgust to the season’s windup.” [That is, the players had threatened to go on strike before game 5 because they weren't getting a large enough share of the World Series revenue.]
“One feature of the finale of professional baseball was the parting of the baseball writers, many of whom have been reporting world’s series for nearly twenty years, and whose parting phrase has always been, “See you next year.” Today it was different, for there is no “next year” for professional baseball, and many of the writers assigned to this world’s series will be in the trenches next spring if their plans are not thwarted by physical disabilities or the end of the war.”