1876: The Cubs’ First Game Ever

Here’s the Chicago Tribune headline for the Cubs’ first game ever, played on Tuesday, April 25, 1876:

And the box score:

The box score’s hard to read, but the Cubs won 4-0, scoring in the second, third, fourth, and seventh innings. They got eight hits, all singles, with three of them by pitcher Al Spalding. Louisville pitcher Jim Devlin threw the first pitch, in Louisville, at 3:30. Attendance was “about 2,000 or a little less,” compared to the prediction that “10,000 would be a small figure” for estimating the number of fans at the game.

But, a hill adjoining the grounds gave people “a clear view of the game over a short fence, and it was crowded and peopled with masses of citizens, who chose to husband their cash and steal half-a-dollar each from the clubs. The audience which did not pay was fully as large as that which did.” The game took one hour and fifty minutes, and “the ground was not in good shape, and was fully as moist as the Chicago park, being sticky and soft in the outfield, and very dead all over. The character of the game depended largely on this fact.” The Cubs made three errors, and Louisville made six. The Tribune added: “Very little money was wagered, the Chicagoans generally refusing to give the odds of five to one which were demanded before the game.”

Gerhardt, for Louisville, led off the game with a single. Hines, for the Cubs, got their first hit in the second, and scored the first Cubs run in that inning too, on a wild throw by Carbine, the Louisville first baseman. Here’s how the Tribune described it: “Hines hit hard at the first one and sent it to (first baseman) Carbine so briskly that he couldn’t hold it, giving Hines a life. Spalding put a corker to centre-field, Hines going to third. After Spalding had been run out and Addy had retired at first, White drove a fierce one to (third baseman) Gerhardt, who gathered it well but threw it wildly to Carbine, letting in Hines with the first tally.”

Errors led to all four Cubs runs, and it looks like there were no extra base hits. But, the pitchers allowed just one walk: Devlin walked Barnes, the Cubs leadoff hitter, who scored two runs in the game. The Cubs had eight hits; Louisville had seven. There was just one umpire, an L.B. Warren, who the Tribune said “made four errors of judgment.” The crowd didn’t like him, and “Welch, of this city (Louisville), was agreed upon as umpire for Thursday’s game”: this game was played on a Tuesday.

At the time, the Chicago team was called the White Stockings (but it’s easier to keep straight if we just call them the Cubs); the Tribune didn’t call the Louisville team by any particular name, but it wound up being known as the Grays. The Cubs wound up winning the N.L. pennant easily, going 52-14 over the 66-game season. Check out the season stats.

Finally, a p.s.: in the Cubs’ first home game, on May 10, 1876, at the 23rd Street Grounds, they shut out the Cincinnati Redlegs 6-0. The Tribune said: “It looks as if the Chicago club management has done it at last–has selected a club to fitly represent this city and therefore to excel all other clubs in the West, if not in the country. The weather encouraged the attendance, for a finer day for a game was hardly ever seen [and] the grass was in better shape and more even for short-fielding than ever before.”

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