Whether you called them the Cubs, the Orphans, or the Remnants, the Chicago NL team lost this day at its home field, the West Side Grounds, 4-3, to the St. Louis Cardinals, as the Mound City team tallied a pair of runs in the ninth for the win.
By 1901, the once proud Chicago franchise, which had been identified for years with its player-manager Cap Anson, had sunk to the bottom of the NL. Anson was fired after the 1897 season and Tom Burns managed the team for two unsuccessful years and Tom Loftus took over in 1900. Loftus was in the middle of an awful year with Chicago in last place at 35-57. Loftus started his young and erratic lefthander Rube Waddell. The Cardinals, who finished fifth in 1900 for their best NL finish ever, were in third place under manager Patsy Donovan. Righthander Willie Sudhoff started for the Redbirds.
The game was scoreless until the third. With two outs, St. Louis second baseman Dick Padden walked. First baseman Dan McGann then hit a fly ball that landed in between center fielder Danny Green and right fielder Frank Chance and rolled through for a triple to score Padden. Donovan, playing in right field for St. Louis, followed with a double to plate McGann and make it 2-0.
Chicago did all of its scoring in the fifth. With one out, left fielder Topsy Hartsel tripled. Green, Chance, and first baseman Jack Doyle all singled and it was 3-2 Chicago after five innings.
The Cardinals had a chance to tie it in the eighth when Donovan reached third with two outs and catcher Art Nichols up. Donovan, sensing that the lefty Waddell didn't see him (newspaper accounts say Waddell was staring at the seams in the ball), broke for the plate, but Waddell's pitch was outside and it was easy enough for Chicago catcher Mike Kahoe to tag him out to end the inning.
In the ninth, Nichols led off with a walk and Jack Ryan sacrificed him over. What position Ryan played is a mystery as they left him out of the boxscore. It was either catcher or center. This brought up Sudhoff. And since this was 1901, it was not manly to use a pinch hitter. So the .176 hitting Sudhoff dug in to face one of baseball's hardest throwers. But Sudhoff singled to center and Nichols moved up to third. Left fielder Jesse Burkett followed with a single to score Nichols. Then singles by Padden and McGann scored Sudhoff and the Cardinals led 4-3. Sudhoff got the win despite striking out no batters. Waddell struck out six.
Loftus said after the game that he would get Chicago out of last place. And he was a man of his word. Chicago finished 53-86 and in sixth place in the NL, .001 ahead of New York and one game better than last place Cincinnati. St. Louis had their best finish in the NL ever with a 76-64 record and in fourth place, 14 1/2 games behind first place Pittsburgh. Burkett led the NL in batting average at .376 and got on base at a league best .440.
After the 1901 season, Loftus would be replaced by Frank Selee who led Boston to five titles in the 19th Century and he would improve the Cubs and turn them into one of the best teams in the league before retiring because of health reason and allowing Chance to garner the glory for managing the Cubs to three straight NL titles. The Cardinals would regress in the coming seasons and not win an NL flag for 25 seasons.
Of course, no recap of the 1901 season can fail to mention the biggest change to the game: the American League. After opearting as a "minor" league in 1900, the AL went toe to toe with the NL in 1901, including invading NL territory in Boston, Philadelphia, and Chicago. In 1902, the AL would move its Milwaukee franchise to St. Louis and in 1903, Baltimore would move to New York. It was time to play ball!
Waddell, after pitching just one year in Chicago, was swooped up by Philadelphia's Connie Mack and he would lead the AL in strikeouts for six straight seasons, including a season with 349 in 1904. Waddell, who likely had some psychiatric or developmental problem, was able to be kept in check by Mack until 1908 when he was sold to the St. Louis Browns. Waddell would pass away in 1914 at the age of 37. For more on the life of Rube Waddell, you can visit Rubewaddell.net.
Sources: Chicago Tribune, Retrosheet, Baseball-reference.com