Chicago baseball faithful are basking in the celebration that their beloved Cubbies have secured a spot in postseason play. It’s been a very long time since Cubs fans have felt this comfortable with their team’s chances to win it all. Manager Joe Maddon has done a superb job, leading his club to the league’s best winning percentage.
The National League powerhouse is led by a pair of MVP candidates. Anthony Rizzo is batting .290 with 31 dingers and 38 doubles, and Kris Bryant is making his case with a .295 batting average, 37 HR’s and 33 two-baggers.
Solid veterans fill out much of the daily lineups. Ben Zobrist, a versatile player who has bene Chicago’s primary second baseman, sits at .267 while Dexter Fowler roams center field and chips in with a .272 average.
The pitching staff is solid led by Jake Arietta and his 17-6 record, 2.91 ERA and 171 punch outs. Jon Lester may be their best pitcher right now, enjoying a 17 win season against 4 losses with a 2.40 ERA and 179 K’s. Kyle Hendricks boasts a 2.03 ERA and a 15-7 mark.
Wrigley Field has housed the Cubs since 1916, and title glory has been been enjoyed by the home squad between the ivy. You would have to back 110 seasons to 1906 since the Chicago Cubs enjoyed such a dominant regular season, rolling to a 116-36 season record and winning 76.3 percent of their outings. The 1906 finished 20 games ahead of the second place New York Giants.
The ‘dead ball era’ of baseball was a good time for the ’06 Cubs whi featured four future Hall of Famers – Manager Frank Chance, second baseman Johnny Evers, shortstop Joe Tinker and pitcher Mordecai Brown.
The team played in spacious West Side Grounds with a center field an astounding 560 feet from home plate.
Brown was known as “Three Finger” because he severed his index finger and badly damaged bones on two other fingers that never really set. The accident happened in a farm machinery incident when Brown was 12 years old. He learned how to grip the ball despite the defect, which served as an advantage allowing him to deliver an exceptional curveball.
Six pitchers recorded double digit wins for the season. rown had 26 wins, rookie Jack Pfiester had 20 victories with a 1.51 ERA, and Ed Reulbach posted 19 wins for the 1906 Cubs. Reulbach had 24 wins in 1908, the last World Championship season for the Cubs.
Other hurlers of note on that ’06 staff included Swedish born Carl Lundgren, who won 17 games in 1906 and 18 the following year. Orval Overall chipped in with 12 victories with a 1.88 ERA and finished with a 33-7 mark the following season. Jack Taylor had a 1.76 ERA in 1906 with 12 wins on the mound. In 1904, he had set a MLB record tossing 39 complete games.
Despite all their success, the 1906 Chicago Cubs didn’t finish their journey losing to the crosstown rival Chicago White Sox in the World Series. But that instance is not uncommon in Major League Baseball.
Out of the top 10 all-time winningest teams in MLB history, only three went onto to win the World Series.
The 1909 Pittsburgh Pirates finished 110-42 and bested the Detroit Tigers in the fall classic.
The ’27 New York Yankees (110-44) swept the Pirates. In more modern times, the 1998 Yankees, with a 114-48 season record, overtook the San Diego Padres in four straight.
The 2001 Seattle Mariners won 116 games but lost to the Yankees in the AL championship series.
The 1954 Cleveland Indians with a Coopertown-laden staff consisting of Early Wynn, Bob Wynn and Bob Feller went 111-43 for the regular season and swept the New York Giants in the Fall Classic.
The ’61 Yankees, skippered by Ralph Houk, featured the M&M boys, Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris. Maris had his record-setting 61 home runs, and Mantle was right behind with 54. The Bronx Bombers beat the Cincinnati Reds in four games.
The ’69 Baltimore Orioles won 109 games and lost just 53. Earl Weaver’s club had Boog Powell, Brooks Robinson and Frank Robinson but couldn’t overtake the Miracle Mets, who won the 1969 World Series 4-1.
Other teams with impressive records…
The 1975 Cincinnati Reds went 108-54. The Big Red Machine featured Pete Rose, Tony Perez, Joe Morgan and Johnny Bench. Rose and Morgan batted over .315. The ’75 group edged the Boston Red Sox in a classic seven-game Series.
The 1970 Baltimore Orioles went 108-54. In fact, over a twoyear span, the O’s won 217 regular season games. The 1970 group had a staff consisting of Mike Cuellar, Dave McNally and Jim Palmer.
The 1986 New York Mets finished 108-54 with a roster chocked with talent lile Doc Gooden, Darryl Strawberry, Keith Hernandez and catcher Gary Carter. Yet, that club had to survive two famous playoff series with the Houston Astros and Boston Red Sox to win it all.
All of that brings us back to the task ahead for today’s Cubs. Maddon is a veteran and fully understands the path ahead. It will be interesting to see how he navigates his squad through the playoffs. No team will ever face more pressure to win the World Series than this one.