University of Mary Washington research librarian and baseball historian Jack Bales (Before They Were the Cubs: The Early Years of Chicago's First Professional Baseball Team) joins the podcast to help us dig into the surprisingly rich history of Major League Baseball’s long-time North Side Chicago franchise well prior to 1903, when they formally adopted their now-signature nickname.
While even some of the most ardent of Chicago Cubs fans unwittingly believe that year to be the team’s first season (it was actually their 28th in the National League, as well as 34th as a professional baseball club); and the “friendly confines” of Wrigley Field to be their original and only home (in fact, not until 1916 when they adopted the former Federal League Chicago Whales’ Weeghman Park, their sixth place of residence dating back to 1870) – the history of the “Cubs” long predates their apocryphal launch.
Bales touches on some of the cornerstones of primordial Cubs history including:
Their actual start in 1870 as the Chicago White Stockings – one of the nation’s first professional baseball clubs – playing in the largely amateur National Association of Base Ball Players (and winning the championship);
Segueing into a new, first-ever all-pro National Association (of Professional Base Ball Players) as a charter member the following year;
Launching as a charter member of the 1876 National League – winning its first title behind ace pitcher (and future sporting goods baron) Albert Spalding, and capturing six of the league’s first ten pennants behind baseball’s first superstar Adrian “Cap” Anson;
Becoming colloquially known as “Anson’s Colts” – until fully adopting the new nickname circa 1890;
Anson’s abrupt firing in 1897, leaving sportswriters to rebrand the suddenly star-less Colts as the “Orphans”; AND
The informal early 1900s origins of the now-iconic “Cubs” moniker, and how it officially stuck by the 1903 season.
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