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It's been nearly 70 years since the Chicago Cubs won the National League Pennant, let alone the World Series. But before Steve Bartman and the Curse of the Billy Goat came around, the Cubs finished atop the NL five times between 1918 and 1938. In his recent book, Mr. Wrigley's Ball Club: Chicago and the Cubs During the Jazz Age, author Roberts Ehrgott tells the story of the franchise during the 1920s. Ehrgott joined Bill Littlefield to talk about the team and his book.
The Cubs had so much going for them during the 1920s. On the bench in the dugout (when he wasn't tumbling off it) sat Grover Cleveland Alexander. He'd leave the game with 373 wins. Unhappily for Chicago fans, he got a lot of them before and after playing for the Cubs. In the outfield stood Hack Wilson, the ultimate peoples' choice, perhaps the most popular player ever to don a Cubs uniform until Ernie Banks came along. In 1929 he knocked in 159 runs. The next season it was 191. In 1929 they also had Rogers Hornsby, who hit .358 over a 23 year career. I wonder what they'd have to pay somebody to do that today?
The Cubs also had imagination. William Veeck, operating out of the front office, was the first executive to recognize how radio coverage and Ladies Day would help the Cubs to draw more fans than the Yankees could assemble.
And, as Roberts Ehrgott points out in his terrific book about the team, the Cubs of the '20s never lacked drama. Of Chicago baseball at the end of the decade, he writes, "There would be bizarre World Series humiliations, fallings-out between old comrades, immortal deeds and records, sackings, near misses, fistfights, scandals, a shooting, vaudeville, high comedy, low drama."
Couple all that material with Mr. Ehrgott's considerable energy as a researcher and his flair for story-telling and you have a grand celebration of a memorable ball club at a fascinating time in an equally fascinating place.
This segment aired on April 6, 2013.
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