June 24, 2008

Why Have the Cubs Sucked So Much for So Long?*


* As of today, the Cubbies have a first-place record of 48-29, so no, they're decidenly not sucking now, per se. For the majority of their postwar history, though, they've stunk. The illustrious Rob McMillin of the always-insightful 6-4-2 thinks he knows the reason, after concurrent readings of two books by Glenn Stout on both the Cubs and Dodgers: non-integration and inept ownership. Rob says the Cubs book illuminated "...something that has puzzled me for years, namely, how did the Cubs get to be so uniformly bad after their 1945 World Series appearance?" He continues:

Essentially, the answer came down to the Cubs' tentative, patronizing, and unenthusiastic owner, Philip K. Wrigley, who feigned interest in integration but always found excuses to avoid it. Goaded by Communist and civil rights activist William L. Patterson, Catholic Bishop Bernerd Sheil, the black press in the guise of the Chicago Defender, and other civil rights activists who had cajoled a meeting with him, Wrigley was in a unique position; had he wanted to, the Cubs could have been the first to desegregate. Certainly, he made all the right noises...but when it came to concrete action, Wrigley was far more circumspect. Despite the fact that "integrated basketball and football games ... had taken place" without violence, Wrigley felt certain that the country — meaning, undoubtedly, he — was not ready, saying, "The temper of people in baseball is very high." "I don't think the time is now," Wrigley retorted.
Apparently then-Cub owner Philip Wrigley is shown to be a master of ineptitude in not only race relations (hemming and hawing and clutching his spearmint-flavored pearls over Those Wild Negroes And What They'll Do To My Ballpark) but also in an executive/ownership capacity, poaching Dodger scout Wid Matthews from Brooklyn (who crashed and burned making bad trades) instead of raiding the then-minor league L.A. Angels (which Wrigley also owned) for talented players coming up. Of course, Jackie Robinson as well as other black stars like Campanella and Newcombe helped increase the distance between Brooklyn and the hapless Cubs, but according to author South, the Dodgers continued to rob Chicago of their best talent until it didn't matter anymore (and other teams like Pittsburgh stepped in). Of course, the Cubs attempted to rectify their mistake by signing the great Ernie Banks, but his brilliant play didn't take Chicago to any World Series games.

Anyway, Rob dropped this on all of us on the occasion of the Dodger/Cub all-time win/loss record equalizing, for the first time since 1890-something, at 1,011 wins and 1,011 losses. That's good enough for me; both books sound like a great read in this dismally bad season of Padre baseball. As if I even know what I'm talking about. Now, Chicago has had some good seasons, of course (though I only really remember 1984, '89, '98, and 2003), but they are kicking ass this year, so speaking of that 100-year Cub World Series drought...

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