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101 Reasons Why Chicago Is America’s Best Baseball Town

This week, baseball returned to Chicago as it has every year since 1876. There’s never been a day in the history of the National or American Leagues without a Chicago team listed in the standings. New York, Los Angeles, St. Louis, and all of the other places that think of themselves as great baseball towns can’t make that claim.

That’s just one reason why Chicago is our nation’s greatest baseball town. But I can think of 100 more:

1. The first known baseball game in Chicago was played in 1859. The final score that day was Excelsior 31, and Atlantic 17.

2. Chicago was a charter member of the first all-professional league, the National Association, in 1871.

3. The 1871 team—known as the White Stockings—was on its way to capturing a league title when its stadium and equipment were lost in the Great Chicago Fire on October 8. The team did not play again until 1874.

4. The National League, the world’s oldest professional sports league, was founded by Chicagoan William Hulbert in 1876.

5. Hulbert was president of the National League until his death in 1882. His baseball-shaped tombstone in Graceland Cemetery is one of the quirkier baseball monuments in existence.

6. Albert G. Spalding, who led Chicago to the first N.L. championship, introduced the idea of players wearing gloves on their hands.

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7. Spalding retired from the game in 1877, and began a sporting goods company.

8. Spalding’s company supplied the official ball that was used in the major leagues until 1977.

9. Spalding also produced an annual Baseball Guide, beginning in 1876. A modern version of Spalding’s Guide was published by The Sporting News until 2006.

10. Spalding’s teammate, Adrian “Cap” Anson, was the first baseball player to record 3,000 hits.

11. Anson retired from baseball at age 46, and was referred to as “the Barrymore of Baseball” after starring in a Broadway play in 1896.

12. The White Stockings’ Mike Kelly, who was also referred to as “King” Kelly, is credited with inventing the hook slide (or the “Chicago slide”) and the hit-and-run.

13. The 1883 White Stockings had the biggest single inning in big league history, putting up 18 runs in the seventh inning of a game against Detroit.

14. The White Stockings’ Ned Williamson reigned as baseball’s single-season home run king from 1884 to 1919, when some guy named Ruth broke the record.

15. Spalding invented Spring Training when he took the White Stockings to Hot Springs, Arkansas in 1886.

16. Spalding took the White Stockings and other players on a world tour to spread the game of baseball in 1888 and 1889. Games were played in Australia, Egypt, Italy, and England.

17. Anson and Spalding discovered a young baseball talent named Billy Sunday, who played for the White Stockings in the 1880s, and became a popular revivalist preacher in the early 20th Century.

18. On Thanksgiving Day, 1887, softball was created as an indoor baseball game by Harvard and Yale alumni gathered at the Farragut Boat Club in Chicago. The first softball was a boxing glove with the laces tied around it.

19. The White Stockings, who became the Cubs, are one of only two remaining original NL franchises. The other is the Atlanta Braves.

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20. Only the Cubs have remained in the same city since 1876. The Braves began in Boston, and then moved to Milwaukee in the 1950s before moving again to Atlanta in 1966.

21. The Cubs have more at-bats, hits, and runs scored than any team in baseball history.

22. Chicago’s contributions to the sporting lexicon include the terms “southpaw,” “hit-and-run,” “pinch-hitting,” “home plate,” “slugger” and, regrettably, “jinx.”

23. Chicago was the home of the Rueckheim brothers, Fritz and Louis, who invented Cracker Jack and introduced it to the world at the 1893 Columbian Exposition.

24. Chicago’s two major league teams have played in 249 consecutive seasons between them. That represents more than 37,000 ballgames.

25. In 1897, the Colts (as the White Stockings later became known) scored 36 runs in a game against Louisville. It remains the most runs scored by a team in one game.

26. Chicago was one of only four cities to have teams in both the Players’ League (1890) and the Federal League (1914-1915). The others were Brooklyn, Pittsburgh, and Buffalo.

27. Chicago is one of only four American League teams that have remained in the same city since the league’s founding in 1901. The others are Boston, Cleveland, and Detroit.

28. The 1906 Cubs finished a staggering 80 games over .500 at 116-36, yet they somehow managed to lose the first crosstown World Series to the White Sox that year.

29. The 1906 Cubs’ record isn’t even the best in Chicago’s history. The 1910 Leland Giants, led by Hall of Famers Rube Foster and Pop Lloyd, went a staggering 123-6, for a winning percentage of .953.

30. Cubs’ catcher Johnny Kling sat out the 1909 baseball season, and won the world’s pool championship instead. He then returned to the Cubs in 1910.

31. The first motion picture of a World Series game was produced by Chicago’s Essanay studio in 1908. A silent reel of highlights played in movie houses around the country.

32. Another of Chicago’s film studios, Selig Polyscope, also filmed the World Series on a yearly basis, beginning in 1913.

33. Chicago federal judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis was named baseball’s first commissioner in 1920.

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34. The first permanent concession stands inside a baseball stadium were located in Weegham Park in Chicago (now known as Wrigley Field).

35. Weegham was the first owner who allowed fans to keep foul balls that went into the stands.

36. Ring Lardner, one of the best baseball writers in history, worked for the Chicago Tribune when his book “You Know Me Al” was published in 1916.

37. Baseball’s only double no-hitter happened in Chicago’s Weegham Park in 1917. Not surprisingly, the Cubs lost that game.

38. The first (and only) September World Series game was played in Comiskey Park in 1918. The Cubs played against the Red Sox, but they used Comiskey Park because it was larger than their own park.

39. Game One of the 1918 World Series at Comiskey Park is the first time that “The Star-Spangled Banner” was played at a baseball game.

40. The 1919 Black Sox scandal inspired both Eliot Asinof’s “Eight Men Out” and W.P. Kinsella’s “Shoeless Joe.”

41. In Kinsella’s work, which inspired the movie “Field of Dreams,” the main character takes in a White Sox game in 1977, and drives past Wrigley Field “on the expressway” on his way out of Chicago. In contrast, Kevin Costner’s Ray Kinsella never gets anywhere near Chicago.

42. A young Lou Gehrig first made a name for himself in Chicago when, as a high school player, he hit a home run out of Wrigley Field in 1920. He would later meet his wife in Chicago.

43. The Negro National Leagues were run from Chicago by legendary pitcher Rube Foster in the 1920s. Foster was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1981.

44. The Cubs won the highest-scoring game in major league history, outslugging the Phillies 26-23 in August of 1922.

45. Hack Wilson’s 1930 record of 191 RBIs in a season has stood for more than eight decades, and hasn’t been seriously challenged in at least 50 years.

46. Babe Ruth’s famous “called shot” happened at Wrigley Field in the 1932 World Series.

47. Baseball’s All-Star Game was the brainchild of Chicago Tribune sportswriter Arch Ward. He envisioned the game as a one-time exhibition to coincide with the 1933 World’s Fair.

48. A Chicago Cubs radio announcer named Ronald Reagan took a screen test while covering the team at Spring Training in 1937. And the rest is (world) history.

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49. The original walk-off home run, Gabby Hartnett’s “Homer in the Gloamin’,” happened in Wrigley Field in 1938.

50. The first ballpark to install an organ was Wrigley Field, in 1941.

51. “Baseball Digest,” the oldest and longest-running baseball magazine, was founded in 1942, and is published in Evanston.

52. The All American Girls Professional Baseball League, which was immortalized in the film “A League of Their Own,” was founded by Chicagoan P.K. Wrigley and run for many years by Chicagoan Arthur Meyerhoff.

53. Cubs infielders Joe Tinker, Johnny Evers, and France Chance—immortalized as “Tinkers-to-Evers-to-Chance” by poet Franklin P. Adams, were elected as a unit into the Hall of Fame in 1946, the only ballplayers to be honored in this way.

54. Larry Doby broke the American League’s color barrier in Comiskey Park on July 5, 1947.

55. Bernard Malamud’s 1952 novel “The Natural” was inspired by events that took place in Chicago in 1949.

56. The first use of a television camera in center field happened at a Little League game in Thillens Stadium on Devon Avenue during the 1950s.

57. The 1960 White Sox were the first team to put players’ names on the back of their uniforms.

58. Arguably the worst trade in baseball history was made by the Chicago Cubs when they traded away Lou Brock to the Cardinals in 1964.

59. In 1966, Major League baseball adopted the save as a statistic, which had been invented by Chicago sportswriter Jerome Holtzman.

60. In 1968, the Cubs set the kind of record that a team does not want to have, by failing to score a run for 48 consecutive innings.

61. Future baseball commissioner Bud Selig tried to buy the White Sox and relocate them to Milwaukee in 1969, but he bought the Seattle Pilots and relocated them, instead.

62. Pete Rose barreled over Ray Fosse to win the 1970 All-Star game for the National League. Rose was driven in by Cubs first baseman Jim Hickman, who was making his only All-Star appearance in that game.

63. On Opening Day of the 1973 season, Tony LaRussa scored the winning run for the Cubs in his final appearance in the majors.

64. Cubs outfielder Rick Monday made the most dramatic save in baseball history, snatching the American flag away from two would-be flag burners at Dodger Stadium in 1976.

65. Disco received its mortal blow at Comiskey Park on the night of July 12, 1979.

66. STATS LLC, a revolutionary sports data gathering service, was founded here in 1981.

67. The 1988 movie “The Naked Gun” includes a brief shot of Wrigley Field at the beginning of the baseball game scene.

68. The opening of New Comiskey Park in 1991 triggered a wave of stadium-building that brought new ballparks to Cleveland, Detroit, Denver, Baltimore, Atlanta, and others.

69. The baseball custom of pitchers covering their mouths with their gloves while talking to the catcher began after Will Clark read Greg Maddux’ lips in Game One of the 1989 NLCS at Wrigley Field. Clark hit Maddux’s pitch for a grand slam, and the Cubs never recovered.

70. Bo Jackson, the first player with an artificial hip, hit a home run in the White Sox’ home opener in 1993.

71. No Chicago baseball team has ever left town for another city. The same can’t be said for New York, Boston, Philadephia, or St. Louis.

72. Chicago has never had a minor-league team, the way that Miami, Phoenix, Toronto, and Minneapolis have.

73. Nine Hall of Famers (including Hank O’Day, who will be inducted this summer) were born in Chicago. They include:

74. Charles Comiskey, the man who taught every first baseman where to stand between pitches, and

75. Jocko Conlon, a White Sox outfielder-turned umpire, and

76. Billy Evans, a respected umpire of 22 years, and

77. Will Harridge, President of the American league for a quarter-century, and

78. Rickey Henderson, the all-time leader in runs scored, stolen bases and intentional walks, and

79. Freddie Lindstrom, who played in the World Series at age 18, and

80. Hank O’Day, who umpired nearly 4,000 games in his career, and

81. Kirby Puckett, who led the Twins to two World Series titles, and

82. Bill Veeck, who created the scoreboards for both Chicago teams.

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83. When O’Day is inducted, Chicago will have more Hall of Famers than Philadelphia (3), St. Louis (4) and Boston (1) combined.

84. Only New York City has more native Hall of Famers (12) than Chicago. However, two of them were born in Brooklyn, before it voted to become a part of New York City in 1898.

85. White Sox pitcher Ed Walsh has the lowest ERA in the history of baseball, at 1.92. Walsh was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1946.

86. White Sox shortstop Luis Aparicio became the first Hall of Famer from South America, when he was elected in 1984.

87. Cubs pitcher Ferguson Jenkins was the first Canadian to be elected to the Hall of Fame, achieving the honor in 1991.

88. Minnie Minoso.

89. The scoreboard at Wrigley will serve as the backdrop for thousands of pictures this summer.

90. The scoreboard at the Cell will serve up fireworks,  the more of them the better.

91. The Cubs have won just two World Series games in Wrigley Field: one in 1935, and one in 1945. Their overall World Series record in Wrigley is 2-11.

92. The White Sox have as many World Series wins at U.S. Cellular Field as the Cubs do at Wrigley Field.

93. Wrigley Field is the only ballpark remaining that Jackie Robinson ever played in.

94. More than 100 major leaguers were born in Chicago, and at least that many are buried here.

95. Chicago can claim the first African-American brother combination to play in the majors (Solly and Sammy Drake) and the first African-American coach (Buck O’Neil)

96. In a 2003 poll of Major League players conducted by “Sports Illustrated,” 34 percent of players identified Chicago as the best road city, 16 percent chose New York, and no other city got more than 10 percent of the vote.

97. The major league record for most consecutive batters retired is 45, set by Mark Buehrle of the White Sox in 2009.

98. The forerunner to today’s World Series was played in the 1800s, and the White Stockings and the St. Louis Browns of the American Association played to a draw. Each team won three games, and another game was declared a tie after eight innings.

99. An inter-racial championship series was staged between the Cubs and the Leland Giants after the 1909 season. In the days of segregated baseball, this was the best that could be hoped for.

100. Arguably the greatest name in all of baseball history is tied to Chicago. Frederick M. Schmit was born here in 1866, and is buried in Mount Greenwood Cemetery. Chicago is known for lots of things, including its Crazy Schmit.

Here’s hoping for a season that adds to the list.

cst_logo-sqEDITOR’S NOTE: This story is published in partnership with the Chicago Sun-Times. To learn more about our partnership, read this note from our founders.

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