Blast from the Cubs' past: April 1908

Blast from the Cubs' past: April 1908

One hundred years ago, Wrigley Field didn't exist. Fans weren't singing "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" in the seventh inning yet; it was a new hit song that debuted in 1908, written by Jack Norworth.

One hundred years ago, the Cubs were riding high as the defending world champions, having beaten the Detroit Tigers, 4-0, in the 1907 World Series. That series included one tie game, which went 12 innings and had to be called because of darkness.

The Cubs have been on a roller coaster ride since that '08 season, and to mark the anniversary of the last world championship, will from time to time this season take a look back at some of the highlights in Cubs history and some of its most memorable players.

Yes, it's been 100 years since the Cubs last won a World Series, but it's 100 years of hope.

Our series begins today with a look at how the 1908 Cubs did in the first month of their last championship season, which began 100 years ago today on April 14.

April 1908

One hundred years ago, Frank Chance was the Cubs player-manager. He had guided the 1906 team to a record 116 wins, only to lose the championship to the "Hitless Wonders" White Sox. Chance followed that in 1907 with a 107-win season, and the world championship.

After extended Spring Training stints in West Baden, Ind., and Vicksburg, Miss., the Cubs barnstormed their way north through Atlanta, Memphis, Evansville, Ft. Wayne and Terre Haute until reaching Ohio for the season opener against the Reds on April 14, 1908.

The Opening Day lineup was familiar to Cubs fans. Jimmy Slagle was in center field, Jimmy Sheckard in left, Frank "Wildfire" Schulte in right. Chance, a player-manager, was at first, with Harry Steinfeldt at third, Johnny Evers at second, Joe Tinker at short, and Johnny Kling behind the plate. Orval Overall, a right-handed pitcher who won 23 games in 1907, was on the mound. All but Overall had started at least two previous Opening Days for the Cubs.

The Reds, however, were unimpressed with the defending World Series champs and jumped out to a 5-0 lead against Overall. The Cubs rallied with pinch-hitter Heinie Zimmerman driving in Evers on a ninth-inning, two-out single for the game-winner in a 6-5 victory. Mordecai "Three Finger" Brown, pitching in relief of Overall, picked up the win, although under the current rules, he would have been credited with a save.

Before the Cubs' home opener on April 22 at the West Side Grounds, located on Polk and Lincoln (now Wolcott) streets, they raised the 1907 National League pennant. Then, Chick Fraser tossed a complete game to beat the Cincinnati Reds, 7-3. Five days earlier, Fraser beat the Reds in Cincinnati, 1-0, giving up five hits.

The Cubs held first place for all but one day during the first month and ended April with an 8-3 record, one game ahead of Pittsburgh (7-4).

Harry Steinfeldt was the only Cubs regular batting over .300 -- hitting .310 with a club-high 13 hits. Johnny Evers led the Cubs with nine runs scored and five stolen bases. The Cubs leader in home runs? No one. The team ended the first month without a long ball. The 1908 Cubs' first homer would not occur until May 25, in the 28th game of the season. Schulte notched the first of the year off the Giants' Christy Mathewson at the Cubs' home West Side Grounds. But that's a highlight for next month's recap.

In April 1908, ground was broken in Philadelphia for Shibe Park, which would be the home of the Philadelphia Athletics from 1909-54, and the Phillies from 1938-70. The Garfield Park Conservatory opened that month in Chicago. Henry Chadwick, baseball historian and journalist referred to as the "Father of Baseball," died in Brooklyn at the age of 83. And on April 27, the opening ceremonies of the fourth modern Olympic games were held in London.

Carrie Muskat is a reporter for Ed Hartig contributed to this report. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.