Saturday, October 29, 2016

Cubbies and Tigers and Goats, Oh My

It's Spitballback Saturday here at Bergetoons, and what better way to celebrate the generations-long-awaited return of the Chicago Cubs to the World Series than to dredge up some cartoons about their 1908 world championship?

The Chicago Tribune has stronger ties to the Cubs, but the next seven cartoons are all from the Chicago Examiner. (And to anyone who thinks its unfair of me not to include cartoons about the Cleveland Indians' last championship, 68 years is a long time, but the Cleveland Plain Dealer's copyright claims are longer.)
"Where Ignorance is ----!!!" by A.C. Fera for Chicago Examiner, October 10, 1908
A.C. Fera created a couple of easily forgotten comic strips for the Examiner: "What You Lafin At?" (which was the punch line in every one of its nearly a dozen episodes) and "Just Boy," which was renamed "Elmer" and drawn by Doc Winner after Fera's death in 1925. In 1908, he was one of the Examiner's sports cartoonists.

The Chicago Examiner didn't have a comics page in those days, although it did employ sports cartoonists, which was pretty standard practice back then. Action photos being difficult to come by, most newspapers broke up the gray print of the sports page with posed photos of the athletes, but also cartoons. Sometimes both were spliced together: a drawing of a cheering fan drawn in the background of a photograph of a pitcher, quarterback or horse.
Montage for Chicago Examiner, October 13, 1908
While you'll occasionally see editorial cartoonists taking a break from politics to draw about sports, Drew Litton is the only guy I know of still drawing a regular, dedicated editorial sports cartoon. There are a few others, such as Phil Hands, who supplement their editorial work with cartoons for the sports page cheering on the local university team during football season.

The rest of these cartoons from 1908 are by Sidney Smith, best known for creating The Gumps comic strip. The Examiner had hired him as a sports cartoonist earlier that year; he (and Fera) occasionally filled in for Frederick Opper's daily diatribes against William Jennings Bryan and Illinois States Attorney Jacob Kern on the editorial page as well.

Here's Smith's front page cartoon for the Chicago Examiner as the Cubs won the National League pennant against the New York Giants. The print in the dialogue balloons is quite tiny, even when embiggenified, so I've left these files larger than I usually do.
"Victory" by Sidney Smith for Chicago Examiner, October 9, 1908
According to the Examiner, a near riot broke out at the end of the pennant game. New York fans rushed out onto the field, pummeling and throwing debris at the players and the police. Manager Frank Chance suffered a broken clavicle; pitcher Jack Pfeister and catcher John Kling were badly bruised; and one spectator, a fireman named Henry T. McBride, was killed in a fall from the stands.
Detail of "A Tale of the Future" by Sidney Smith for Chicago Examiner, October 12, 1908
Joe Tinker and Frank Chance, of course, were two of the principals in the immortal Tinkers to Evers to Chance double play combination, executed 54 times between 1906 and 1910.

Part of the job of a sports cartoonist, of course, is drawing cartoons when your team comes up short, as the Cubs did in game 3 of the series.
"New Dish for the Tiger" by Sidney Smith for Chicago Examiner, October 13, 1908
Cubs take series before the smallest crowd in World Series history.
"Solid Comfort" by Sidney Smith for Chicago Examiner, October 15, 1908
You've probably been wondering why the hell goats keep showing up in 1908 cartoons about the Cubs. This goat is Buck Nix, a recurring character in Smith's sports cartoons. In 1911, Smith moved to the Chicago Tribune, where he renamed the goat Old Doc Yak for the daily strip and Sunday comic which were eventually turned over to the Gumps.
"Good-by to Baseball" by Sidney Smith for Chicago Examiner,  October 15, 1908
The Curse of the Billy Goat was still 37 years in the future, thanks to Billy Sianis, owner of the Billy Goat Tavern, and more to the point, of a smelly goat that he brought to game four of the 1945 World Series. Kicked out of Wrigley Field because of the goat, Sianis reportedly uttered the fateful curse, "Them Cubs, they ain't gonna win no more." The Cubs went on to lose the Series to, as fate would have it, the Detroit Tigers.
"One of Those Old Fashioned Chewing Matches" by Carey Orr for Chicago Tribune, October 10, 1945
108 years after their last World Championship, can the Cubs pull it out this time? The final word today goes to Susan Sarandon's character in Bull Durham because, as Cubs fans know full well, you gotta believe.
"I believe in the Church of Baseball. I've tried all the major religions, and most of the minor ones. I've worshipped Buddha, Allah, Brahma, Vishnu, Siva, trees, mushrooms, and Isadora Duncan. I know things. For instance, there are 108 beads in a Catholic rosary and there are 108 stitches in a baseball... It's a long season and you gotta trust. I've tried 'em all, I really have, and the only church that truly feeds the soul, day in, day out, is the Church of Baseball." Annie Savoy, in Bull Durham

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