Looking Back: The Rich History of Chicago Cubs Memorabilia
March 16, 20188 min read
They aren't the hard-luck losers of movie, song and literature fame anymore, but for 100 years the Cubs ended each season with a hopeful "Wait until next year!"
Uncle Buck loved his Cubbies, as well as President Obama (after famously being given a midnight pardon by Theo Epstein). In one movie, Ferris Bueller spent part of his day off at a Cubs game. A century plus of being America's "lovable losers" is told through the items meticulously saved, preserved and beloved by fans.
Chicago Cubs sports memorabilia is a true timeline of the rise, fall and long recovery of one of America's favorite sports teams.
Pre-history of the Chicago Cubs
The name of the team originally wasn't the Cubs. If you were searching for 1876 Chicago Cubs memorabilia, you won't find any. The Chicago baseball team that co-founded the National League was called the White Stockings.
Posters of the day show men with astonishing handlebar mustaches and stern expressions suited up for play. The team would lead the league for the first six years of play. The shine would wear off, though.
A couple of years of drought followed. In 1886, the team had to rebuild with many young, inexperienced players. Sportswriters of the day dubbed the team "Colts.”
This unfortunate development led to a decade without a championship after early success. By 1889 the proto-Cubs ditched their coach, Cap Anson, and their white uniform stockings. Sportswriters mercilessly called the team "Orphans" since they were left without the experienced hand of the previous 22 seasons.
When a few rebels of the team left to start with the newfangled American League club, the Chicago White Sox, sportswriters called the team "Remnants.” Chicago Cubs autographed baseballs and other memorabilia collectors might be disappointed to find there are no "Remnants" jerseys out there.
Other names were tossed around at the time. Each sportswriter and each newspaper had their own pet name of the team. The team was called the Colts, the Orphans, the Panamas, the Zephyrs, the Nationals, the Spuds and most inexplicably, the Microbes.
Thankfully these names spent only a few years at most in the headlines before fading into history. They remain as part of the newspaper morgue.
A Glorious Decade
1902 marks the first time the "Cubs" moniker appears in print, and it referred to the youth and inexperience of the team. The Chicago Daily News has the honor of publishing the now familiar name. 1902 is also the year of the famed double-play immortalized by the writer (and lifelong Cubs fan) Franklin Pierce Adams for the New York Daily Mail,
"These are the saddest of possible words ... Tinker to Evers to Chance ... A trio of bear Cubs and fleeter than birds ... Tinker to Evers to Chance ... Ruthlessly pricking our gonfalon bubble ... Making a Giant hit into a double ... Words that are weighty with nothing but trouble ... Tinker to Evers to Chance."
The team enjoyed the most successful decade in its history. In 1906, the Cubs earned the all-time major league records for wins in a season (116) and winning percentage (.763) as well as their first pennant of the 20th century. In 1907, they won their second consecutive National League pennant and their first World Series.
Chicago Cubs baseball memorabilia officially begins in 1907, when the Cubs placed the name on their ballpark scorecards and sewed it onto their uniforms. A Cubs mascot even made its appearance at the ball field. The team's first World Series win is marked in 1907.
1908 marked their second consecutive World Championship. In that same year Mordecai "Three-Finger" Brown wins 29 games as the pitcher, setting a team record (since 1900) that stands today.
The decade began with solid wins. 1910 saw yet another National League win and a trip to the World Series. There were six top three league finishes in the decade and another trip to the World Series in 1918.
Sadly, the Cubs failed to clinch a World Series title in this decade. Chicago Cubs souvenirs of the time record that the team moved to its new playing field at the corner Clark and Addison in 1914.
The Roaring 20's
William Wrigley buys the team in 1920, although the ballpark would wait until 1926 to become Wrigley Field. Rodgers (the Rajah) Hornsby, famed right-handed hitter made his approach to power and average legend. Rounding out the players of the decade for Chicago Cubs memorabilia fans, are future Hall of Famers Hack Wilson, Gabby Hartnett and Kiki Cuyler.
1929 saw Chicago reach the top of the National League for the first time in a decade. They lost that World Series, too.
The Dry Years of the Cubs
In addition to Prohibition (ending 1933) and the Depression, the Cubs suffered through three more trips to the World Series. None of which ended in a win. 1932 witnessed Babe Ruth calling "the shot" during the 5th inning of Game 3 in the series, adding to the humiliation that Lou Gehrig served the team.
1932 saw the Cubs add numbers to their uniforms. They were the last team in Major League Baseball to do so. Postcards show the 1937 planted ivy at Wrigley Field to Chicago Cubs ephemera collectors.
1938 records "The Homer in the Gloamin'" by catcher Gabby Harnett. In the years beyond the drought, the Cubs era metamorphs.
Chicago Cubs Memorabilia in the Cursed Years
For Chicago Cubs baseball memorabilia collectors, the Cubs logo would change four times between 1940 and 1979. The 1940's saw the Cubs plumb the depths of mediocrity. Several sub .500 years culminated with a surprise National League pennant in 1945.
Then disaster in the form of a bad-smelling goat named Murphy struck. The owner of the nearby Billy Goat Tavern brought Murphy to Game 4 of the series that year. Due to Murphy's smell, Murphy and his owner were asked to leave.
Murphy's owner declared "Them Cubs, they ain't gonna win no more." And so they didn't win a World Series again until 2016. Even worse, the Cubs would enter a 20-year race to the bottom of the league beginning in 1947.
Chicago Cubs memorabilia of the Cursed years is incomplete unless it includes Ernie Banks. "Mr. Cub" made his debut in 1953 and would spend 19 years doing exactly what he loved with a team that would spend most of his career in the basement. 1961 saw future Hall of Famer Billy Williams voted National League Rookie of the Year.
In 1967, things started looking up. A National League pennant win (regrettably, no World Series win this time either) was followed by another National League title in 1968. The year after Chicago Cubs memorabilia focused on third baseman Ron Santo, outfielder Billy Williams, and rotation ace Fergie Jenkins.
Disaster in 1969, in the form of a black cat nonchalantly strolling in front of the dugout, brought a new chorus of "Cursed!" The Cubs would break .500 only in 1970 and 1972, before clawing their way to the postseason in 1984.
It's Cool to Be a Cubs Fan Again Until It Isn't
1981 saw the sale of the franchise from the Wrigley Family to the Tribune company. Only 10,672 fans would enter the gate on Opening Day that year, leaving plenty of Chicago Cubs memorabilia and tickets unsold. The bleeding would continue until 1984 when the Cubs found themselves the National League East Champs and entered post-season for the first time since 1945.
National League MVP Ryne Sandberg, Dennis Eckersley and National League Cy Young Award winner Rick Sutcliffe and the rest of the Cubs, were matched up against the San Diego Padres in a best-of-five series. The Cubs would win the first two and then drop the remaining games. The moment best remembered was the ground ball going through the legs of Leon Durham in the seventh inning that became the final score.
1988 saw Wrigley Field, the home of the Cubs finally lit up at night. Collectors of Chicago Cubs memorabilia and ephemera mark that game versus the Mets as a rainy, memorable loss. 1989 saw the Cubs as National League East Champs again, but the Cubs made a quick exit from postseason play, losing five games in quick succession.
The Cubs would then spend another decade in relatively undisturbed slumber. In 1998 Chicago Cubs signed baseball memorabilia collectors found two superstars.
The first is Kerry Wood, a right-handed rookie who tied the major-league record of 20 strikeouts in a nine-inning game. The second is Sammy Sosa, who joined the Cubs in 1992 in a trade with the White Sox. He spent the 1998 battling Mark McGwire to break the single-season record of 61 home runs. Sosa finished the year with 66, second to McGwire's 70.
The club would finish dead last the next two seasons, much to the chagrin of Chicago Cubs fans.
A New Millennium and the Same Old New Hope
"This could be the year for the Cubs!" 2001 marked the sixth time since 1972 that the Cubs posted a winning season. Chicago Cubs memorabilia was all about Sammy Sosa that year, with Sosa setting or tying many baseball records. 2002 returned the Cubs to a losing record.
Chicago Cubs Manager Dusty Baker fought for improvement in 2003. Chicago Cubs fans could have never predicted the team would be five outs away from the World Series. The Cubs won their first National League Central Division title. Unfortunately, the popular Sammy Sosa missed a month with a sore big toe and earned seven games suspension for using a corked bat.
The Cubs won the division title in the second-to-last game with a doubleheader sweep against Pittsburgh. The Cubs went on to upset the Atlanta Braves the five-game National League Division Series. It marked the first postseason series win for the franchise since 1908.
The Cubs were five outs away from advancing to the World Series for the first time since 1945 but lost Game 6 in a spectacular loss of momentum blamed on fan Steve Bartman. Chicago Cubs memorabilia preprinted for the win was dumped in the river.
Collectors know all about "the curse." With one out and one on in the eighth inning, a fan namedSteve Bartman interfered with a Luis Castillo foul popup in the leftfield stands, preventing Moises Alou from catching it for the second out.
The interference sparked an eight-run rally that was completely unchecked by the Cubs. The Cubs lost again the next evening. This was the 58th straight year of missing the National League title.
2004 was also a winning season. The Cubs had not celebrated a consecutive winning season since 1971-1972.
Continuing the Cubbie Curse
2005 and 2006 seasons saw the Cubs slide back into the mire. Players just couldn't seem to catch a break with injuries. 2007 saw the team sold to real estate investor Sam Zell. The team did well enough that year to advance to postseason play.
2008 was the 100th anniversary of the Cubs last World Series win. Again, the team advanced to postseason play. This was the first time since 1906-1904 that this happened in consecutive years.
2009 saw the Chicago Cubs memorabilia stands prep for a three-peat of postseason play. Unfortunately, the Cubs and souvenir stands missed it.
2010 and 2011 were losing seasons. 2011 saw a complete front office change and the hiring of President of Baseball Operations, Theo Epstein. 2012 saw the Cubs lose more than 100 games. 2013 and 2014 were losing seasons too.
Reverse the Curse
2015 saw the reenergized Chicago Cubs secure a playoff berth. They defeated the Pittsburgh Pirates in the National League Wild Card Game and the St. Louis Cardinals in the National League Division Series before falling to the Mets.
The 2016 Cubs won 103 games. This was the club's most won games since the record of 104 in 1910. Jon Lester, Kyle Hendricks, National League Cy Young winner Jake Arrieta, National League MVP Kris Bryant, and Anthony Rizzo are names on valued Chicago Cubs memorabilia of this year.
The 2016 National League Championship win gave the Cubs their first pennant since the Billy Goat Curse of 1945. Fans went wild. The World Series matchup versus the Cleveland Indians marked the first visit to the World series since 1945 for the Cubs, since 1948 for the Indians.
Chicago beat the Indians in seven games, coming back from a 3-1 series deficit to claim the first Chicago Cubs World Series title since 1908. The Cubs had to work three straight wins to clinch the championship, including the final two in Cleveland.
Explore History with Chicago Cubs Memorabilia
Owning a piece of history to love, preserve and save for future generations is a pleasure that many Chicago Cubs fans can enjoy. To learn more about collecting Chicago Cubs sports memorabilia join us for a signing or contact us today!
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