Ask Geoffrey: Did a Crosstown Baseball Series in 1901 Actually Happen?

Geoffrey Baer investigates an early attempt at a Chicago baseball crosstown classic – that may or may not have actually happened.

I have a July 1901 newspaper article about the American League Chicago White Sox wanting to play a series against the National League Chicago Orphans at the end of the season. This was two years before the first World Series. Did this Chicago series ever happen? 

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– Ron Krueger, Berwyn

This proposed 1901 series was actually the first attempt at a crosstown classic by the two teams that are known today as the Cubs and White Sox. Let’s clear up the names here, because there were a lot of nicknames and rebrandings in baseball’s early years.

In 1901 the White Sox were known as the White Stockings – in fact it was their first year as a major league team in the newly formed American League. The Orphans – who later became the Cubs -- were also called the White Stockings when they originally formed, but had abandoned the name by the 1890s. To make things even more confusing, “Orphans” was just a nickname. The team’s actual name at that time was the Chicago Colts. They were also known as the Remnants!

  • Chicago White Sox, 1901

    Chicago White Sox, 1901

  • The Chicago Orphans, 1902

    The Chicago Orphans, 1902

  • White Stockings owner Charles Comiskey

    White Stockings owner Charles Comiskey

  • West Side Grounds

    West Side Grounds

The short answer to the question is that this proposed 1901 Fall Classic between the Orphans (Cubs) and White Stockings (White Sox) never happened. But not because someone chickened out. It was the spiteful National League that wouldn’t give it the green light.

President of the National League Colts, James A. Hart, first issued the challenge through the newspaper to White Stockings owner Charles Comiskey. Hart proposed a series of seven games to be played in the fall. The Tribune said Hart was irked by unfavorable comparisons in the press between his team and the White Stockings.

Comiskey agreed to the series, which he saw as an opportunity to showcase his new team against the West Siders. And there’s another point of confusion: This was in the pre-Wrigley Field days, when the ancestors of the Cubs played at West Side Grounds where UIC Medical Center is today.

But there was a problem. At the time, National League teams were prohibited from playing against American League teams because the upstart American League was accused of poaching talent when it formed.

Hart appealed to the National League’s governing body for an exception to the rule. But the National League refused to alter the player contracts and game agreements, and the series never happened.

So Chicago had to wait another five years before seeing their crosstown teams play each other in the 1906 World Series. It went to six games and was reportedly quite the upset when the Sox eventually won.

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