Charles Murphy’s Last Stand

16 Jul

The National League had almost completely rid themselves of Charles Webb Murphy in 1914; the owner who had ongoing feuds with nearly every other league magnate, league officials, umpires, and many of his own players, had sold his interest in the Chicago Cubs to his financial benefactor Charles Phelps Taft.

Murphy returned to his home in Wilmington, Ohio; his only connection to the National League was his part ownership of the Baker Bowl, the home of the Philadelphia Phillies.  Murphy’s other ballpark ownership stake was in Chicago’s West Side Grounds, but that investment had lost most of its value after Taft sold the Cubs to Charles Weeghman, who moved the team to his ballpark on the North Side.  The Cubs former home field was used for amateur and semi-pro games, even  Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show, but the park was not making Murphy money.

William Wrigley Jr., and his brothers were minority investors in the team in 1916, but Weeghman began struggling financially almost as soon as he bought the team, and the Wrigley brothers began buying Weeghman’s stock.

Charles Weeghman

Charles Weeghman

Between the 1918 and ’19 seasons the Wrigley’s acquired controlling interest in the Cubs.  (Some recent sources say Wrigley did not have controlling interest until 1921, but numerous contemporaneous sources said the Wrigley family had control of the team before the 1919 season began).

William Wrigley Jr.

William Wrigley Jr.

In February of 1919 Joe Vila, sports editor of The New York Sun wrote a story that said the Cubs were moving out of Weeghman Park and back to the West Side Grounds:

“National League men are gratified to learn that there will be a change of ball parks in Chicago, probably before the championship season opens on April 23.  The Cubs who have occupied the grounds of the defunct Chicago fed on the North Side since 1916, are preparing to return to their old home, West Side Park, which still is the property of Charles Webb Murphy and, presumably Charles P Taft.  The North Side plant never could accommodate more than 18,000 spectators, sitting and standing, whereas as many as 30,000 attended games at West Side Park in the days when Frank Chance had a world’s championship ball club.  Last fall the Cubs played their world’s title games with the Red Sox in Chicago at the home of the White Sox for the reason that the former Chifed arena was too small.”

Vila said Murphy saw an opportunity in the new ownership arrangement:

“Naturally, with an eye to business, Murphy promptly suggested to the Wrigley’s, who control the Cubs stock, the transfer of the Cubs…The Wrigley’s, who know little or nothing about practical baseball methods, regard Murphy as an oracle and there isn’t  a doubt that they will accept his suggestion.”

westsidegrounds

The Grandstand at West Side Grounds

It’s unclear whether the move, for which Vila said “there isn’t a doubt,” was ever even a possibility; it seems just as likely it was a story planted by Murphy.  Vila’s description of the ousted Cubs owner would suggest, at the very least, that Murphy had a sympathetic ear with The Sun sports editor:

“Murphy is one of the smartest men in baseball…When Murphy was president and of the Cubs the club didn’t have a losing year financially…In other words the Cubs under Murphy were tremendously successful.”

Vila also blames the Horace Fogel incident for all of “Murphy’s unpopularity that led to his retirement,” Not mentioning Murphy’s numerous feuds.

The Wrigley’s did not end up accepting Murphy’s suggestion, and the team remained at Weeghman Field, renamed Cubs Park before the 1920 season, and finally Wrigley Field before the 1926 season.

Murphy’s last stand having failed, he had his ballpark torn down in 1920.

It wasn’t until 1927 that the seating capacity at Wrigley Field finally surpassed that of the west Side Grounds.

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5 Responses to “Charles Murphy’s Last Stand”

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Things I Learned on the Way to Looking up other Things #11 | Baseball History Daily - September 22, 2014

    […] Charles Murphy—A hard fighter, but backs up at times. […]

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    […] declared that baseball was independent of the newspapers.  Indeed such intellectual giants as C. Webb Murphy and Charles Ebbets have practically stated that the newspapers depended upon baseball for their […]

  3. “Baseball is far behind Golf in its Self-analysis” | Baseball History Daily - June 1, 2015

    […] Manager Joe Tinker was replaced by Fred Mitchell, team owner Charles Weeghman announced that golfer Charles “Chick” Evans, who in 1916 became the first to win the U.S. […]

  4. Lost Advertisements: Bill Killifer [sic] for Sweet Caporal Cigarettes | Baseball History Daily - June 5, 2015

    […] California, last spring has been won by Bill Killefer, it was revealed today.  The loser, William Wrigley, one of the club’s stockholders, wagered the $1000 that the team would not win the National […]

  5. “He is a Model for the Young Ballplayer to Emulate” | Baseball History Daily - August 21, 2015

    […] negotiations continued over several days but floundered.  The Cubs reentered the picture—Owner Charles Weeghman told The Chicago Daily News “I brought the bankroll along…and I’ll get Herzog so quick I’ll […]

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