By Jon Weisman
The 1908 season is the touchstone for Cubs fans, the long-buried Holy Grail signifying the last time that Chicago’s National League team won a World Series.
If you’re a Dodger fan, 1908 is … well, it’s not so magical.
The Brooklyn Superbas, as the franchise was known 108 years ago, lost 101 games while winning only 53. Brooklyn’s overall win total matched the total of two Cubs pitchers, Three-Finger Brown (29-9) and Ed Reulbach (24-7).
But we can’t even have the fun of saying this was the worst team in Dodger history. Because the 1905 Superbas went 48-104, 1908 was only the franchise’s second-worst season. The 1908 Superbas also didn’t finish in last place, as they were underdone by the 49-105 St. Louis Cardinals.
Brooklyn certainly didn’t do much to slow Chicago down in 1908, playing the Cubs 22 times and losing 18. Beginning on July 28, the Superbas lost their final nine games against Chicago, scoring a total of 11 runs in the process.
Brooklyn finished 45 1/2 games behind the Cubs in the NL and was eliminated from the pennant race on September 7 — exactly one full month before the end of the season — when the Boston Braves swept the Superbas in both ends of a doubleheader by identical 1-0 scores.
On that same September 7 date, the Cubs began a 23-4 finish to the season, enabling them to leapfrog the Pirates and Giants for the pennant.
Why was Brooklyn so awful? Because, that’s basically what Brooklyn baseball was. Beginning in 1904, the borough endured 11 consecutive losing seasons, playing worse than .400 ball in five of them. Out of eight NL teams, Brooklyn never finished better than fifth place — not the Superbas, Dodgers nor Robins.
Twitter was a nightmare back then, let me tell you.
More specifically, the 1908 team had exactly one hitter on its roster that was even above average: first baseman Tim Jordan (left), who hit 12 of the team’s 28 home runs in 1908. Jordan would be the last player in franchise history to lead the Major Leagues in homers for 96 years, until Adrian Beltre in 2004.
Only one other Superba, third baseman Tommy Sheehan, had an on-base percentage above .300 in 1908.
On the mound, Brooklyn used a total of eight pitchers to throw 1,369 innings. Take left-hander Jim Pastorius, for example. He had a 2.44 ERA with 16 complete games in 25 starts. He went 4-20.
Brooklyn was more competitive the last year the Cubs went to the World Series, finishing 87-67 and 11 games out of first place in the NL in 1945. The Dodgers also finished third in 1948, when the Cleveland Indians won the Fall Classic. In 1997, the year of Cleveland’s most recent Fall Classic foray, the Dodgers went 88-74, finishing two games behind the Giants in the NL West.
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Two days before the Superbas were eliminated, Nap Rucker pitched a shutout against the Doves. So at least there was that.
The next year, Brooklyn would sign Zack Wheat and things would get progressively better.
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And by shutout, I meant no-hitter. :)
It’s good to know I missed a lot of bad Dodger days in Brooklyn.
And Suberbas and Robins days among other names.
And….. Ebbets Field hadn’t even been built yet. They would have been playing in Washington Park, which seated about 12,000, if memory serves.
Washington Park is pictured at the top of this post.
I thought it was Washington Park but wasn’t certain. Thanks! And I guess we weren’t the Dodgers yet because the need for fans to dodge the trolleys didn’t come about until moving into Charley Ebbets’s pleasure palace!