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When the Cubs won the World Series at Orchestra Hall

1908 Chicago Cubs Library of Congress

What was the Chicago Symphony Orchestra playing the last time the Cubs won the World Series? Nothing — because Chicago's Symphony Hall was full of baseball fans following the game.

This was in 1908, over a decade before it became possible to follow Cubs games on the radio. When the Cubs entered a tight pennant race, Symphony Hall opened its doors to fans who could follow away games in real time through "a large blackboard sprinkled with 18 names, many mysterious letters, a geometrical diagram, and red and white electric lights," operated by the Chicago Daily Tribune via wire reports.

When, last month, it started to look like the Cubs would claim their first world championship in 108 years — as, in fact, they did last night — the Chicago Symphony dug into their archives for a look back at the time when "baseball was king," as the Tribune wrote at the time, "and nowhere was its title more vociferously recognized than in the temple Chicago has dedicated to classical music."

Even as Symphony Hall filled with "insanely enthusiastic" baseball fans, though, classical music still found a home in the hall — by way of the great pipe organ, which alternated contemporary jock jams like "There'll Be a Hot Time" with trendy ragtime tunes and the occasional selection from the repertoire. After "Merkle's boner," when fans mistakenly thought the Cubs had sustained a season-ending loss to the New York Giants, the organist regaled the weeping throng with Chopin's Funeral March.

Meanwhile, the New York runner, hapless Merkle, forgot to tag second base and was forced out after all. The Cubs went on to win a World Series played against the Detroit Tigers, and all was well in the Windy City, for the last time in...a while.

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