The all-time milestone the Cubs are ready to hit

April 27th, 2020

The very first run in the history of Chicago's National League franchise was scored on Apr. 25, 1876, by 21-year-old outfielder Paul Hines, who came around on a throwing error in the second inning. (They were called the White Stockings then, and later the Colts and the Orphans, but they're the same franchise as today's Cubs.)

The most recent run in Cubs history was scored last Sept. 28 by David Bote, who came home on Nico Hoerner's 8th-inning sacrifice fly to left. (They failed to score the next day, a 9-0 season-ending loss to the Cardinals.)

In between those two tallies, over nearly 150 years, seven stadiums, two world wars, and with more than 2,000 players wearing the uniform, the Cubs have scored an additional 99,246 regular-season runs, which means they're a mere 754 tallies from being the first team in baseball history to reach a very round number. When the Cubs next get an opportunity to play a full season, they will almost certainly become the first franchise in Major League Baseball history to reach 100,000 total team runs scored.

(Note: There remains some disagreement about whether to include the pre-NL National Association as a Major League or not. John Thorn, the Official Historian of Major League Baseball, has written that baseball historians have decided that the National Association "shall not be considered as a 'major league' due to its erratic schedule and procedures, but it will continue to be recognized as the first professional baseball league," so for the numbers in this article, we'll go with the Baseball-Reference records of counting only the 1876 National League and onward. Also of note, the Elias Sports Bureau has the Cubs' all-time total at 99,254, which speaks to the inexact record keeping in baseball's early days. We'll go with B-Ref's number for the purposes of this piece so that you can cross-reference yourself.)

No matter how you slice it, the Cubs are in prime position to be the first franchise to 100K runs, as they are well ahead of the No. 2 Giants (97,268, per B-Ref). Over the last four seasons (2016-'19), the Cubs have scored 808, 822, 761, and 814 runs, respectively. That means that over a regular schedule, we would have expected them to hit six figures sometime in the middle of September, adding another fun aspect to what was likely going to be a tight NL Central pennant race. Given the uncertainty about what lies ahead of us, it's probably not going to happen in 2020, but any partial portion of a '20 season would make it easier to achieve in '21.

Now, that figure is more than a little bit about simply surviving that long, obviously. Only one other current team (Braves) can trace uninterrupted organized lineage back to the original NL of 1876, the American League didn't get going until 1901, and surely none of the recent expansion teams in either league have anywhere near the history. This is about longevity as much as skill; as you can see in that chart above, there's a pretty clear breakpoint between the first 16 teams, who all played in various forms since at least 1901; the next group, which kicks off the 1960s era of expansion; and the final quartet, which joined in '93 and '98.

Were you to look at it on a runs per game basis, then the Cubs, at 4.6 runs per game, are tied for fifth, well behind the Rockies at 5.05. (Guess how that happened.) But that's a lot less interesting, isn't it? Let's look at some of the major runs scored milestones in White Stockings/Orphans/Cubs history -- and make an educated guess about who brings home the big 100,000.

The first run (Paul Hines)
April 25, 1876

The '75 White Stockings had finished a 6th-place 30-37 in the final season of the National Association, and team president William Hulbert pushed to form a new National League with tighter rules in '76. As you won't be surprised to realize, record-keeping is spotty from the time when humanity was "closer to the Civil War" than they were to "the end of the 19th century," so we don't have a full play-by-play log for this one, but it has been well-reported that Hines scored the first run of a 4-0 win at Louisville on a throwing error. That said, even in those long-ago days, we do have a box score from the Chicago Daily Tribune to reference:

(The Tribune also began its game story like this: "When this city entered the professional base-ball business it was done with rather more judgement than is usual in first adventures, and the nine was picked out with rather more good sense than is usual in like cases. When Chicago, warned by many failures, undertook her present team, it was proper that it be a strong one." You don't see baseball writing like that anymore.)

Hines would score 106 runs in two years with Chicago before moving on. In 1878, Hines, then playing for Providence, called his own shot -- in writing -- and backed it up. He would win the Triple Crown that year ... with four home runs.

This was so, so long ago. Let's check in on the front page headlines as we go to see what was important in the world.

** The Tribune front-page headline from April 25, 1876: "WASHINGTON: The Interior Department Investigators Encounter a Genuine Mare's Nest. A Poor Pitiable Lunatic Relates His Charges Against the President." This has to do with President Ulysses S. Grant and the trader post scandal, which you definitely do not remember, but mostly: Boy, they don't write headlines the way they used to.

The 1,000th run (Jimmy Hallinan)
May 6, 1878

We know that the White Stockings scored 990 runs in their first two seasons, then nine more in the first two games of 1878. That means the first run from their third game of the year, a 3-1 victory at Indianapolis, was run number one thousand. Again, there's no game log, but a review of the Tribune's recap the next day makes it clear: In the first inning, left fielder Jimmy Hallinan doubled, reached third on a wild pitch, and scored on Joe Start's single. Hallinan's career ended the next month; the following year, he passed away at age 30 from what was termed "inflammation of the bowels."

** The Tribune front-page headline from May 6, 1878: "WASHINGTON: Political Passions to Be Again Stirred to the Dregs. The Bourbons Confident That They Can Depose Hayes." This time, it was President Rutherford B. Hayes' chance to face challenges. The 1870s were a wild time.

The 10,000th run (unknown)
April 22, 1891

By this point, the White Stockings were becoming referred to as the Colts -- team names being much more fluid in those days than today's officially-branded terms -- and they had scored 9,998 runs between 1876-90. On Opening Day 1891, they beat Pittsburgh 7-6. Still, no reliable game logs, but again the Tribune offers some help, clarifying that they scored individual runs in each of the first two innings. The 6-7-8 of the lineup would have been Fred Pfeffer, Pat Luby, and Malachi Kittridge. We'll assume one of them scored that second tally.

** The Tribune front-page headline from April 22, 1891: "WELCOMED BY MEXICO: An International Greeting to Harrison at El Paso, Tex." President Benjamin Harrison, on a train tour of the South and West, became the first sitting president to visit Texas.

The 25,000th run (Jimmy Sheckard)
Aug. 18, 1911

The Tribune's game story about this 5-2 loss to the Boston "Rustlers" led with "a tiresome exhibition of the national pastime," which says a little about the rain-interrupted game itself yet glosses over the fact that the 1911 Cubs were very good: They would finish 92-62. The second run of the game -- team run number 25,000 -- came in the third inning, when Sheckard walked, moved to second on a grounder and scored on a Heine Zimmerman hit.

** The Tribune front-page headline from Aug. 18, 1911: "Taft Veto Kills Wool Bill." Apparently, taxes on wool was a big story a century ago.

The 50,000th run (Bobby Sturgeon)
July 23, 1947

By now, we're blissfully into the era of reliable box scores, but also decades into the Cubs' title-free streak. (They had reached the World Series in 1945 and lost; '47 would kick off a 16-year streak without a winning record.) In this game, the Cubs lost to the Boston Braves 12-3, with all three runs coming in the seventh inning and the big 50K arriving when Dom Dallessandro doubled off Johnny Sain, scoring Sturgeon.

** The Tribune front-page headline from July 23, 1947: "VOTE TO LIFT CREDIT CURBS!" This is incredibly uninteresting and probably not worth the all-caps headline. Let's go with a far more fun secondary headline from that day: "Stowaway, 19, gets Air Ride, but Loses Job."

The 75,000th run (Keith Moreland)
April 17, 1986

Decades later, the Cubs got three-quarters of the way to one hundred thousand when Leon Durham's two-run homer in the third inning scored Keith Moreland with run number 75,000, and Durham with 75,001. This one came in Montreal, and the Cubs would end up winning, 7-6, in 13 innings, though they would end up losing 90 games this year.

** The Tribune front-page headline from April 17, 1986: "GOP moves in city-suburb O'Hare fight." This was about which authority would have regional control over the airport. They can't all be exciting.

The 99,248th run (David Bote)
Sept. 28, 2019

Finally, one we have video for. The Cubs would go scoreless for the remaining 10 innings of their season.

Breaking it down into quarters, it took the Cubs 35 years to get their first 25,000 runs, then 36 more to get to 50,000, and 39 more after that to get to 75,000. If they get there in 2021, as expected, it would mean it took ... another 35 years since Durham's homer. At least they're consistent.

The 100,000th run?

Here's where it gets tricky. We won't guess on a date, because it's impossible to know without knowing what happens to the 2020 season. We'll guess "some time in 2021, no matter what happens this year." So far as who it is, Kris Bryant led in runs scored by a lot in '19 (108, ahead of 89 apiece for Anthony Rizzo and Javier Báez), but Báez led by a lot in '18 (101, with no other Cubs above 74). Looking at 2020 projections, Bryant (107) and Rizzo (106) were at the top of the heap. We can't guess about trades, but all three of Rizzo, Bryant, and Báez would still be under team control in '21 if the Cubs chose to retain them.

So we'll throw a dart and guess "a Rizzo single drives in Bryant," but let's be honest, it's going to be something way more random. It'll be a Kyle Hendricks sacrifice bunt. Or a Victor Caratini grand slam with Yu Darvish on third base. Or some Minor League veteran in another team's farm system who found his way to Wrigley. Whatever it is, whoever it is, it'll be magical. Let's just hope we remember to pay attention to it.