September 23, 2012

"THE ROTTENEST DECISION IN THE HISTORY OF BASEBALL":

Sadly, one play defined Merkle's career, life (Ed Sherman, 9/23/12, ESPN.com)

Tuesday marks the 100th anniversary of the play that forever cemented Merkle's legacy in baseball. The Chicago Cubs and New York Giants were locked in a dramatic pennant race when they met on Sept. 23, 1908.

With the game tied 1-1 in the bottom of the ninth, Merkle, who had singled, was on first base and Moose McCormick was on third. With two outs, Al Bridwell then hit an apparent single to drive in McCormick with what seemed the winning run.

It looked to be a huge victory for the Giants, and jubilant fans mobbed the field at the Polo Grounds. But in the commotion, Cubs second baseman Johnny Evers noticed Merkle never touched second base.

Evers frantically waved for the ball, and there's considerable dispute about whether he actually got the game ball. Evers then stepped on second and umpire Hank O'Day called Merkle out on a force, thus nullifying the Giants' run. Keep in mind, this was the same umpire who let a similar play stand up when a base runner didn't touch second at the conclusion of a game earlier in the month.

Despite O'Day's ruling, the game couldn't go on because of all the fans on the field, and it was declared a 1-1 tie. Merkle's nightmare then was compounded when the Cubs and Giants finished the regular season tied. The Cubs won the one-game playoff to win the pennant, propelling them to their last World Series title.

Merkle, who was only 19 at the time, was vilified. The Sporting News, the game's official bible back then, wrote of "the stupidity of Fred Merkle." Newspapers quickly labeled him "Bonehead."

Merkle went on to become a decent player during a 16-year career, finishing with a .273 average. He had 49 stolen bases in 1911, an impressive total considering he was 6-foot and 190 pounds.

Yet Merkle never seemed to get over the top. He was on the losing side of six World Series. When he was blamed for a botched popup that helped cost the Giants the 1912 World Series, the headlines blared, "Bonehead Merkle does it again."

Posted by at September 23, 2012 5:07 AM
  

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