'Merkle's Boner'

By Chuck Fiebernitz | May 03, 2012

In late September of 1908, the Chicago Cubs and the New York Giants were locked in a very heated and intense battle for the National League pennant.
Just like the previous four seasons, the pennant was again on the line when the two teams met on Sept. 23, 1908 at the Polo Grounds in Upper Manhattan. The Cubs had won the pennant in 1906 and 1907, while the Giants had won in 1904 and 1905.
But on this day, one of the most prominent incidents in the history of major league baseball occurred and it involved many future Hall of Fame players.
New York Manager John McGraw had to make a change in his lineup as first baseman Fred Tenney was injured. So he inserted 19-year-old rookie Fred Merkle.
Tied in the bottom of the ninth at one with two outs, the Giants managed to put runners on the corners. Moose McCormick was the runner on third base and Merkle was standing at first when pitcher Jack Pfiester’s offering was lined into the outfield by shortstop Al Bridwell for a single.
McCormick ran home, scoring what he thought was the winning run, and proceeded to dash into the clubhouse when jubilation erupted as fans poured onto the field. Alarmed, Merkle made a mad dash off the field.  
New York won the game and most likely the National League pennant.
However, there was a problem for the Giants, Merkle never touched second base and Chicago second baseman Johnny Evers knew it and screamed at outfielder Solly Hofman to throw it to second base to get a force out on Merkle.
Evers got umpire Hank O’Day’s attention as New York third base coach Joe McGinnity rushed over to second base to see what was going on while the Giant fans streamed onto the field. One fan ran over to second as the ball came from the outfield and he, McGinnity and Evers engaged in a struggle to catch and control the ball. At the same time, pitcher Christy Mathewson was maneuvering Merkle back to the field.
An unknown Giant fan, loyal to a fault, ended up getting control of the ball, and heaved it into the stands, where it disappeared. Rube Kroh, a Chicago pitcher, ran into the stands, found it and wrestled the ball from another fan and threw it to shortstop Joe Tinker, who flipped it to Evers, who touched second base.
First baseman Frank Chance, who was the Cubs’ player/manager, dashed over to O’day and argued his team’s case. But the ump had not given any ruling as to whether the winning run had scored. This was somewhat dangerous, as the Giants fans were all over the field, and while Chance protested, many of the fans got quite angry with him.
The police were called as a result of the pandemonium, and the entire Cubs team had to be escorted out of the stadium in front of thousands of angry Giant fans.
The umpires, however, ruled the next day that Merkle had not touched second base, and therefore the Giants had not won the game. The following day, National League President Harry C. Pulliam ruled that the game was in fact a tie and it had to be replayed in its entirety.
He stated in his ruling, “it’s simply the rules of baseball. It’s a force out and the play was not complete.”
The result of the play that got quickly called the “Merkle Boner,” was the Cubs and Giants were deadlocked for the pennant at the end of the season. So on Oct. 8, 1908, the two teams played a one game playoff.
Chicago won the pennant as pitcher Mordecai Peter Centennial “Three Finger” Brown beat Mathewson, 4-2.
Johnny Evers’ smart move had won the pennant for the Cubs against the Giants. As for Merkle, he stayed in baseball for 14 more years and not once did McGraw or his teammates heap blame on him for losing the pennant.
But the fans never forgave him.
As for the Cubs, they went on to beat Ty Cobb’s Detroit Tigers in five games, 4-1, to win the 1908 World Series and have never won a World Series since.

Secret behind Pujols’ troubles
Los Angeles Angels’ new slugger, Albert Pujols, is currently batting an anemic .209 through the first month of the season. Everyone, fans, analyst, his manager and even his teammates are struggling to find a reason. Or better yet, a solution.
But here is a reason and a very good reason why Pujols isn’t hitting. In 98 at bats in the month of April, Pujols fell behind 0-1 in the count 41 times. If there is any proof for a pitcher at any level of the importance of throwing STRIKE ONE, just at how poor Pujols is hitting when the pitchers get ahead of him by throwing strike one.
The solution for Pujols to break out of this slump, which is now in his head, is to start hunting the first pitch from the guy on the mound.

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