October 23, 2004

Before there was Bill Buckner

Forever identified in baseball lore for "Merkle's Boner", 19 year old Fred Merkle was first baseman for the New York Giants when the blunder happened.

The play itself was clouded by contradictory affidavits by players, conflicting opinions by various baseball officials, and protests lodged by both teams over the umpires' handling of the incident.

The confusion started when Merkle, the runner on first, failed to touch second after an apparent game-winning base hit. Instead, he turned back toward the dugout, as was customary at the time, when he saw the run cross the plate. As the happy Polo Grounds crowd filed across the field towards the centerfield gate, second baseman Johnny Evers got the ball and stepped on second, claiming a forceout which negated the winning run. With the fans already crowding the field, the game could not be played to a decision, and had to be replayed.

When the Cubs and Giants ended the season in a tie, the Cubs won the rematch, sending them to the World Series.

Fred Merkle played in three World Series with the NY Giants, another with the Brooklyn Dodgers, and a fifth with the Chicago Cubs, and all ended up losing. In 1926 he was a coach for the New York Yankees when they made it to the World Series, and they lost too.

Fred Merkle never won the World Series, but he made it there six times. Not many players can say that.

If you're feeling a sense of deja vu about this post, it's because I covered the exact same subject last year during the World Series. Doh!

Posted by Ted at October 23, 2004 04:39 AM
Category: History
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