September 23, 1908 Merkle’s Boner

Bad as it was, Buckner’s Bungle at first had nothing on a Flub that will live for the Ages, Fred Merkle’s Screw-up at Second, a Blooper that would always be known as “Merkle’s Boner”.

For Boston sports fans, there is little to match for pure unhappiness of memory, with the 86-year World Series Championship drought known as the “Curse of the Bambino”.

Babies grew up and had babies of their own during that time. There were grandchildren and great grandchildren, and sometimes even great-greats, and still the drought wore on.  It was 86 years.  One of the longest World Series championship droughts in Major League Baseball history.

The third longest, actually, behind those of the Chicago White Sox (87 games) and the Chicago Cubs, (107 games).  Pity the long suffering baseball fans, of Chicago.

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It’s the worst moment in Boston baseball, unless you count the ball that lost the 1986 world series, the one that dribbled through Bill Buckner’s legs at First Base and snatched defeat from the jaws of victory in game six, against the New York Mets.

And that after defeating the Arch Nemesis New York Yankees by 5½ games, for the championship of the American League East.

An unfortunate joke emerged from that game, about Bill Buckner’s most regrettable moment.  A joke unbefitting the caliber of the man’s career in Major League Baseball.

Bad as it was though, Buckner’s Bungle at first had nothing on a Flub that will live for the Ages, Fred Merkle’s Screw-up at Second, a Blooper that will always be known, as “Merkle’s Boner”.

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Fred “Bonehead” Merkle

On this day in 1908, the New York Giants faced off with the Chicago Cubs in the last of a three-game series at the Polo Grounds, in upper Manhattan.

The Giants held a slim lead at this time for the National League pennant, but the Cubbies had managed to hold on to a 2-0 series lead. This game was going to be a Big Deal.

Fred Merkle was 19 years old that day, the youngest player in the National League.

In the bottom of the 9th, Merkle came to the plate with two outs, the score tied 1–1, and Harry “Moose” McCormick on first.

Merkle singled and McCormick advanced to third. Al Bridwell, followed with a single of his own and McCormick crossed the plate, with the winning run.

Except, that’s not the way it happened.

The fans poured onto the field, convinced that the game was over. Fans did that, in those days.

320px-Fred_Merkle_baseball_cardMerkle thought so too, and ran to the Giants’ clubhouse, never touching second base.

Cubs second baseman Johnny Evers noticed and, after fielding the ball and touching second, appealed to umpire Hank O’Day to call the out.

The Ump called Merkle out on a force play. The run didn’t count.

With the winning run nullified, the Giants’ victory was erased and the score tied, 1-all. There was no hope of resuming play, with thousands of fans on the field.

The game was declared a tie, and the two teams finished regular season, tied for first.

The Cubs won the 1908 National League pennant with a 4-2 victory on the rematch, also played at the Polo Grounds, on October 8.

A game that never should have been played, but for a nineteen-year-olds screwup at second, for which Fred Merkle would always be known as “Bonehead”.

Oh.  The joke.  I almost forgot.  Question:  What do Bill Buckner and Michael Jackson, have in common?  Answer:  They both wear one glove, for no apparent reason.

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Author: Cape Cod Curmudgeon

I'm not a "Historian". I'm a husband, a father, a son and a grandfather. A history geek and sometimes curmudgeon, who still likes to learn new things. I began writing "Today in History" nearly six years ago, as sort of a self-guided history course.  I told myself I’d write 365, the leap year changed that to 366. As I write this, I believe there are over 600. I make every effort to get my facts straight, but I'm as good at being wrong as the next guy. I offer these "Today in History" stories in hopes that you'll enjoy reading them, as much as I’ve enjoyed writing them. Rick Long

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