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It was 99 years ago ...
2007-10-08 00:52
by Bob Timmermann

The final game of the 1908 season essentially served as a one-game playoff for the NL pennant. The Chicago Cubs played at the Polo Grounds against the New York Giants. The game was a replay of a September 23, 1908 1-1 tie between the two teams.




That game in September was the "Merkle Game," which ended in controversy as the young Giants first baseman (filling in for Fred Tenney who was out with lumbago, giving Fred Merkle his only start of the season at first) failed to touch second base on what would have been a game-winning single by Al Bridwell with two outs. Merkle, fearing the crowds on the field, headed for the Polo Grounds clubhouse instead of touching second while Moose McCormick crossed home plate. Cubs second baseman Johnny Evers called for the ball so he could touch second and get a force out to end the inning. What happened next is subject to great dispute, but umpire Hank O'Day called Merkle out, negating McCormick's run and then called the game because of darkness.

After much hemming and hawing (picture the most hemming and hawing you've seen in your life and then double it, now you've got half the amount of hemming and hawing that went on), the tie result stood and it was ordered to replayed only if it affected the pennant race. And of course it did as the Giants and Cubs finished at 98-55 with the Pirates 1/2 game back at 98-57. And the boxscore below (from the New York Times) is a record of what happened on that tumultuous day 99 years ago.

The Giants scored a run in the first off of Jack Pfiester (nicknamed "The Giant Killer" and his surname was misspelled in the boxscore) but Cubs player-manager Frank Chance saw quickly that Pfiester didn't have it and brought in Mordecai Brown to shut down the Giants.

The Cubs then scored four times off of Christy Mathewson in the third, thanks in part to a triple by Joe Tinker and a double from Frank Chance. The Giants got a run in the seventh, but Brown was the star of the day. And the Cubs won the pennant and went on to the World Series where they beat the Tigers in five games.

I'll be talking more about this along with a review of some of the top baseball books in a talk at the Los Angeles Central Library on October 18 at 12:15 pm. If you're in the area, come on by.


I also want to wish a happy birthday to my late mother, who did as good of a job raising me as Howard Ehmke did pitching back on the day she was born.

2007-10-08 01:10:40
1.   bhsportsguy
Not to plug my own limited writing skills.

The book, not the review, will give you a taste of what it was like that day.

2007-10-08 04:25:07
2.   Josh Wilker
Nice recap, Bob. I enjoyed looking at that old box score too. When did they stop putting putouts and assists in the box score, I wonder (and why did they start doing it in the first place?)? I also like that walks are listed in a section called "first base on balls." I never knew "base on balls" was short for something.

Any chance of providing us Griddle readers a list of the baseball books you're going to be talking about at the library?

2007-10-08 04:38:20
3.   tjshere
Only two umps and they are referred to as "Messrs." Time of game: One hour and forty minutes. Wow. A few things have changed, haven't they?

A respectful tip of the cap to your mom, Bob. I have no doubt she was a great lady.

2007-10-08 09:07:04
4.   Bob Timmermann
I think the fielding stats started out as part of the boxscore and stayed until the 1940s or so.

Note that the boxscore doens't have a column for RBI, which wasn't a stat or earned runs. But I think all the runs in the game were earned.

2007-10-08 09:48:14
5.   KG16
3 - The NY Times is the only paper I've seen that still uses "Mr./Ms./Mrs." They are also the only paper I've seen that uses Messrs.
2007-10-08 10:51:27
6.   Linkmeister
2 A list would be nice, but it's the 21st Century! A podcast, sir, a podcast!
2007-10-08 10:59:25
7.   Bob Timmermann
I only have 45 minutes, so I'm discussing:
The Soul of the Game
Playing America's Game
Spalding's World Tour
Crazy 08
2007-10-08 11:07:35
8.   Connector
Hi everybody -

A long time ago I read a poem about the "Tinkers to Evers to Chance" double plays, but I never knew which team they played for. Thanks, Bob, for enlightening me.

2007-10-08 11:09:40
9.   Bob Timmermann
To help you pronounce that poem, remember that the second baseman's name starts with a long E sound.
2007-10-08 14:54:30
10.   Josh Wilker
9 : It's also fun to keep in mind while reciting the poem that Tinker and Evers loathed each other.
2007-10-09 14:22:43
11.   El Lay Dave
10 Clubhouse chemistry is overrated - then and now!
2007-10-12 15:03:23
12.   das411
Is that THE Umpire Klem too Bob?

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