Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Patty Turner Center Men's Club Visits with Mike Cameron and Fred Merkle

Mike Cameron wrote the book on Fred Merkle: Public Bonehead, Private Hero. With his own Merkle Play Diagram in hand, Mike Cameron presented his case for the exoneration of Fred Merkle to the Patty Turner Men's Club last week. According to Chicago Cubs aficionado, newspaper man and Sporting Chance Press author Mike Cameron, Fred Merkle was a scapegoat who paid the price for being at the wrong place at the wrong time. Cameron who avoids using the word "bonehead" so often a moniker cruelly affixed to Fred Merkle, set the stage by describing the historically fascinating year of 1908 -- the Wright Brothers prove that flight could be a practical mode of transportation; Henry Ford proved that automobiles could be affordable; and baseball proved that an entire nation could ignore all its worries for a few hours a day when smitten by a game.

Once the crowd understood the historical context of the 1908 season, Cameron described the close races in both the National and American Leagues that year. Having set the stage for the "Merkle Game" and describing the cast of characters -- including Tinker, Evers, Chance of the mighty Chicago Cubs and John McGraw, Christy Matthews and Fred Merkle of the Giants -- Cameron went on to describe the infamous play and how Merkle ran the bases that day. With the plodding Moose McCormick on third and Fred Merkle on first, Al Bridwell whacked a line line drive safely over the infield into right-center. After seeing that Moose had easily lumbered home, Merkle veered off the base path towards the clubhouse after the apparent end of the game rather than tagging second. The game ball disappeared for a while as the crowd and players mixed it up on the field, but then a ball made its way to second for the belated force out.

"How could he have done something so stupid? Everyone knows you have to tag the next base even after the run scores," the modern fan exclaims. But Cameron points out that everyone ran the bases that way in those days, especially when the winning hit landed in the outfield. It didn't help that the game was being played in the Polo Grounds, a field that was infamous for fans in close proximity to the players. In fact, at the Polo Grounds, the fans who sat in the outfield seats exited through the field itself. No surprise that players ran to the clubhouse a nanosecond after the game ends.

After Merkle was ruled out -- the result: Tie game. The Giants cry foul, but the press focused its muckraking venom on Merkle, calling him “bonehead.”

Cameron went on to tell the crowd at Patty Turner, that Mekle was ridiculed for life and even his obituary mentioned the "bonehead" play.

If you know some group that could use a dose of American history mixed with fascinating baseball and human interest--let us know at lmj.norris@sportingchancepress.com. Meantime, treat yourself to a great book, buy Public Bonehead, Private Hero. Order here.

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