Monday, September 24, 2012

Merkle Game Revisted: September 23rd Each Year


We reached another anniversary of the famous Merkle Game yesterday--September 23rd. This day is the anniversary of the game that started it all. Sporting Chance Press author Mike Cameron wrote the book on Fred Merkle. Literally. We call it Public Bonehead, Private Hero: The Real Legacy of Baseball's Fred Merkle.

On September 23, 1908, 19-year old Fred Merkle was the youngest player on the New York Giants. He was slotted into the lineup at first base to replace a wounded veteran against the mighty Chicago Cubs of Tinker, Evers and Chance fame. The pressure was on when Merkle came up to bat in the bottom of the ninth with the score tied 1—1. With two outs and Moose McCormick on first, the youngster rifled a single to right field easily advancing the slow-footed Moose McCormick to third. Shortstop slugger Al Bridwell, up next, whacked a low liner that knocked the second base umpire down on its way to shallow center field. As McCormick crossed the plate with the “winning run,” Merkle turned from the base path and raced towards the clubhouse.

Modern fans know that even if a team scores on such a play, the all base runners need to advance to the next base and tag it to avoid a force-out. The score is nullified on the force out.

Unfortunately for Fred Merkle, in 1908 this rule had not been enforced, especially when the winning hit traveled to the outfield. September 23 however, was different. Merkle was called out, the game was ruled a tie, a protest ensued and at the end of the season a rubber match was played for the Pennant because the mighty Cubs and feisty Giants had identical records for the season. The Cubs won the rubber match, the Pennant and the World Series.

Merkle was unfairly Christened "Bonehead" from coast-to-coast.

Each year, the Merkle game is discussed in TV and radio booths, in newspapers and in other printed and electronic venues. Media contacts looking for a Merkle expert can write us here at Sporting Chance Press (lmj.norris@gmail.com) to set up interview time with Cameron who is happy to help explain the context of the game and what happened to Merkle during and after his playing career.

One of Merkle's greatest fans is David Stalker of Watertown, Wisconsin. Watertown is the birth place of Fred Merkle. David is a sports historian who has been instrumental in honoring many of baseball's greatest players from the Deadball Era. Here is the Facebook page that shows the monuments that David has put up. Here's a wonderful short piece on Fred Merkle written by David.

You can get the inside scoop any time by simply ordering your own copy of Public
Bonehead, Private Hero at Sporting Chance Press.

Copyright 2012 Sporting Chance Press