The True Account Of Fred Merkle's "Boner"

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The True Account Of Fred Merkle's

 

Note:  This was found in the diary of a Mr. O. C. Schwartz at an estate sale

 

 

So much has been said about what is commonly called "The Merkle Boner" that, being an eyewitness to the account, I should set the matter straight once and for all.

 

It was a Wednesday, Sept. 23 in 1908, my Dad took me to the game , letting me miss school that day.  I was only eight-years old at the time, and it was the first chance I ever had to watch a professional baseball game in person.

 

I may be 75 years old, but I remember it as if it were yesterday.

 

The controversy is all about what happened in the bottom of the ninth inning. The Polo Grounds was crowded that day. The fans were all getting ready to rush the field at game's end.

 

The score was tied 1-1 with two outs. A fellow by the name of McCormick was on first base at the time. Fred Merkle came to bat and wasted no time getting a base hit and advancing the runner to third base.

 

The crowd was absolutely hysterical as Al Bridwell came to the plate. Bridwell  singled to the outfield and McCormick scored what was the apparent winning run. The fans all rushed onto the field to celebrate the win as pandemonium filled the ballpark.

 

It is a funny thing, but instead of watching all the people or the players, I kept my eye on the ball.  It came to center fielder Solly Hofman on the second bounce. Realizing that the winning run was scoring as he fielded the ball, Hofman lobbed a rainbow into the infield. The third base coach Joe McGinnity, pitcher Christy Mathewson and a fan were all in a battle with second baseman Johnny Evers to catch the ball. After a brief skirmish, the fan came away with the ball and heaved it into the stands along the third base line.

 

Meanwhile Merkle, who was so excited by his team apparently winning the game, jogged halfway to second base and then starting running towards the Giant's dugout. Mathewson or one of the other Giants in the dugout had yelled to Merkle and he began scurrying towards second base.

 

Evers had somehow retrieved yet another ball from somewhere and touched second base ahead of Merkle and the umpire, at Evers admonishing, saw the event and ruled Merkle out, thus negating the winning run.

 

So much has been said and talked about over the decades, about whether Evers had the ball that was hit by Bridwell. I saw it with my own eyes, Evers forced Merkle out at second with a ball which was thrown to him from the New York dugout.

 

The chaos that ensued was one of the wildest things I have ever seen. The umpires were arguing with Cubs manager Frank Chance and Giants manager John McGraw in the infield. After being swarmed by fans and reporters, the umpires decided to assemble in the umpires quarters which was located behind home plate beneath the grandstand.

 

After deliberating what seemed like an eternity, they came back to the field and advised everyone of their decision. They had decided that the force-out at second base negated the run scored, therefore the game ended in a tie, and would have to be replayed, pending a review  by the National League President.

 

If I forget everything else in my life, I shall never forget the look of sadness and helplessness in the face of young Fred Merkle right then.

 

The fans were so incensed that the police had to come and escort the Cubs personnel out of the ballpark.

 

Subsequently, the game had to be replayed to determine who would win the pennant. The Cubs won the "new" game and therefore went to the word series, which they won, four games to win against the Detroit Tigers.

 

Perhaps a morsel of justice was meted out by the Baseball Gods as the Cubs have not gone back to the World Series for 66 years now.

 

O.C. Schwartz

Newark, NJ

April 1975

 

 

_______________________________________________________

 

Sources:  Wikipedia

                   Baseball-Reference

 

Cliff Eastham is a BR Feature Columnist for the Cincinnati Reds

 

(c) 2009 Clifton Eastham

All Rights Reserved

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