Merkle’s Boner: Only 100 years young

i-9457a27232d14c879fe6697af664da24-200px-Fred_Merkle_baseball_card.jpg

There was no Viagra or Cialis ads on the New York Giants’ radio broadcasts in 1908. Heck, there were no radio broadcasts.
But we rememeber Fred Merkle and his, ahem, well-chronicled boner — which actually was his old-school twist on the walk-of,f game-winning hit before it became fashionable.
Keith Olbermann , back in his days as a sportscaster at KTLA-Channel 5, loved to retell the story year after year, with a cardboard cutout of Merkle, about how on Sept. 23, 1908, during one of baseball’s great pennant races, Merkle changed his team’s fortunes by doing something kinda stupid.
Olbermann, the current MSNBC “Countdown” host, NBC “Sunday Night Football” studio co-anchor and former ESPN “SportsCenter” legend, is featured in Sports Illustrated this week to, again, get a snicker out of everyone when he re-errects the legend of Merkel’s Boner.

For those who need to hear the story again (a link here to the Wikipedia version):

It’s the bottom of the ninth. The Giants need a victory over the Chicago Cubs at the Polo Grounds. Scored tied 1-1. Two outs. Merkle, a Giants’ 19-year-old rookie, hits a long single to right field, sending his teammate, Moose McCormick, to third. Next, Al Bridwell singles up the middle, giving the Giants the apparent walk-off victory (the tern wasn’t used then, but it could have been). Fans storm the field in celebration. And Merkle, who ran toward second on the hit, suddenly takes a right turn and joins the exodus.
Sorry, but that violated Rule 59: A run could not count if another runner was forced as the third out of the inning. Merkel was forced out at second by Cubs second baseman Johnny Evers, who noticed the gaffe, and the game was declared a tie.
The Cubs later won the make-up game, 4-2, won the National League, and then won the World Series — the last one in franchise history. Merkel ended up playing for the Cubs, as well as the Brooklyn Dodgers and New York Yankees, and played in six World Series — all of them on the losing side.
And the Cubs, for whatever reason, benefitted from a goat that wasn’t related to the Billy Goat Tavern.

Writes Olbermann in SI:


“Merkle … attained a level of infamy that makes Buckner’s travails seem trivial. Crowds held grudges against athletes before him, but fandom changed with his misfortune. It got personal, and a failure to abide by a previously unenforced rule was suddenly reason to impugn a player’s intelligence and character.” When he attended an Old-Timers’ Day in 1950, Olbermann recounts that “instead, when he was announced at the Polo Grounds, fans applauded and cheered. Sportswriter Barney Kremenko later claimed the roar was as loud and heartfelt as the one that followed Bobby Thomson’s homer the following year. Merkle and the fans made peace with one another. The pain was relieved, the blame absolved. Yet that absolution isn’t what’s remembered about Merkle each Sept. 23. We love our heroes, but beginning with him, we’ve loved to hate our goats just as much.”

i-a3f7fea859e91c063e9bb198f48bc4d7-WHS_005_259.jpg

==Olbermann’s essay (linked here)
==The boxscore of the “Merkle’s Boner” game (linked here)
==The New York Times’ story today on it (linked here)
==The Chicago Tribune’s recount of the game (linked here)
==The Watertown (Wisc.) Daily Times remembers its native son (linked here)

Facebook Twitter Plusone Digg Reddit Stumbleupon Tumblr Email