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Old 09-01-2007, 09:34 PM
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Default 1908 Merkle incident - recounted in September 1936 issue of Baseball Magazine

Posted By: Rob

I purchased and received my first "vintage" magazine not too long ago - Baseball Magazine September 1936 issue - and had a chance to read through it a little tonight. Great stories like how the Yankees are succeeding w/rookie Joe DiMaggio, Red Sox owner Yawkey spending the most $ in the league by buying players like Lefty Grove and Jimmy Foxx and realizing money can't buy a championship (talk about role reversals!), and the growing popularity of night baseball.

One reader sent in a question to the editor of asking "How could Merkle be put out when the winning run was in?". Merkle of course was on first base when the batter hit a single, the runner on 3rd base scored, and Merkle ran off the field w/o touching 2nd base.

Response by John B . Foster - sorry, its quite long:

"There was a runner on third base, McCormick, who was waiting to be batted home and was, so far as he was concerned. Bridwell was at bat and singled sharply to center, McCormick scored. As he crossed the plate, Merkle, who was about two-thirds of the way to second, turned suddenly and ran out of the playing field to the clubhouse. As he did so, Hofman, who was playing center field for Chicago, called to Evers, who was playing second, and held him on the field, saying he was going to throw the ball to him. The ball never reached him but was caught and thrown by Joe McGinnity outside the ground into the left field bleachers. A new ball was thrown out from the Chicago bench and was finally caught by Evers and held on second base. It was then decided by Umpire O'Day, at least it is supposed that it was then decided, that the runner, Merkle, was out. O'Day, however, stated to Sam Crane, local newspaper writer, after the play was over, that the run counted and I, who was holding the press wires open, so sent it to the variuos newspaper offices. There was a crowd on the field but it could have been cleared off and plenty of time was left to finish the game but it ended with that incident. Later at the New York Athletic club, O'Day, who was in consultation with President Pulliam, declared Merkle to be out. I was telephoned for and asked to meet Pulliam and O'Day before they made the decision public, but declined to go there when they announced that they had made a decision, and told me what the decision was. O'Day said that Merkle had been forced out by Bridwell, on the latter's clean single to center field. He was justified in acting as he did by the rules, he affirmed. It has always been contended by the New York club that Bridwell's single obviated any force out and that McCormick crossed the plate in compliance with all the rules. It was asked of President Pulliam where Merkle could have gone. His only answer was that he was forced out because he did not touch second base. As a matter of fact he was brought back from the clubhouse and did touch the base, but it was decided that he was out when he touched it, although nobody authorized the use of the ball which was thrown out by Chicago and grabbed by Evers at second after the original ball had been thrown out of the field. In fact, everybody was so mixed up at the time that anything would have been accepted. It would have been more in accordance with National League history if the possibility of such a play had been issued to all clubs and a suitable warning given. That Merkle was out is still disputed by some old-timers who said it was impossible after McCormick had scored legally on Bridwell's hit and Bridwell had touched first base."

I didn't realize that
1) The game ball was thrown out of play and a 2nd ball was used to force Merkle out at 2nd base and
2) Merkle went back and touched the bag

Interesting reading IMO.

Rob

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