I am so excited to get this card! I've wanted a T206 or Merkle for a long time now. I assume many of you know the story of Fred Merkle, and how he became known as "Bonehead?" If not, here's Sept 23, 1908 write up from the NY Times:
NEW YORK-Censurable stupidity on the part of player Merkle in today's game at the Polo Grounds between the Giants and Chicagos placed the New York team's chances of winning the pennant in jeopardy. His unusual conduct in the final inning of a great game perhaps deprived New York of a victory that would have been unquestionable had he not committed a breach in baseball play that resulted in Umpire O'Day declaring the game a tie.
With the score tied in the ninth inning at 1 to 1 and the New Yorks having a runner, McCormick, on third base waiting for an opportunity to score and Merkle on first base, Bridwell hit into center field. It was a fair hit ball and would have been sufficient to win the game had Merkle gone on his way down the base path while McCormick was scoring the winning run. But instead of Merkle going to second base to make sure that McCormick had reached home with the run necessary to a victory, Merkle ran toward the clubhouse, evidently thinking that his share in the game was ended when Bridwell hit the ball into safe territory.
Manager Chance of the Chicago Club quickly grasped the situation and directed that the ball be thrown to second base, which would force out Merkle, who had not reached that corner. Chance, who plays first base for the Chicago club, ran to second base and the ball was thrown there, but immediately Pitcher McGinnity interfered in the play and a scramble of players ensued, in which, it is said, McGinnity obtained the ball and threw it into the crowd before Manager Chance could complete a force play on Merkle, who was far away from the baseline. Merkle said that he had touched second base, and the Chicago players were equally positive that he had not done so.
Manager Chance then appealed to Umpire O'Day, who was head umpire of the game, for a decision in the matter. The crowd, thinking that the Giants had won the game, swarmed upon the playing field in such confusion that none of the "fans" seemed able to grasp the situation, but finally their attitude toward Umpire O'Day became so offensive that the police ran into the crowd and protected the umpire, while arguments were being hurled pro and con on the point in question by Manager Chance and McGraw and the umpire.
Umpire O'Day finally decided that the run did not count, and that inasmuch as the spectators had gained such large numbers on the field that the game could not be resumed. O'Day declared the game a tie, but the management of the Giants has recorded it as a 2 to 1 victory.
A few things jump out at me about all of this.
- I don't know about you, but to open the write up with the words "censurable stupidity" is, well, downright mean. "Censurable Stupidity?" Pretty harsh. It feels like a moment where the reaction to the mistake outweighs the mistake itself. It's like one of those rare occasions where I'm irritated at the lovely wife about something petty, but instead of simply expressing my feelings, I let it build up and then speak more harshly than I should about it. Then, the source of my irritation becomes irrelevant, and the way I expressed my irritation is now the sore spot. Not that I have many reasons to get irritated at the lovely wife!
- Speaking of the lovely wife, when I first received this card, I took a few minutes to tell the her the story of Merkle, at least as it pertains to his infamous "mistake." Her smile waned as I went through the story, his lasting humiliation and resulting bitterness and she finally said, "Well that just makes me sad." Actually, it does me too a little.
- On a lighter note, I found it interesting that there was a write up of the game printed the same day it was played. I guess we've always had a thirst for fresh information. Today, it's Twitter and 24 hour news channels. Back then, that thirst was quenched with morning and evening editions of the local newspapers.
There is a lot of great stuff written about the Merkle error, and I won't try to add to it. I have added a couple of links below for anyone interested: