Fred Merkle’s incident in 1908, referred to as “Merkle’s Boner” is one of the most prominent events in the history of Major League Baseball. Fred Merkle was a 19-year old rookie filling in for the veteran Fred Tenney at first base for the New York Giants when the famous play occurred. The day was September 23 and the opponent was the Chicago Cubs. With a runner on third base and the score tied in the bottom of the ninth inning, the batter singled and the winning run crossed home plate. Fred Merkle was on first base and veered off to the clubhouse failing to touch second base. Second baseman Johnny Evers retrieved the ball and touched second base. This resulted in a force out. The fans of the home team Giants filed onto the field to celebrate the assumed Giant victory. The game could not be continued due to darkness. The umpires ruled the next day that Merkle failed to touch second base and the Giants had not won the game. The league president eventually ruled the game was a tie and must be replayed in its entirety. As things would happen the Giants and Cubs ended the season tied and when the game was replayed the Cubs won. The Cubs went on to defeat Ty Cobb’s Detroit Tigers in the 1908 World Series. Since their 1908 championship to this day the Cubs have appeared in seven World Series in 1910, 1918, 1929, 1932, 1935, 1938, and 1945, losing each time.
There are now some additional facts that need to be mentioned. Many times tradition trumps the rules of baseball. Traditionally, at that time in baseball history, when a winning run crossed home plate the players on base, fearing for their safety, ran to their clubhouse. To the credit of Johnny Evers he immediately made the umpire aware of Merkle not touching second base. It turned out a few days earlier the Cubs were involved in a similar situation with the Pittsburgh Pirates and as luck would have it the same umpire was in that game. After the Pirates game, Evers informed the umpire in the future he was going to insist that the rules of baseball must be enforced and the player must be called out. It also should be mentioned that there were four future Hall of Famers involved in that play. They were Johnny Evers, Joe McGinnity (the third base coach), Frank Chase (the Cubs player/manager), and John McGraw (the Giant manager).
This incident haunted Merkle throughout his 16-year career. He was forced to endure the insulting name “bonehead” and was unjustly blamed for the Giants losing the 1908 pennant. “Merkle was careless, to be sure.“ wrote Baseball Magazine, “but withal, he did what many others had done without suffering criticism.” Bitter over the events of the controversial game, Merkle avoided baseball after his playing career ended in 1926.
This leads me to my first curse. Due to the Cubs stealing the 1908 pennant from the Giants, the unjust ridicule endured by Fred MerkeI, “The Curse of Fred Merkle” , was placed on the Cubs.
I now fast forward to the World Series played in 1918. The Cubs opponent for this series was the Boston Red Sox. The series was won by the Red Sox 4-2 with the help of a guy named Babe Ruth. Ruth was the winning pitcher in two of the games and extended his WS scoreless inning streak to 292/3 innings before it was broken. This leads us to the second curse called “The Curse of the Bambino.” This curse was caused by the trading of Ruth to the Yankees in 1920. After 86 years this curse was finally broken when the Red Sox defeated the Cardinals in the 2004 WS. To reach the WS the Red Sox overcame a 3 games to 0 deficit to their arch rival Yankee in the ALCS.
But, when will the curse of Fred Merkle on the Cubs be broken?