A little reminder about baseball history-Merkle's boner-

from the WSJ-


Another Bone-Headed Play
The Cubs owe their last World Series victory to a fluke.

Friday, October 17, 2003 12:01 a.m. EDT

We doubt that it will be any consolation to Steve Bartman, the hapless Chicago man who did what any fan would do when a ball was hit his way: try to catch it. But for the embittered Cubs fans who chanted profanities at him during Game 6 and are now blaming him for blowing their chance for a World Series berth, we've got some news: You wouldn't even have been in the 1908 World Series--the last time you won--without a similar fluke.

The date was Sept. 23, 1908, and the Cubs were in second place behind the New York Giants in what was arguably the most hotly contested pennant race in baseball history. That day the two teams met at the Polo Grounds in New York, where the score was tied 1-1 going into the bottom of the ninth. The Giants were down to their last out, with Fred Merkle on first and another Giant on third. When Al Bridwell singled to right-center to drive in the winning run, the game was over.

Or so the Giants thought. When Merkle saw the winning run cross the plate, instead of touching second base he turned and headed for the clubhouse, as was pretty much the custom of the day. And here the accounts diverge. The Cubs' Johnny Evers saw what happened and shouted for the ball. In some versions, the Giants' third-base coach recognized what was happening, got the ball himself and threw it into the stands. Evers went after it. Whether he came up with the actual ball or a substitute, he touched second for the force out on Merkle.

In short, the Giants had their victory snatched from them, and the National League ruled the game a tie. The replay of the game on Oct. 8 ended up with a Cubs victory that also clinched them the pennant. And the Giants' dashed chances ensured that no matter what Fred Merkle did--he went on to enjoy several respectable seasons--he would go down in baseball legend as "Bonehead Merkle."
"It followed him his whole life," Merkle's daughter, Marianne Kasbaum, told us, and it explains why her family feels for Mr. Bartman. Even though her father persevered in baseball for 20 years more, he couldn't really enjoy going to the ballpark, because "you never knew when someone would start calling out that name." And she says that she was glad to hear the Cubs' left-fielder, Moises Alou, absolve Mr. Bartman of any blame but agrees that it might help quell the public outcry if the Cubs organization embraced this poor Cubs fan rather than leaving him out in the cold.

If they don't, the consequences could be grim. A Frederick Charles Merkle Web site run by Merkle's granddaughter notes the following: The World Series the Cubs won after they helped turn her grandfather into a goat was their last.