The 1908 baseball season is best known for Merkle’s boner, a baserunning mishap by a player on the New York Giants that cost them a game that had they won, would have given them enough wins to win the NL pennant. Instead, the Cubs triumphed over the Giants in the season’s final game to take the flag. They’d go on to win the World Series.
But there was a lot of other stuff that led up to that point, including one game I just read about it that I’ll share here.
It was the Giants’ home opener against the Brooklyn Dodgers (then known as the Superbas) on April 22, 1908. It was a highly eager crowd of more than 25,000 in the Polo Grounds, a challenging group to keep in line because the stands were not equipped to hold that many people. In fact, the some of the crowd overflowed onto the field in center field (this is a totally unimaginable scenario today).
This led to some interesting obstacles. A Superbas player hit what should have been an inside-the-park home run into the mass of extra spectators, but
It was ruled a ground-rule double. The fans on the field grew larger in volume as the game went along, forcing the outfielders to play shallower than usual. The Giants benefited from this in the eighth inning when Fred Merkle (for whom the boner was named) hit a double into the fan contingent, a ball that should have been caught, according to the wonderful resource that is the Brooklyn Eagle.
The Superbas led 2-1 after 8 ½ innings. Merkle hit another of what was called a “phony double” in the ninth, but was thrown out at the plate later in the inning trying to score the tying run.
The game came down to Mike Donlin’s at-bat with a man on base. Donlin was a hitting star. He finished his career with a .333 batting average. He had returned to the team after sitting out a season in a contract dispute. He would later take an interest in theatre and perform in plays and movies.
Anyways, Donlin had a flare for the dramatic on this day, as he clubbed a two-run home run against Harry McIntire. More than 5,000 fans stormed the field to celebrate the win and make the romp around the bases with Donlin, who arrived home safely.
“The Giants had all the luck, all the time,” wrote one Eagle reporter.
So why am I sharing the story with you today of all days?
Donlin was a cocky fellow who walked around with a healthy strut. That earned him an appropriate nickname.
Happy Thanksgiving, everybody!