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Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Today's Birthdays

Julio Becquer LAA b. 1931, played 1961

Snooks Dowd BRO b. 1897, played 1926, d. 1962-04-04

Bob Hall BRO b. 1878, played 1905, d. 1950-12-01

Butch Henline BRO b. 1894, played 1927-1929, d. 1957-10-09

Fred Merkle BRO b. 1888, played 1916-1917, d. 1956-03-02. Infamous with the Giants as the author of "Merkle's Boner", a baserunning gaffe that occurred as the last play in a September 23, 1908 game against the rival Cubs. With Merkle on first, what should have been a game-winning hit instead turned into controversy as Merkle headed to the dugout, as was the custom at the time, instead of touching second base on his way to crossing home plate. As the Giants home crowd flooded the field, Cubs second baseman Johnny Evers stepped on second base while in possession of the ball (or, anyway, a ball, since Giants pitcher Joe McGinnity had appeared to hurl the game ball deep into the crowd), claiming a forceout and the negation of the winning run. With fans already making the field impassable, the game's result was nullified. At the end of the season, the Cubs and Giants were tied, and so both teams had to replay the now-missing game; the Giants lost it and the pennant.

Despite being known as an unusually intelligent player (he was the only player John McGraw would consult on strategy), the blunder — and it wasn't much of one by the standards of the day, no more so than the catcher blocking the plate — haunted Merkle for the rest of his life. McGraw took some of the heat off him by saying the team lost eight games that they should have won. Still, the namecalling from the press, who had taken to calling him "bonehead", dogged the 20-year-old; the next year, Merkle hit .191. But he recovered in 1910, becoming a solid player for the Giants. Traded to the Dodgers in August 1916, the Dodgers sold him to the Cubs in August the next year. After his retirement, he refused interviews with the press on the grounds that all they wanted to talk about was his one mistake, forgetting the three pennants he helped the Giants to win.

Harry Stovey BRO b. 1856, played 1893, d. 1937-09-20


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