October 27, 2011
Yesterday’s occurence was eerily similar to a play that occurred three years ago. On September 23rd, 1908, the Giants and Cubs were locked in a tight pennant race. Fred Merkle (left) stood on first and teammate Moose McCormick stood on 3rd. With two outs, Al Bridwell hit a single to drive in McCormick. The jubilant New York fans rushed the field, thinking their Giants had won. But Cubs 2nd baseman Johnny Evers noticed that Merkle had never touched 2nd base. He ran out, grabbed the ball, and running between Giants fans, went and touched 2nd base for the force out. He then told umpire Hank O’Day that Merkle had never touched second and that he was out, nullifying the run. O’Day agreed, and the game ended in a 1-1 tie. The two teams ended the season tied, and the Cubs won a one-game playoff that never would have happened in Merkle had touched 2nd. Of course, he had left the field for his safety, and O’Day enforced a rule that had never been enforced before.
Yesterday, Merkle was again in the thick of it, lofting a fly ball near the right field line. Danny Murphy made the catch, then threw home to try to catch Doyle, who had tagged up on the play. The throw was off, but when he slid, Doyle missed home plate, sliding with one leg behind it and one leg over it by a foot. As umpire Bill Klem said after the game, “Usually I run to the dressing room when a game is over, but this time I stood at home plate for several seconds, waiting to see if the Athletic players would appeal…None of the the Athletics made the appeal, and as I was about to move away McGraw, in passing from the third base coacher’s box to the players bench, said to me, “Did you see it, Bill?'”
“I certainly did,” I said.
“What would you have done about it if they had appealed,” McGraw asked.
“I would have declared Doyle out if they appeal had been made, but none was made.”
Why had no appeal been made, when several members of the A’s, including Connie Mack, had seen the play? For one thing, there was basic safety to worry about. Giants fans would have torn the place to pieces had such a ruling been made. For another, first baseman Harry Davis, who saw that Doyle didn’t touch, couldn’t make it to Klem through the throng of fans rushing onto the field. But perhaps the best explanation is that Connie Mack is far more of a gentleman than Johnny Evers is. As he said yesterday evening on the train:
It was the most pleasing moment of my life when not one of them tried to take advantage of a cheap technicality. Lapp looked around at the bench to see if I had noticed. I could see him from the corner of my eyes. I did not give him a tumble and he rushed off the field with teh rest. Now, i couldn’t swear that Doyle missed the palte, but if he did, what difference did it make? He had plenty of time to scuttle along and in my mind the Giants were fully entitled to it. I’m glad that none of my men forced Klem to make a ruling that would have been a rank injustice to New York, probably precipitating a riot and taking a hard-earned victory from the true winners and perhaps given baseball a black eye. I’m mighty pleased that my team showed themselves true sportsmen.
And so, Larry Doyle will not earn the nickname “Bonehead” in the fashion of Merkle, not because he didn’t make a mistake, but because Connie Mack is a fine gentleman. Hoorah to a team with such a caballero for a manager!
*Once again, Mack’s long quote comes to us via the excellent Norman L. Macht book “Connie Mack and the Early Years of Baseball.” The other quotes come from the October 26th, 1911 edition of the Philadelphia Inquirer.
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