1908 National League
|1908 in baseball|
|1908 National League|
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The 1908 National League season has largely been distilled down to a single play, known colloquially as Merkle's Boner. The play occurred in the 9th inning on September 23rd, in a game between the New York Giants and Chicago Cubs, with the score tied at 1-1. There were runners on first and third base for the Giants in the bottom of the inning, with Moose McCormick on third, the 19-year-old rookie Fred Merkle on first base, and Al Bridwell batting. Bridwell hit a game-winning single into the outfield and the Giants left the field to celebrate as soon as McCormick crossed home plate, with Merkle not bothering to touch second base. This was an important game in a very tight pennant race that also involved a third team, the Pittsburgh Pirates, and the celebrations were understandably raucous, with fans invading the field. During the mayhem, the Cubs' Johnny Evers managed to recover a ball (no one is sure that it was the actual game ball) and step on the second base bag and appeal to umpire Hank O'Day, who declared Merkle to be out, the inning over and the game a tie since it was now impossible to resume play. National League President Harry Pulliam upheld O'Day's controversial decision. The game was re-played on October 8th, the Cubs won, and this proved to be the difference in their winning the pennant. Poor Merkle, who had done nothing except what every player up to that time had ever done on such a play, was unfairly blamed for the loss.
The dramatic events of September 23rd were set up by an earlier game, this one between the Cubs and Pirates on September 4th. In this game, it was the Pirates who won, in the bottom of the 10th, when Chief Wilson hit the game-winning single, scoring Fred Clarke from third base, with Warren Gill not bothering to touch second base. Evers had tried to get the umpires' attention to the fact Gill had not touched second base, but O'Day, who was also the umpire that day, had ignored him. The Cubs filed a protest, but Pulliam failed to accept it. However, O'Day reflected about the Cubs' argument, found it logical, and vowed to accept such an appeal were such a play to re-occur. And as faith would have it, not only did the play re-occur, but it did in the most dramatic circumstances possible.
The replayed game of October 8th was made necessary by an extraordinary finish, without which Merkle's play would have become only a historical footnote. The Giants were beaten three times in the span of five days down the stretch by the Philadelphia Phillies and rookie pitcher Harry Coveleski, who earned the nickname "The Giant Killer" for his feat. On October 3rd, the Pirates and Cubs faced off in their final game of the season, with the Pirates in position to win the pennant outright had they won the game. But Mordecai Brown earned his 28th win of the season for the Cubbies, defeating the Bucs, 5-2, to go in front by half a game while awaiting the results of a three-game series between the Giants and the Boston Doves. The Giants swept all three games to move into a tie with the Cubs, turning the make-up game into a decisive contest. Christy Mathewson, with 37 wins, faced off against Jack Pfiester in the game, but Pfiester did not make it through the 1st inning, with Brown taking over for him and pitching the remainder of the game. The Cubs ended up on top, 4-2, winning the pennant.
The Cubs went on to face the Detroit Tigers, winners of an equally dramatic pennant race over in the American League, and easily won the World Series, four games to one, which would turn out to be their final championship for over a century, until 2016 to be precise.
- Bold indicates league champion, Italics indicates World Series champion
|Rank||Team||G||W||L||T||WPCT||GB||RS (RS/G)||RA (RA/G)||AVG||OBP||SLG||ERA||FPCT|
|1||Chicago Cubs||158||99||55||4||.627||-.-||624 (3.95)||461 (2.92)||0.249||0.306||0.321||2.14||0.969|
|2||Pittsburgh Pirates||155||98||56||1||.632||1.0||585 (3.77)||469 (3.03)||0.247||0.304||0.332||2.12||0.964|
|3||New York Giants||157||98||56||3||.624||1.0||652 (4.15)||456 (2.90)||0.267||0.333||0.333||2.14||0.961|
|4||Philadelphia Phillies||155||83||71||1||.535||16.0||504 (3.25)||445 (2.87)||0.244||0.291||0.316||2.10||0.963|
|5||Cincinnati Reds||155||73||81||1||.471||26.0||489 (3.15)||544 (3.51)||0.227||0.282||0.294||2.37||0.959|
|6||Boston Doves||156||63||91||2||.404||36.0||537 (3.44)||622 (3.99)||0.239||0.296||0.293||2.79||0.962|
|7||Brooklyn Superbas||154||53||101||0||.344||46.0||377 (2.45)||516 (3.35)||0.213||0.262||0.277||2.47||0.961|
|8||St. Louis Cardinals||154||49||105||0||.318||50.0||371 (2.41)||626 (4.06)||0.223||0.265||0.283||2.64||0.946|
- Bold indicates league record, Italics indicate all-time record
- Dave Anderson: More Than Merkle, University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln, NE, 2000.
- G.H. Fleming: The Unforgettable Season, University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln, NE, 2006 (originally published in 1981). ISBN 0803269226
- Cait Murphy: Crazy '08: How a cast of cranks, rogues, boneheads and magnates created the greatest year in baseball history, Smithsonian Books, Washington, DC, 2007.
- Tom Ruane: "A Retro-Review of the 1900s (the 1908 edition)", Retrosheet.org 
- Steve Steinberg: "1908's Forgotten Team: The Pittsburgh Pirates", Baseball Research Journal, SABR, Vol. 47, Nr. 2 (Fall 2018), pp. 103-111.
- Stew Thornley: "Regular Season Showdowns", Baseball Research Journal, SABR, Vol. 47, Nr. 1 (spring 2018), pp. 85-90.