Tag Archives: Orval Overall

MLB17 Chin Music: Will Joe’s Cubs Need a Merkle Boner to Complete This Repeat?

17 Apr

“Merkle’s Boner:” It didn’t catapult the Chicago Cubs to the 1908 Series, their 3rd in as many years, but it did by way of that game’s 1-1 tie, provide the Bruins with a means, an opportunity were the National League schedule and standings to end in a tie (Cubs & Giants) requiring a playoff (4-2 CHI) to save their bacon.

In a nutshell, the Boner was a base-running blunder committed by Fred Merkle of the New York Giants in a stretch-run contest at the NYC Polo Grounds (9.23) versus their neck n’ neck nemesis, the defending World Series champion Cubs. It denied his the New Yorkers the win as Merkle had failed to fully advance and touch second-base on a teammate’s hit, preventing the runner from third and his cross of home plate from constituting the game-winning run.

At its essence is this lesson: Baseball, all organized sport, is a game of rules to be enforced, chief among them being the act of completion by its participants in letting the world know that the ball has been caught, the runner tagged or bag reached to finish the play, providing necessary clarity. No loose ends.

— — —

Merkle was born in Watertown, Wisconsin in 1888 (Cubs-land), not far west of Milwaukee, hometown of Al Simmons (b.1902). By all rights, Fred was a rookie when he miscued, having majored briefly in ‘07, a bit longer in ‘08 – 09 and finally full-time in 1910. He had a 16-yr career, was a quality major leaguer (.273), played in five (5) World Series, all losses, including one with the Cubs in 1918 (BOS) and could be argued was somewhat blameless in the blunder.

I can’t write to exactly when the rule of completion began to lose support, but it had, explaining in part why League officials had denied Cubs’ protest of the Pirates’ Warren Gill having pulled the same act a few games prior, even as a rule was on the books. But the point was made, a directive laid down for future enforcement and announced to relevant parties (teams) and crews.

Boner-game umpire and former player Hank O’Day needed no formal announcement for the stepped-up watch as he’d umpired the earlier Pittsburgh contest and made the call in ruling Merkle out for failing to complete the play (umpire and former pitcher himself, Bob Emslie, claimed to have not seen it).

Whether Giants Mgr John McGraw took the news to heart, instructing his team or considered the League position to enforce the completion of play to be an affront to his sensibilities, I do not know. Given Merkle’s on-field base-running (stop-short), a man who appeared possessing of an astute baseball mind, I’d hazard a guess it was the latter. What I do know is that notice had been given.

Like a double-stranded DNA virus, stubbornness is forever in all our blood-streams, countered in some by common-sense or today’s conformity craze often manifested in cliques & consumerism. But John, the talented player (1890s Orioles) and teacher, was stubborn as a mule in an age that seemed to pride itself on the trait (segregation, disdain for protective gear, safer stadiums, etc.).

Fred was the key figure in what you can call G1 of the Merkle Series. The 2d (G2) being the post-season playoff back at the Polo Grounds (10.8) where the brave Cubs (Pirates 1/2 behind) showed the baseball world who was boss in taking the tie-breaker without much trouble, 4-2. That was on the diamond. Big trouble occurred in Chicagoans having to field pre-game death threats and then fend off locker-room attackers to make an escape for their lives. The Bruins lived, then went on to best the Tigers again in the Series 4-1 to make the dynasty.

But it was the Boner-ball itself which would have an incredible story to tell, at one point tossed into the stands by Joe McGinnity to keep it away from the Cubs seeking to make the force before Merkle could return to complete it. With some strong arm tactic from the determined and tough as nails Bruins bunch, the ball was retrieved, handed to 2d-bagger Johnny Evers who made the formal force out which O’Day was obligated to enforce, nullify the run and declare the tie.

For the best firsthand account of what happened before, during, immediately and days after (playoff) the Merkle boner, Evers’ personal narrative is required reading and found in that early baseball classic, “My Greatest Day in Baseball” by famed sportswriter, John P. Carmichael (A.S. Barnes & Co., 1945).

If the greatest pitching staff in history (Brown, Pfiester, Lundgren, Taylor, Reulbach, Cole, Overall (1906-10)) was the wind behind the sails of the dynastic Cubs, it was the smart play of its infield in Bronzed trio of Bear Cubs Tinker (Mgr Federal champion Whales (1915)), Evers (Chalmers MVP Miracle Braves (1914)) and 1B-Mgr Chance, as also overlooked 3rd-sacker Harry Steinfeldt and catcher John “Noisy” Kling, that constituted the tar & nails keeping it all ship-shape.

Did Evers have a bias? I wouldn’t be surprised. But the same goes for any Giants or New York scribe who might weigh-in. Bottom-line, John was in the best spot to tell it like it was. And what a tell! Merkle melee has to be the greatest moment in MLB annals, at least on par with Ruth’s called shot (‘32), Jackie’s debut (‘47) and Rose’s slide home to win an All-Star (‘70). Movie material, for sure.

Merkle’s Boner is more than an infamous miscue. It created four maxims:

1) MLB is a rules-bound game;
2) Completion of play is not just quaint, it’s part of the product;
3) Failure to enforce the rules will be the game’s ultimate demise; and
4) The 1906-10 Chicago Cubs are the greatest baseball team in history.

— — —

Can Joe Maddon’s Cubs match their tough-as-nails forefathers to win a handful of pennants (4) and that not-all-too-common back-to-back Series tandem?

The knee-jerk would say, ‘No, it’s too tough, and they not tough enough.’

To the first part, the 2017 Cubs appear as well-stocked and managed as anyone. And as they’ve done it once already (ring it), that air of confidence puts them in the top tier of hopefuls. To the second, not many of us are as tough as they were back in the dead-ball days. Not many as sentimental, either.

Bruins are off to an inauspicious start at 6-6. A come down off their 103-win season in 2016 would be no surprise. Teams today just ain’t what they used to be (Cubs 1906-10: 116, 107, 99, 104 & 104). If the pedestrian play keeps up, the dog-days (June 20 thru August) will be a real mettle-test for the Northsiders.

But with their talent, sound skipper, a tenacious spirit to defend their title and a little bit o’ luck, these Cubbie bears can make it back to the fall classic in 2017. And if they go through the Bruce Bochy Giants to get there, all the more fun.

Steven Keys
Can of Corn
Photo credit: ChicagoCubs, wc.cca, 1917, sports logo; F.Merkle, NYT, C.Conlon, wc, 1912; CoogansBluff, wc, MerkleBonerGame, 9.23.1908; J.McGraw-F.Chance, wc, LibraryofCongress, GG.Bain, 5.2.1911; J.Evers, wc, 1910, LoC, P.Thompson; J.Maddon-B.Bean.VPSR&I, wc, 10.26.16, A.PardavilaIII; Can-of-corn
Posted: 4.17.17 @ 2:19pm EST, edit 6.21; Copyright © 2017

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MLB17: Cubs Atop, Everything Old Is New Again, Even 19c. Championships, SABR-Snobs

9 Mar

Set to defend their first MLB title since 1908, the Chicago Cubs have stepped off cloud nine and back onto terra firma to begin their quest for a 2nd title-in-tandem (1907-08) by taking to spring training in their longtime Arizona locale.

Success has a way of opening passage ways in the mind heretofore unexplored and the Cubs brains must be booty-laden with new discoveries. Not likely, though, that franchise history is big on their brains, not since their World Series win over the Indians (4-3) and subsequent victory parade that wove its way through the Windy City last November.

What else is not on the Cubs’ brains is pre-season predictions.

Spring training will trigger in the mind of baseball writers a slew of topics to typically include new roster additions, departures and the all important pitching rotation with ancillary arms in relief included.

To those media who matriculate in the sabrmetric school, the last degrees of winter and early buds of spring will always lead to, ta-da, the ranking, i.e., ‘Who‘s #1?’ It’s click-bait and best served when the entrée has cooled down (all-time greats) and won’t burn the palate with rank predictions.

Almost any other March in any other year the question of who is baseball’s pre-season best would be a small curiosity.

But if you have to ask ‘who’ in this particular spring (See; Cubs), even in rhetoric, you may be better suited to the mock draft department, all leagues and associations, where the minutia of musings on the ephemeralia of college hopefuls never ends, if you can find a seat. Crowded in there.

It can’t be denied that the legion of Bruins fans numbering more than the ancient Roman and Yankees empires combined, coupled with story-driven media, will be, on regular occasion, reveling this season in that long, glorious Cubs chronicle of great teams and players, right up until the present version take to the post-season in hunt for that dynasty-affirming, fairly elusive, back-to-back World Series win (See; SF, LAA, LAD, KC, PIT, MIN, CHW, STL, BAL, etc.).

The Cubbies have hit, pitched, fielded and run those bases all the way back to elite status, making it entirely appropriate now to take those moth-balled memories, some sweet, some bitter, out of storage to put on display to keep reminding us from where we came and then where we hope to go.

William Hulbert

Feeling Western baseball was getting the high-hat treatment from Eastern snobs, Chicagoan William Hulbert (1832 – 82) founded and, after its initial campaign (1876), assumed presidency of both the White Stockings (Cubs) and the National League, holding the fledgling 8-team organization together through its toughest times in bravely tackling issues in game-fixing and scheduling indifference by banishing offenders, and corralling destabilizing players on the money chase in instituting movement restrictions, i.e., the first reserve clause.

1876 – 77 White Stockings: The first MLB championship

Al Spalding
Deacon White
Ross Barnes
Cal McVey

Adrian Constantine “Cap” Anson (1B – Mgr, 1876 – 96)

When recounting the history of the National League Chicago baseball club (1876), first known as the White Stockings, then Colts, Orphans and today’s Cubs, or for that matter the chronicle of major league baseball itself, it begins with Adrian “Cap” Anson, the profession’s early notable batsman, manager and personality. His numbers, no matter disingenuous efforts by contemporary sabrmetric tinkers & twiddlers to deplete, do remain, as his tenure (1871 – 1898), stellar benchmarks (1939 (HoF)) for baseball hopefuls.

Noteworthy in Anson’s career is having managed the Stocks to five (5) championships in seven seasons (1880-86), the major’s first dynasty. That’s championships, NOT pennants, for where there’s one pennant-winner in a season there necessarily must be an opposite organization with their own flag-waver, both of whom meet in an official, culminatory contest. And when a team does all that the schedule permits, even with no money-grab playoff or opposite League face-off (which is no perfect test, anyway (See; Cubs 1906 & Pats 2007-08)), and compiles the best record of the assemblage (8), THAT is a championship as worthy as any World Series won in 2017.

Those achievements would tarnish after his death (1922) as Cap’s role in setting the color barrier, in particular the ban of Fleet Walker, the first American black player to roster in the majors (Toledo 1883-84). Though his stance is of record, Anson’s impact is much debated. Of no debate is that no Caucasian of note, in sport or politics, called to break the ban until Mr. Rickey, testament that we are a product of our times. Do we then strike all names from MLB annals pre-1947? What thinkers had done since Gutenberg’s press was to balance the good against bad, expecting that Anson today would regret his greed. And given that the mass of sport media in 2017 would enshrine misdeeders Clemens & Bonds if given the chance, striking such a balance should come easy.

1880 – 86 Stocks: Five (5) championships, three in-a-row

Larry Corcoran
Fred Goldsmith
Michael “King” Kelly
Frank Gore
Abner Dalrymple
Tommy Burns –
Ned Williamson
John Clarkson

1890 – 1900 Colts – Orphans

Clark Griffith
Bill Hutchinson

Frank Selee (Mgr. 1902-05 (d.1909))

Former Braves championship manager (x5) shaped the Cubs’ roster that would, under Frank Chance’s leadership, gel into the greatest team in baseball history.

1906 – 1910 Cubs: Four pennants, back-to-back WS titles (1907-08), the Merkle Boner game (9.23.08), its resulting tie-breaker playoff at hostile Polo Grounds (10.8) taken by the Bruins (4-2) and “Baseball’s Sad Lexicon (Franklin P. Adams)” in Tinker to Evers to Chance (’10) 

Joe Tinker
Johnny Evers
Frank Chance
Jack Taylor
Mordecai “Three Finger” Brown
Orval Overall
Ed Ruelbach
Frank “Wildfire” Schulte (.994 outfield 1908)
Heinie Zimmerman (triple-crown winner)
Harry Steinfeldt (3B) & Jim Sheckard (46 sacrifices ’09)
Johnny Kling (catcher)
Carl Lundgren
Jack Pfiester and King Cole

1914 – 15: Chas. Weeghman Park (Wrigley) opens – Whales (Federal)

1918 NL Pennant (L v. Boston (4-2))

Though falling to the Speaker – Ruth – Red Sox, the Bruins scored more runs and fashioned a lower team ERA than the Beaneaters.

Hippo Vaughn
Claude Hendrix
Lefty Tyler
Charlie Hollocher
Fred Merkle
Grover Cleveland “Pete” Alexander (1918-25)

1921 – 22: Bill Wrigley acquires majority holding in the Cubs; First-bagger Ray Grimes sets the consecutive-game RBI streak at 17 in 1922.

1929 – 1945: Pennants (5), Hack-Attack and Ruth’s called shot (‘32 WS)

Joe McCarthy (Mgr. 1929 WS)
Charlie Root
Kiki Cuyler
Rogers Hornsby
Hack Wilson (191 RBI in 1930)
Lon Warneke
Charlie Grimm (player-Mgr. 1932, 35, 38 (H) & 45; ashes on Wrigley (83))
Billy Herman
Dizzy Dean
Bill Lee
Claude Passeau
Stan Hack
Bill Nicholson
Phil Cavarretta
Andy Pafko

Gabby Hartnett
Mgr. – player 1938 World Series: “Homer in the Gloamin’”

With the 1938 season closing and Pirates clinging to 1st place, the leaders headed to neck-breather Chicago for a key 3-game clash where catcher Charles “Gabby” Hartnett won G2 on a thrill by clouting a 9th inning tator at twilight (gloaming (Scottish)), inspiring his Cubs to sweep that series and St. Louis to grab the flag. Sadly for the Faithful, inspiration waned as the Yanks swept Chicago in four.

1950s Lean Years

Hank Sauer (MVP 1952)
Ernie Banks (MVP 1958-59)

I met the great Ernie Banks in his baseball gloaming, aka, twilight (Are you paying attention?), in the summer of 1971, not long after he’d retired from the game and was holding a signing for his new book titled, Mr. Cub, on the sidewalk outside a store in my suburban Chicago town of Glencoe. My parents provided well for me and my five siblings, always top Christmas and birthday gifts, but getting a toy or $15 (?) book on short notice off-holiday was out of the question. I’d eventually get Ernie’s book, still have it, but not until the next year. So, I being 9 yrs old, wanting his autograph, a bit bold but lacking in full discretion, asked Banks for his signature on my Mickey Mantle Rawlings® ball glove. The legend obliged, sans that signature smile. But I, not satisfied (‘Hey, hey, let’s (get) two!’), put an ever-so-small piece of paper no bigger than a JFK 50 cent piece, onto the table for another mark. Well, Ernie Banks was not pleased, not pleased at all. But I was pleased as punch and skedaddled home. I lost that scrap signature but still will with regularity gaze and smile upon the Mantle glove with Banks name in green-felt pen. Thanks, Mr. Cub.

Ken Hubbs Cut Short

Were he alive today he’d be 75 (12.23.41), but promising young 2nd bagger Ken Hubbs, whose slick field and capable bat won him a gold glove and 1962 ROY honors, along with his small aircraft passenger Dennis Doyle, both tragically died in plane crash near Provo, Utah on February 13, 1964 enroute to Doyle’s home and wife who’d recently given birth, in Colton, California.

Durocher’s Revival (1965 – 72)

Leo “The Lip,” who’d rostered with Murderers’ Row (‘28-9), Gashouse Gang (34), guided the Bums to a flag (41), Giants to glory (54) and then returned the sorry Cubs back to respectability, takes most the flak for their late season swoon in 1969 when their All-Star laden squad appeared headed to their first World Series in almost a quarter century. And poppycock to that. Durocher gets his share, of course, but cry-babies and clueless vets must bear most the burden for the old man. Those of us who remember (I was just a gerbil then, but I do recall Gramps telling me, ‘Hey Steve, Kessinger went 4-for-4 yesterday!) point no fingers but form a half-smile at what might’ve been and the joy that was.

Ernie Banks
Billy Williams
Fergie Jenkins
Ron Santo
Don Kessinger
Glenn Beckert
Randy Hundley
Don Young
Bill Hands
Ken Holtzman
Phil Regan
Ted Abernathy
Jim Hickman
Dick Selma

1970s Malaise

Bill “Mad Dog” Madlock: BA titles 1975-76
Rick “Bid Daddy” Reuschel: 1973-81, 83-84

1981: Tribune Company buys Cubs

Dallas Green Unstitches ‘Loser’ Tag

It seemed to come outta’ nowhere, the super and ultimately sad season of 1984. If ‘Big Brother’ was watching he must’ve had a good laugh on us Chicago Cubs fans, with unexpected help from corporate Commissioner and Evanston native, Peter Ueberroth who saw fit to give 2nd best NL record-holders but nite-game capable, the San Diego Padres, home field which proved decisive in the short series (3-2). The Cubs were sunshine supermen in G1 (13-0) and G2 (4-2), then should-be HOF’er Steve Garvey and electee (07), Tony Gwynn took control for San Diego, frustrating the Northsiders and their fans once more.

Jim Frey
Don Zimmer
Harry Caray & Steve Stone
Ryne Sandburg
Rick Sutcliffe
Leon Durham
Thad Bosley
Greg Maddux
Bob Dernier
Ron Cey
Henry Cotto
Gary Matthews
Lee Smith
Tim Stoddard
Steve Trout
Larry Bowa
Dennis Eckersley
Richie Hebner
Jody Davis, ♫ catcher without a peer (H.Caray) ♫

1989 NLCS (L 4-1 v. SF)

Don Zimmer
Ryne Sandberg
Andre Dawson
Shawon Dunston
Lloyd McClendon
Mark Grace
Greg Maddux
Jerome Walton
Dwight Smith
Mitch Webster
Rick Sutcliffe
Mike Bielecki
Scott Sanderson
Mitch Williams

1998 NLDS (L 3-0 v. ATL), Mgr. Jim Riggleman

2003 NLCS (L 4-3 v. FLA)

Call it reasonable fan interference, meaning, Steve Bartman wasn’t obliged to remain seated with 1) real chance of being hit by a foul ball, and 2) expectation no Cubs player could’ve snagged it. As such, no ejection. But because Alou did have a chance to grab the wall-straddling foul-ball, hence his protest, umpires were obliged to call fan interference yet cowered from their duty in not charging the out to eventual rally team, Florida. But Cubs were 88-74 in 2003, making fans unbridled expectations unreasonable and the outcome digestible.

Dusty Baker
Sammy Sosa
Moises Alou
Mark Grudzielanek
Corey Patterson
Alex Gonzalez
Kenny Lofton
Mark Prior
Kerry Wood
Carlos Zambrano
Matt Clement
Joe Borowski
Aramis Ramirez
Kyle Farnsworth
Mike Remlinger

The Piniella Years

2007 NLDS (L 3-0 v. AZ)
2008 NLDS (L 3-0 v. LA)

The Ricketts (09) – EpsteinMaddon Years

2015 NLCS (L 4-0 v. STL)
2016 WS (W 4-3 v. Indians)

Dallas had a certain touch in managing (PHI ‘80 WS) and generaling (CHC ‘84, 89), but Theo Epstein & Joe Maddon have a clobber between ‘em, like in that Weavers’ song ( If I had a hammer…), forging winners like a blacksmith did a wheel frame for proper strength and balance in the long journey. Yee-hah!

Joe Maddon
Anthony Rizzo
Dexter Fowler
Jon Lester
Kyle Hendricks
Travis Wood
Ben Zobrist
Hector Rondon
Addison Russell
Trevor Cahill
Javier Baez
Kris Bryant
Jason Hammel
Aroldis Chapman
John Lackey
Jake Arrieta

Play ball!

Steven Keys
Can of Corn
Photo credits: Cubs-logo,1914, Wjmummert, wc.cca; E.Banks, Bowman, 1955, wc; K.Bryant, wc, 7.9.14, M.Haas; W.Hulbert, NYPL, wc; Chicago-White-Stockings, 1885, wc; Cubs, 1906, wc, BPL; G.Hartnett, Goudey, 1933, wc; GlennBeckert, wc, 1967, TSN; H.Mason-D.Green, SABRO, wc, 8.1.09; can-of-corn
Posted: 3.9.17 @ 11:10am EST, edit 3.10, 6.20; Copyright © 2017