April 18, 2010
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      Recently, my beloved cousin and good friend (and loyal LaVerne OnLine devotee) John Flink of Arlington, Virginia wrote me asking for my expert opinion regarding whether or not the Chicago Cubs would win the World Series this year.   Naturally I thought this was a decidedly unusual question.   But rather than take the quick easy route and simply reply “No.”, I decided to give him a more detailed explanation of why that can never, ever happen.   Essentially I told him the reason the Cubs won’t win this year or any year is because the Cubs are cursed by Merkle’s boner.   He wrote back saying he didn’t know what that was.   Below is my response, printed in its entirety:

Brad Eastland

Brad Eastland






Dear John,


      Hey ‘cuz.


      Merkle’s Boner? I’m surprised at you, my friend. Merkle’s Boner is known to all true baseball historians. It is—quite simply—the most storied and infamous gaffe in baseball history. It is absolutely the biggest boner you ever (or in your case never) heard of….


      No no no, not that kind of a boner—get’cher mind out of the gutter, as my mom and your late Aunt Polly used to say…. :>)


      I take you back to 1908. It is a hot pennant race, really the 1st big-time baseball pennant race ever. The Pirates, Giants, and Cubs are all battling for the senior circuit flag. This was back when the league pennant actually meant more than the World Series. They literally played for blood back then. Anyway, the Pirates finally gave way, leaving Chicago and New York to duke it out.


      I believe September 23rd 1908 is the date in question. Giants vs. Cubs, biggest game of the year, battling right down to the wire at New York’s old Polo Grounds. It is tied (1-to-1, I think), bottom of the 9th, Giants at bat. With two outs and runners on 1st and 3rd, Al Bridwell bangs a single up the middle to score ‘Moose’ McCormick with the winning run. Pandemonium erupts. The Giants have just won the key game of the year, one of the fiercest, greatest games in history. Except that Cubs 2nd baseman Johnny Evers (he of Tinker to Evers to Chance poetic fame) is stomping on 2nd base yelling to the umpire that the runner on first is out, forced at second.





      Let’s take a moment (sort of an intermission) to review that most fabled poem, perhaps, in sports history:


   These are the saddest of possible words:

       “Tinker to Evers to Chance.”

   Trio of bear cubs, and fleeter than birds,

       Tinker and Evers and Chance.

   Ruthlessly pricking our gonfalon bubble,

   Making a Giant hit into a double –

   Words that are heavy with nothing but trouble:

      “Tinker to Evers to Chance.”

      Anyway, 1908 was in the early days of baseball, and something we take for granted nowadays like the basic force play hadn’t become second-nature yet. Players often failed to run plays out, with no fear of being called out on a force. But Evers was smart. He had planted this foul seed in umpire Hank O’Day’s head a few weeks ago in another game, auguring for just such a moment: he was now claiming that the runner on 1st never got to the bag—which he hadn’t; he had just run straight to the clubhouse when he saw the winning run score—never mind that in the confusion Evers no doubt did not even possess the original ball ! But he had A ball, and was now stomping on 2nd base, yelling at the top of his lungs that the runner was out and that the inning was over.


      O’Day didn’t know what to do. So he ruled the game suspended. National League President Harry Pulliam had to decide both teams’ fates, which he did a few days later, ruling that the runner on first was indeed out, that the game was therefore a tie, not a Giants victory, and would have to be replayed if there was no clear-cut pennant winner.


      There wasn’t. The Cubs and Giants finished the season tied.


      So they replayed the disputed game a couple days after the season ended, the Cubs won instead of the Giants, and the Cubs then won the World Series….now it is 102 years later, and it is the last and in fact only World Series the Cubs have ever won.


      Baseball is a game of curses. Many baseball aficionados (and I am one of them) believe that the Cubs have been penalized by the baseball gods for Evers’ chicanery regarding the disputed game of late September, 1908, and Evers’ ruining of the reputation of the poor sap who didn’t touch second.


      Oh, by the way….the name of the poor sap who failed to run the play out and touch second base? Fred Merkle. At 19 he was the youngest player in baseball at the time. Because of his youth coupled with his error in judgment, the play was deemed “Merkle’s Boner”, and he lived the rest of his life in infamy and shame, blamed somewhat unfairly for the loss of the pennant by, well, millions. Poor Fred.   He was the Bill Buckner of his time…. 



    ‘hope this helps you through yet another year of ultimate diamond failure, ‘cuz John, you poor miserable, eternally cursed Cubs fan….



say hi to Wendy,

‘cuz Brad



P.S.—By the way, John, as a result of the incredible pressure, enormous angst, and constant vitriol from Giants fans he endured as the result of his decision, Pulliam committed suicide in a New York hotel room less than a year later. Gunshot. He was 44 years old….



meet….The Sports Philosopher!

Brad Eastland is an author, historian, film buff, baseball savant, and terminal sports nut— in no particular order.   Brad’s other recent columns for LaVerneOnline can be found in Sports under ‘The Sports Philosopher’ and also in Viewpoint under ‘Brad Eastland’s View’.    Brad has also written 4 novels and over 20 short-stories.    Samples of his best fiction work can be discovered within the links below :



One Response to “FOR CUBS FANS, APRIL MEANS WAIT TILL NEXT YEAR by The Sports Philosopher”


  1. From the SPORTS PHILOSOPHER Mental Archive: Taking a Look Back at a New Yorkish Kind of Kentucky Derby….

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