1908: Game of Games

Joe Tinker

With the regular season over, the National League pennant was still undecided. The Chicago Cubs and New York Giants had identical records, but there was still one game to make up, the so-called ‘Merkle Game.” The baseball world had never seen anything like it. There were fans clamoring for tickets even after the game began. There were stories in the newspapers about possible aspect of the game. The bettors were out in force. There was an eclipse of the sun, brimstone fell from heaven. Well, maybe not an eclipse or brimstone, but to read the accounts of the day, it was close.

The game started well for New York. In the bottom of the first Cubs starter Jack Pfiester plunked Fred Tenney (playing first for New York, the position Fred Merkle played in the famous 23 September game), then walked Buck Herzog. A pick-off removed Herzog, but “Turkey” Mike Donlin doubled to score Tenney and a walk to Cy Seymour sent Pfiester to the showers. In came Cubs ace Mordecai “Three-Finger” Brown. He managed to shut down the Giants without either Donlin or Seymour scoring.

Giants ace Christy Mathewson started for New York and got through the first two innings without damage. In the top of the third, Chicago shortstop Joe Tinker, who’d hit Mathewson reasonably well during the season (and had homered in the “Merkle Game.”) tripled to lead off the inning. A Johnny Kling single brought him home to tie the game. With two outs, Johnny Evers walked. Then a double by Frank “Wildfire” Schulte scored Kling and a two-run double by manager Frank Chance cleared the bases.

With the score now 4-1, Brown cruised through the sixth. In the bottom of the seventh, New York staged a mini-rally. With Art Devlin on base, Tenney lofted a long sacrifice to score the second Giants run. It was all for the Giants, as Brown held them scoreless in both the eighth and ninth innings to secure the victory and the pennant for the Cubs.

There were recriminations in New York and celebration in Chicago. For the Cubs it sent them to their third consecutive World Series. They’d won in 1907 and lost in 1906. For the Giants it was the end of a famous season. They would wait two more years before returning to the top of the National League in 1911.



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3 Responses to “1908: Game of Games”

  1. Jackie, The Baseball Bloggess Says:

    Hmmm … would 2018 Christy Mathewson been pulled in the 3rd? Yep, I’m guessing so. It’s so different today … and I’m so enjoying your 1908 recaps!

  2. glenrussellslater Says:

    Yep. Me too. Enjoying it immensely. And I got news for you. Mathewson might have been pulled even in the 1950s. Jackie, the more things change, the more they stay the same. Look at Bob Buhl, pulled by Milwaukee Fred Haney after pitching 2/3rds of the top of the first inning in the third game of the 1957 world series after a solo home run by Tony Kubek that barely cleared the fence, a walk to Mantle, a walk to Berra, a sacrifice fly by McDougald which scored Mantle, a ground ball single by Suitcase Simpson which scored Berra. With two outs, Haney took out Buhl and put in Juan Pizzero. At the time, the score was 3-0. Buhl might have just as well left Buhl in; sometimes the best changes are the ones that you don’t make. The Yankees went on to beat the Braves 12-3.

  3. glenrussellslater Says:

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