The Cubs and Giants were locked in a furious pennant battle. On September 23, 1908, the score was tied 1 - 1 with two out in the last of the ninth inning at the Polo Grounds. Runners were on first and third base when Al Bridwell singled to center. As the runner on third crossed the plate with the apparent winning run, Fred Merkle jogged towards second base then started for the clubhouse in right field - leaving the basepaths. The Cubs retrieved the ball (or a ball), tossed it to Johnny Evers who tagged second, and a force out was called ending the game in a tie.
"Merkle jogged halfway to second. I saw him stop, glance at the fans pouring out of the seats and start for the clubhouse beyond right field." - Johnny Evers
September 23, 1908
Hitting & Fielding Notes
: Tinker-Chance 2, Evers-Chance, Mathewson-Bridwell-Merkle.
Errors : Steinfeldt, Tinker 2.
Home Run : Tinker.
Left on Base : Chicago 3, New York 7.
Sacrifice Hits : Steinfeldt, Bresnahan.
Hit by Pitch : McCormick by Pfiester.
Umpires: O'Day, Emslie.
Length of game : 1:30.
On October 8, 1908, the game was replayed and the Cubs won the pennant 4 - 2 and advanced to the World Series where they defeated the Tigers.
Fred Merkle was nineteen years old during this game and his major league debut was almost one year prior to this date - September 21, 1907!
Despite the baserunning blunder, Fred Merkle went on to play an additional fourteen seasons. He primarily played first base and spent time with Brooklyn, the Chicago Cubs, and the New York Yankees!