The date was September 23, 1908. The New York Giants were playing the Chicago Cubs. Bottom of the ninth. Scored tied 1-1. Two outs. Left fielder Moose McCormick was on first.
Fred Merkle stepped up to bat. Merkle was 19 and making his first major league start. Merkle singled down the right-field line, placing him on first and McCormick on third. When shortstop Al Bridwell hit a line drive into right center-field, McCormick came home for the winning run. Fans poured onto the Polo Grounds as the Giants won.
Or so they thought. Here’s what happened. When Merkle saw the ball fly into the outfield he took off from first base. When he saw his teammate cross home plate, he stopped, reasoning that the game was over. He headed for the clubhouse to call it a day.
It was a decision he’d regret the rest of his life. The Cubs second baseman—Johnny Evers—studied The Official Baseball Rules in his spare time. Evers had read, “If a runner is forced out at any base for the third out in an inning, a run that scores on the play does not count, even if it scored before the force was made.” Evers had been in a situation exactly like this one three weeks earlier. The umpire Hank O’Day had ruled against him that day but learned afterwards what the rules clearly stated.
Guess who umpired on Merkle’s fateful day? O’Day. In the pandemonium that ensued Evers got the baseball and stepped on second for the force out. Merkle was ruled out, the run didn’t count, and the game ended due to darkness in a tie. The commissioner backed the decision and said that if the Giants and Cubs ended the season tied there would be a one-game playoff.
You guessed it. The season ended in a tie and the Cubs won the playoff. Merkle was pulled from the line-up and the New York Evening Mail wrote, “A one-legged man with a noodle is better than a bonehead.” The name “Bonehead Merkle” stuck and so did his mistake. It followed him the rest of his life.
Got any mistakes that have followed you through life? If so, find grace to stay in the game. We tend to be harder on ourselves than our friends are. Merkle’s teammates never blamed him for the loss. One mistake may be descriptive of a day in your life. But one mistake is not prescriptive for the rest of your life.
Merkle’s blunder did not end his career. He played 16 seasons and hit .273 for a lifetime batting average. He had a coach who believed in him.
And you have a Creator who believes in you. He’ll forgive you of your blunders. He wants you to keep playing in the game of life. You only have one to love so keep stepping up to the plate.
Question: How have you learned to move on past mistakes?