The longtime major leaguer best remembered for a single mistake passed away 57 years ago today.
On this day in 1956 Fred Merkle passed away in Daytona Beach, Florida. He was 67 years old. A native of Watertown, Merkle is one of the best Wisconsin-born players in major league history.
Merkle played parts of 16 major league seasons at first base as a member of four teams between 1907-26, including five different pennant-winners, but is best and unfortunately remembered for a single play in 1908, his rookie season.
On September 23 of that season Merkle was thrust into the lineup at first base when regular Giants first baseman Fred Tenney came down with "lumbago." Merkle was on first base when a walkoff hit gave the Giants the win over the Cubs, but failed to touch second base. After the run was believed to have scored and the Giants were celebrating the victory, Merkle was forced out at second base and the run was disallowed.
Because of "Merkle's Boner" and the chaos that ensued the game was ruled a tie and had to be replayed. The Cubs eventually won the replay and the 1908 World Series.
Despite the gaffe, Merkle appeared in 1638 career games and hit .273/.331/.383 with 272 stolen bases. He's buried in Daytona Memorial Park in Daytona Beach.