by Tom Vogel

Dr. Vogel was, for many years, the Commissioner of the Little League Baseball teams which are a part of the ministry of First Baptist Church of Hammond.

Fred Merkle was an infielder for the New York Giants in 1908. In baseball history, he will be forever known as “Bonehead Merkle” because of a blunder that he made when he was only 19 years old.

The New York Giants had battled with the Brooklyn Dodgers all year for the National League pennant in 1908. The last game of the season found the two teams dead-locked in a tie with one game left. This game would determine the National League Championship. To make a long story short, the game was tied in the last of the ninth with the Giants up to bat. There were two outs with the winning run on third base and Fred Merkle on first base. The next hitter smashed out a base hit, and the winning run raced home to win the game and the pennant. The fans poured out onto the field to celebrate the championship!

But, Wait . . .

The second baseman saw something that apparently no one else saw. Fred Merkle did not touch second base. Fred saw the winning run cross the plate, he saw the fans run out onto the field, and he stopped short of second base to join in on the celebration. That meant if the second baseman could get the ball and touch second base, Merkle would be forced out and that would be the third out. The apparent winning run would not count, and the Giants would not win the pennant.

A fan had the ball, and he was chased down. The ball was retrieved and thrown to the second baseman. The bag was touched, Fred Merkle was called out, the run did not count, and Brooklyn went on to win the pennant.

So Fred Merkle went down in history as “Bonehead Merkle.” All he had to do was run 90 feet and touch second base, but he became so excited that he did not finish his journey. He was diverted from his goal, and his blunder cost the Giants the 1908 pennant.

How many times in life do we get sidetracked and never reach our goal? Baseball is only a game, but life’s goals are important. Don’t let yourself become sidetracked from the important things in life. Don’t end up being a “Bonehead Merkle” and quitting halfway to second base!