Red Sox Recall: 2013 Baseball Hall of Fame induction
The Guru Contributing Writer
Red Sox Recall is a weekly feature focusing on the vast array of colorful characters that have played for and against the Red Sox, poignant moments in Sox lore and other, perhaps forgotten, memories that make up the rich history of the Olde Town Team.
Today the National Baseball Hall of Fame will welcome in the Class of 2013. For only the second time in history, the Baseball Writers' Association of America failed to elect anyone to Cooperstown.
Plenty of notable names didn’t make the cut, including Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds and Sammy Sosa. A clear message has been sent to the players of the so-called “Steroid Era”- you are not welcome here.
However, the Hall of Fame Pre-Integration Era Committee dug deep into baseball’s past to elect three men who played important roles in the earliest days of baseball.
One built a baseball powerhouse, one had the first ever hit in a professional game and one was a player, a manager and was the umpire in one of baseball's most infamous games. And by the way, each of these Hall of Famers have Red Sox connections (in a roundabout way).
Here’s your Baseball Hall of Fame Class of 2013. Welcome to Cooperstown.
Jacob Ruppert Jr: Ruppert was an American brewer, National Guard colonel and U.S. Congressman. He also owned the New York Yankees from 1915 until his death in 1939.
Yes, this is the man that bought Babe Ruth, created a baseball dynasty and started an 86-year curse.
During Ruppert’s ownership, the New York Yankees won 10 American League pennants and six World Series titles. The Red Sox would not win another until 2004. 65 years after The Colonel's death.
James “Deacon” White: The first game ever played in professional baseball was played between the Cleveland Forest Cities and the Ft. Wayne Kekiongas on May 4, 1871 in Indiana. The Kekiongas won 2-0.
In that game the first player to ever get a base hit was Cleveland’s James “Deacon” White. He hit a stand-up double.
More than one baseball historian has called White the greatest of the bare-handed catchers. Yes, you read that correctly. It was not until the late 1880’s, after Deacon White had caught his final major-league game, that the catcher’s mitt was used in professional baseball.
From 1873-1875 the “Deacon” played for the Boston Red Stockings. In 1875 he hit .367 and was awarded baseballs first-ever Most Valuable Player.
The Red Stockings would later become the Boston Braves, move to Milwaukee and then onto Atlanta. The team across town? The Americans? They would become the Boston Red Sox.
Hank O’Day: O'Day is the only man in baseball history to play, manage and umpire in the National League. He began his baseball career as a right-handed pitcher in 1884, winning 22 games in 1890.
While O'Day's career included two stints as a manager, first with the 1912 Cincinnati Reds and later with the 1914 Chicago Cubs, he is best remembered as an umpire.
O’Day was an umpire for 35 years and worked 10 World Series. O’Day was the umpire in baseball’s first World Series in 1903. The winner of that series? The Boston Americans.
However, O’Day’s most memorable moment occurred on September 23, 1908 in the most controversial field decision in the history of Major League Baseball. A play known simply as “Merkle’s Boner”.
Imagine this happening today: O’Day was behind the plate during an important game between the Chicago Cubs and the New York Giants. With the score tied in the ninth, the Giants Al Bridwell singled with Moose McCormick on third and Fred Merkle on first.
Seeing McCormick score the apparent winning run, Merkle immediately ran for the Giants' clubhouse. Game over. Giants win, right?
Not so fast. The Cubs second baseman Johnny Evers then yelled for the ball. But before he could get the ball, a Giants player intercepted it and threw it far into the crowd. According to legend, Evers then “found” another ball, tagged second and appealed to O'Day to call Merkel out. O’Day did just that and negated an apparent Giants victory.
Because fans had stormed onto the field, O'Day ruled the game a tie and got out of there.
Later, NL President Harry C. Pulliam upheld O'Day's decision, the game was ruled a tie, and a makeup game was scheduled. The Cubs would defeat the Giants in that makeup game and win the pennant. By a single game.
The Cubs then went on to win the 1908 World Series. Giants fans swore the Cubs stole the pennant and would never win one again. 105 years and counting and the Cubs have yet to win another.