Merkle was only 18 years old on September 23, 1908, when he made one of the most infamous mistakes ever on a baseball field. In a crucial game between his Giants and the Chicago Cubs, Merkle, on first, failed to touch second base after†teammate Al Bridwell delivered a game-winning single in the bottom of the ninth at the Polo Grounds in New York. As a result, the baseball was relayed to shortstop Johnny Evers, who stepped on second and forced Merkle to negate the winning run. The game was ruled a tie because the sun was rapidly going down. Later the game was replayed and the Giants lost the rematch, thus losing the pennant by a single game.
Merkle played 19 more years in professional baseball, 15 of them in the major leagues, through 1926, but his famous “boner” in that 1908 game followed him like a black cloud. He was one of the best all-around first basemen in the game in the 1910s and he had 21 hits in five World Series with New York, Brooklyn, and the Chicago Cubs. But his teams never won a Fall Classic.