Our Favorite Lost Baseball Artifacts

Lots of luck finding the real game ball for a putout of Merkle at 2nd base in the famous 1908 game at the Polo Grounds.

Lots of luck finding the real game ball for a putout of Merkle at 2nd base in the famous 1908 game at the Polo Grounds.

 

Have you ever wondered about what happened to the artifacts involved in some of the most dramatic moments of baseball history? My wonder about these things started when I was about 10 or 11, whenever I first read about Fred Merkle’s Bonehead play in 1908. Here’s my quick play for a favorite lost baseball artifact list.

  1. The Merkle Out-at-2nd Ball (1908). The actual game that should have been used to retire Merkle at 2nd base in the famous 1908 game. The ball that reached Johnny Evers for the technical putout at 2nd base that negated the Giants’ win and, in the chaos that followed, causing the game to end in a tie, probably was not the official game ball. The game ball seems to have been tossed in the stands, where it most likely was taken home by a fan or a member of the stadium clean-up crew. It  probably got destroyed in a game of street ball sometime thereafter, but, who knows? Maybe it got lost in the deep and dark crannies of some attic in Harlem in a house that still stands.
  2. The Ball that Rogers Hornsby used to tag out Babe Ruth on an attempted steal of 2nd at Yankee Stadium that completed the Cardinals’ first World Series win in Game 7 (1926). If any of you know what happened to that ball, please let us know.
  3. The Bill Mazeroski Series Walk Off Home Run in Game 7 (1960). We read some time ago that the Mazeroski HR ball was found by a kid who lived in a house somewhere beyond the left field wall at Forbes Field. Artifact searchers supposedly identified the young fellow. It is our understanding that the connection they made with him was too late to save the ball, which had been destroyed and lost in street play by this time. If that’s not exactly right, please let us known the specifics.
  4. The Bobby Thomson HR Shot Heard Round the World. (1951). Let us know, if you know. We have no idea.
  5. The Gabby Hartnett “Homer in the Gloaming” at Wrigley Field. (1938). Again, let us know, if you know. We have no idea.
  6. The Ball That Was Used by Detroit’s Bob Cain to Miss the Tiny Strike Zone of the Browns’ Eddie Gaedel Four Times, Putting the Little Big Man on First Base and into the Record Books for All Time. (August 19, 1951). If only someone that day could have sensed how important that moment was to become in the annals of baseball history.

Those are my favorite known historical moment artifact baseballs. Maybe you have some others you wonder about too. We do seem to now live in a more preservation-minded baseball culture. and that offers hope that those specially-attuned curators, like the wonderful Mike Acosta of the Houston Astros, will probably be present in the moment that historical happenings merit the immediate collection and protection of items like balls, bats, gloves, and sometimes, even uniforms, in service to the wonder and vision of tomorrow’s fans. I feel confident, if Mike Acosta had been around in Game 7 of the 1926 World Series, that we would know today where that Hornsby tag-of-Ruth ball is today. On the other hand, it may not have been possible in 1908 for anyone to have succeeded against the post-Merkle Bonehead game chaos to have saved the real game ball that was lost to history.

Chaos is the great villain to the accomplishment of all good intentions. In baseball. And in everyday life.

____________________

eagle-0range
Bill McCurdy

Publisher, Editor, Writer

The Pecan Park Eagle

Houston, Texas

 

 

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