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“The stage was set, the sun was sinking low down.
As they came to own to face another showdown.” (1)

We now know the Cubs opponent for the National League Division Series (NLDS). The San Francisco Giants come to town on a Friday night to face another showdown with the Chicago Cubs. A late night affair in the Friendly Confines, in perhaps one of the latest start times ever for the 102 year old Cathedral of Baseball, 8:15 PM.

Throughout the history of baseball, these storied franchises have met only twice with World Series implications.

The most recent was the 1989 National League Championship Series (NLCS). The Cubs, aka the Boys of Zimmer, had 93 regular season wins, the Giants 92. They faced off for five games in an NLCS that ran from October 4 through October 9, 1989.

It was a classic hitting contest between the two team’s first basemen. Will Clark of the Giants and Mark Grace of the Cubs. (Will and Grace.) Clark hit .650 for the five game series with 13 hits in 20 at bats. Grace had a batting average of .647 with 11 hits in 17 at bats.

I and a contingent of the faithful from 1984 attended game 2, the ONLY game the Cubs won. We are currently undefeated with a playoff record of THREE wins ZERO losses.

The Giants won the series, four games to one and squelched the dreams of Cubs fans hoping for the elusive World Series appearance. They advanced to the 1989 World Series to face the Oakland A’s in the Battle of the Bay, a crosstown series if you will.

If there is a God of Baseball, He surely expressed His dissatisfaction with the results. Seventeen minutes before the start of World Series game three, a 6.9 magnitude earthquake hit the bay area that delayed the Fall Classic. The Series resumed ten days later and the Giants were swept, 4-0.

If you are remotely a historian of baseball, you have likely heard of a classic play from the old days referred to as Merkle’s Boner.

If you are an avid historian, you know the details of the event.

If you are neither, I can only guess what you’re thinking.

In a nutshell (pun intended), here’s what happened.

The Cubs and the Giants were deeply rooted in a pennant race. In a September game between the two teams, with runners on first (Merkle was on first) and third base, Al Birdwell of the Giants hit what appeared a walkoff single to centerfield. Moose McCormick, the runner on third scored. Fans swarmed the field and poor Fred Merkle joined the celebration, without touching second base.

Official rule 4.09 states that “A run is not scored if the runner advances to home base during a play in which the third out is made … by any runner being forced out”

Merkle did not touch second base. Amidst the chaos, Johnny Evers, he of Tinker to Evans to Chance fame, called for the ball and tagged second base. Technically, Merkle was out, the run didn’t count and the game was a tie.

The season ended with both the Giants and the Cubs tied with 98-55 records. The tie game was replayed. The Cubs won and advanced to the World Series which they won.

Giants’ fans these days hoot and howl about how they win the MLB tile in even numbered years. Indeed they have hoisted the trophy in 2010, 2012, and 2014.

The Cubs last title was also in an even numbered year, 1908. It was the year of Merkle’s Boner. The karma goes to the Cubs this even numbered year, 2016.

Footnote:
1- The quote is from the Eagles album Desperado. The song Dueling Daltons Reprise. It is the only Eagles album cover with members of the band pictured.

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