You think you’ve seen some bonehead plays?
Here’s my top bonehead plays of all time (and Bill Buckner’s ground ball is not one of them. Hey, the guy was almost crippled but still tying to play.)
1). Merkle’s mistake is considered to be the all-time biggest and costliest mistake in baseball history so I will give it its due. But others have been just as bad or worse.
Fred Merkle was just 19 when he was forced to play first base for the New York Giants in a crucial game against the Chicago Cubs in September, 1908. The teams were virtually tied for first place. The game was tied 1-1 with two outs in the bottom of the ninth when Merkle singled with a runner on first.
The next batter also singled, driving in what appeared to be the winning run. The fans stormed the field and Merkle, caught up in the moment, ran toward the dugout to join the celebration. Johnny Evers, the Cubs second baseman, called for the ball and amid the chaos, stepped on second base for a force-out which ended the inning.
Cub fans love Merkle because the Cubs went on to win the game, the pennant and their last World Series.
2). My favorite bonehead play was committed by the baseball immortal Smead Jolley (whose name alone elevates him to mythical status). Jolley was a remarkable hitter, routinely batting in the high-.300s in the 1930s but was such a horrendous fielder that tams would try to no avail to hide him in left or right field. He committed 34 errors as an outfielder in one season and was traded many times before landing with a team in Nashville in the Southern League. Jolley played right field, which sloped upward, similar to Tal’s hill in Houston.
Jolley charged a clean single to right but the ball bounced between his legs and caromed up the hill where it stuck the wooden fence and bounced back between his legs a second time. He then ran down the hill, picked up the ball and overthrew the cut-off man and the catcher, allowing the batter to score. (In 1988, Tommy John repeated this 3-error feat by bobbling a grounder, throwing wildly to first and then mishandling the relay throw to the plate.)
3). Marv Throneberry was quite possibly the worst major league baseball player in history. He played first base (sort of) for the 1962 Mets, the worst baseball team in history with a record of 40-120. The Mets infield that year made nearly 100 errors, 17 of them by Throneberry in just 97 games. At a birthday party in the clubhouse following a ballgame, manager Casey Stengal told Throneberry, “We would give you a piece of cake, but we’re afraid you’d drop it.”
One example of his ineptitude: In a game against the Chicago Cubs, Throneberry hit what appeared to be a game-winning triple with the bases loaded and two outs in the ninth inning. But the Cubs appealed that Throneberry missed first base and the umpire agreed, calling him out and giving the win to the Cubs. Stengal stormed out of the dugout to protest but the umpires told him, “I hate to tell you this Casey, but he missed second too.”