The $30,000 “Meh” (In Defense of Fred Snodgrass)

Baseball more than any other sport has a goat (the singular person who gets the blame for a loss as opposed to the GOAT which stands for Greatest Of All Time.) I think it’s because baseball is a unique sport that is both individual and team sport at the same time. One player controls his at-bats, usually, only one player is at a certain position when a ball is hit that way and the pitcher is the one who controls the ball most often….This is my defense of Fred Snodgrass.

Fred Snodgrass
Credit: Library of Congress

I can think of individual “goats” in other sports like JR Smith forgetting the score in the 2018 Finals or Brandon Bostick dropping an onside kick in the 2015 NFC championship game but baseball seems to have more of these moments, offhand I can think of Bill Buckner in the 86 World Series, Leon Durham for the Cubs in the 1984 NLCS, Alex Gonzalez dropping the double-play ball in the 2003 NLCS, Fred Merkle committing a boner and not making it to second to cost his team an important win in the 1908 season that ended up costing the Giants the pennant. Johnny Pesky holding the ball too long on a cut-off in the 1946 World Series….There’s definitely more but I feel those are some of the most famous ones in baseball history.

One that has been kind of lost in history is in 1912 when Fred Snodgrass dropped a fly ball in an inning that eventually led to the New York Giants losing to the Boston Red Sox in Game 8 of the World Series. The drop was called the 30,000 drop-in reference to the number of win shares the team lost due to losing the series. As a side note I am going game by game of every World Series ever played and at this point I’m working on the 1917 series and up to this point the 1912 World Series is the best one so far and I have little doubt it’s going to go down as one of the best World Series ever. Nearly every game was a nailbiter, there was a tie and there was an extra-inning walk-off to win the series. I may go into this series even more at some point because it was really good and it’s too bad there’s no way to ever actually watch this one.

Fred Snodgrass, New York Giants
Credit: Library of Congress

The fact that this one is kind of lost in history is kind of confusing to me though I will say that the previous ones mentioned were pretty much tied to long title droughts for either the Red Sox or Cubs who were both popular teams famous for not winning the big one so they added to the lore. The Merkle play I think is famous, basically because of the word “Boner” and maybe because it’s tied to the Cubs’ last World Series win before 2016.

The play happened in the bottom of the 10th inning of Game 8 after the Giants had just taken the lead on a clutch hit by none other than Fred Merkle (it’s kind of disappointing that the Giants lost because Merkle getting the series-winning hit would have made for a great redemption story. Though in this game he lollygagged on a foul pop-up that ended up dropping keeping the at-bat alive for Tris Speaker who ended up tying this game in the bottom of the 10th.)

To lead off the inning Clyde Engle was at the plate and he hit a fly to center. Snodgrass drops the fly, Engle gets to second and is ultimately driven in to tie the game. The focus is on Snodgrass dropping the fly but I think this is incredibly unfair, the fact is the gloves used in 1912 were not anywhere near the gloves we used today. Errors were pretty common (every game in this series had an error committed and that’s pretty common for the time period in the games that I’ve researched) it just so happens that this one was poorly timed.

Fred Snodgrass, New York Giants
Credit: Library of Congress

But even in this game, Boston committed five errors while the Giants committed just two. There were plenty of chances to not have such an error mean so much. Plus the error just put a runner on base. Christy Mathewson was pitching for the Giants and he’s one of the best ever. He could have gotten out of the jam. Yes, it was a runner on second with no outs but time and time again in the dead-ball era pitchers escape this situation.

Also, the batter following his drop Snodgrass actually makes a great catch in center to keep the game from being tied so if you assume he would have caught the drop but let that ball get down, there easily could have been a triple or, gosh, in that era an inside the park home run so one could say that the situation could have been the same.

Then when you add in Merkle not catching the pop fly in foul territory I have a hard time placing the blame completely on Snodgrass. Yes, he committed a costly error but really it was poorly timed and this was a series that went 8 games with plenty of close ones (in fact the Giants outscored the Red Sox by six runs) there were plenty of moments that could have won this series for the Giants so I guess it’s good that Snodgrass’s error has kind of drifted away throughout history because quite frankly, I don’t think he deserves to be known for this play.

Featured Image Credit: Library of Congress.

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