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1908 New York Giants Testimonial Program - The Year of Merkle's Boner!
Starting Bid - $1,000, Sold For - $1,200
Rare program issued for the "Monster Testimonial," held in honor of the New York Giants, "The Real Champions of the National League," held at the Academy of Music in New York City on October 18, 1908." This the first example of this fascinating program we have ever seen and, while of course others may exist, we have never even heard of another. As noted on the "Greeting" page, this testimonial was organized by "The Committee of Fifty," who "have arranged this benefit to give the loyal baseball fans of New York an opportunity to pay well deserved tribute to the members of the New York National Baseball Team." The greeting also notes that the proceeds from the night will be divided equally among the Giants players to compensate them for the money they would have been awarded had they been in the World Series. The reason for this testimonial, and the extreme disappointment felt by the Giants fans at the time, is directly related to "Merkle's Boner," perhaps the most well-known mistake in sports history.
On September 23, 1908, in a game at the Polo Grounds, the Giants lost a crucial game against the Chicago Cubs when nineteen-year-old first baseman Fred Merkle, as a runner at first base, failed to touch second on an apparent game-winning hit by Al Bridwell with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning. Since the umpires ruled that Merkle didn't touch second, he was ruled out on the force play and the winning run was negated, leaving the Giants with a tie instead of a victory. The play's significance was magnified when the two clubs finished in a tie for first place at the end of the season. Unfortunately for Merkle, the Giants lost the playoff game, and the pennant.
Obviously, the loss of the pennant was so bitter to Giants fans that they felt compelled to honor the club as de facto champions of the National League with this special testimonial. The sixteen-page program features a team composite photo of the New York Giants, as well as large-format photos of many important team members and New York politicians, including New York Mayor George McClellen, Giants owner John T. Brush, manager John McGraw, and team captain Mike Donlin. Also pictured are Cap Anson and many notable former Giants players, including Buck Ewing, John Ward, Amos Rusie, and "Dude" Easterbrook. A list of the theatrical performers for the evening, including Digby Bell, is printed in the centerfold section of the program. In addition to being feted by the fans, each of the Giants players also received a special gold fob to commemorate the club's 1908 "championship," an illustration of which appears on the title page. (We have only seen a few examples of those 1908 gold fobs, including Moose McCormick's, which sold for $35,250 as Lot 1148 in REA's May, 2008 auction). The program (7.5 x 10 inches) displays a light vertical fold and is in Excellent condition overall.
Reserve $1,000. Estimate (open). SOLD FOR $1,200
(Click the smaller thumbnails to the left and right (if any) to cycle through each photo in the gallery of images for this lot.)