Fred Snodgrass drops ball and loses World Series

On October 16, 1912, New York Giants outfielder Fred Snodgrass drops an easy pop-up in the 10th inning of the tiebreaking eighth game of the World Series against the Red Sox.His error led to a two-run Boston rally and cost the Giants the championship.

Snodgrass, who had been a catcher for the Hoegee Flags, joined the New York Giants in 1908. He spent most of the next two years on the bench, but in 1910, when the team’s manager suggested that he try playing a different position, the third-string catcher became a full-time outfielder. He was a good batter and a reliable fielder on an impressive team—Rube Marquard, Christy Mathewson and Jeff Tesreau owned the pitcher’s mound, and Fred Merkle, Chief Meyers and Larry Doyle all hit over .300. By the end of the 1912 season, the Giants were way ahead of every team in their league, and the Boston Red Sox, the AL champs, were almost as good. The World Series promised to be an exciting one.

In the first game at the Polo Grounds on October 8, the Red Sox beat the Giants 4-2. The second, at Fenway Park, was tied 6-6 when umpire Silk O’Laughlin called it in the eleventh because it had grown too dark to see the ball. The Giants won the third; the Sox won the fourth and the fifth; the Giants won the sixth and the seventh. The tied Series would go to an eighth game.

And so it happened that Fred Snodgrass was standing in center field on October 16. After nine innings of the eighth game, the score was tied 1-1. At the top of the 10th, the Giants pulled ahead by 1. At the bottom of the 10th, Red Sox pinch hitter Clyde Engle came to the plate and whacked a lazy fly ball to right-center field. It drifted easily toward Snodgrass’ glove. He caught the ball; then he dropped the ball. Engle scrambled to second. In the very next play, Snodgrass made a spectacular catch, but it didn’t matter—the damage was done. Mathewson walked the following batter, and then a single tied the game and put the winning run on third. Then Tris Speaker hit a single—after Merkle and Meyers both failed to catch an easy foul ball that Speaker wafted right at them, it should be noted—and the game was over. The Red Sox had won. To reporter after reporter, over and over, Snodgrass explained: “I just dropped the darn thing.”

The error—dubbed “the $30,000 muff” because that’s how much money the Giants stood to win from a Series championship—stuck with Snodgrass for his whole life. After he retired from baseball, the hapless outfielder moved to California and became a banker. He bought a ranch. The citizens of Oxnard elected him mayor. But still, when he died in 1974—62 years after that fateful World Series game—the New York Times headline blared: “Fred Snodgrass, 86, Dead; Ball Player Muffed 1912 Fly.”

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