1908 New York Giants vs Chicago Cubs Large-Format Panoramic Postcard - "Merkle" Makeup Game to Decide the Pennant!

Sold For: $1,763

Auction Year: 2010 spring

Lot: 1213

Item Year: 1908

Category: The Merkle Ball

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Exceedingly rare foldout postcard featuring a panoramic view of the legendary "Merkle" makeup game that decided the pennant of 1908. As the postcard notes in the printed caption provided, this game was well known as "The Greatest Ball Game Ever Played." The stature of this game was not an exaggeration! In the wake of the famous "Merkle's Boner" game that resulted in a tie, this was the game that National League president Harry Pulliam dictated would be played to decide the pennant. The fate of the world would be decided by this game for Giants and Cubs fans alike. The controversy over the Merkle's Boner game heightened emotions to a unprecedented fever pitch. This was more than a baseball game. This was war!

The large-format postcard provides a spectacular panoramic view of the Polo Grounds, taken from the perspective of an outlying area beyond the center field bleachers, during the game in progress between the New York Giants and Chicago Cubs on October 8, 1908. It was on that day that the Giants and Cubs met in the makeup game occasioned by the famous "Merkle's Boner" game that took place on September 23rd. In that historic earlier game, Giants backup first baseman Fred Merkle, who was on first base with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning of a tie game, failed to touch second base on what appeared to be Al Bridwell's game-winning hit. Merkle's oversight resulted in his being called out on a force play, thereby negating the winning run and leaving the umpires no choice but to declare the game a tie (both darkness and a large contingent of fans on the playing field made a resumption of the game impossible). As fate would have it, the two clubs then ended the regular season tied for first, with the makeup game, pictured here, tantamount to a one-game playoff to decide the pennant. The importance of the game at the time is duly noted by the printed caption on the front that reads "The Greatest Ball Game Ever Played - Polo Grounds, New York Oct. 8 '08 Witnessed - by 50,000 People, Between Chicago & New York." The copyright date and photographer's name appear in the lower right corner, "Copyright 1908 D. Silberer Bros. N.Y." Unfortunately, nearly all of those 50,000 spectators were sent home disappointed, as the Cubs defeated the Giants by a score of 4-2, thereby winning (or "stealing," if you were a Giants fan) the pennant.

This is an extremely rare postcard. In fact, it is the only example we have ever seen: we cannot even recall having seen this remarkable photograph in any other form. The fact that we have never seen this image before is especially curious, given its historical significance and display value. The photo displays remarkable clarity and, despite its wide scope, which pictures the entire stadium and outlying areas, all of the players on the field are clearly visible. If an original copy of this panoramic ever surfaced, it would rightly be regarded as one of the most important and valuable baseball photos extant. In lieu of such a discovery, those accolades could rightly be bestowed upon this miniature version within the field of baseball postcards.

The "Merkle's Boner" game was the most controversial game in baseball history and the animosity it fostered in the hearts and minds of New Yorkers against the Cubs was overwhelming. Most of the Cubs players, especially Johnny Evers, received numerous death threats following the game. When the Cubs returned for the makeup game emotions were running so high among Giants fans that the team required police protection both to and from the stadium, literally traveling in a police paddy wagon for their own safety. The fact that they defeated the Giants in the makeup of a game everyone felt the Giants had originally won in the first place, only hardened fans' hatred of the Cubs. This fact may actually explain the great rarity of this postcard. The card was produced by a New York manufacturer. It was therefore presumably offered for sale in New York. To purchase this card and then send it on to friends would have been the equivalent of intentionally sending a hurtful reminder of the most tragic defeat in Giants team history. It would be like trying to sell picture postcards of Bobby Thomson's "shot heard round the world" in Brooklyn during the fall of 1951. This is speculation, of course, but the extreme rarity of this postcard is certainly curious, especially given its great visual appeal and significance. The postcard (11 x 3.5 inches) displays a number of flaws, the most conspicuous of which are relegated to the left and, to a slightly lesser degree, right border areas. A number of heavy creases and edge tears affect the left border, while a small stain, edge tears, and light creases are seen along the right border. Despite the obvious condition problems, the central image area remains unaffected and the postcard displays extremely well. The postcard has never been mailed and the preprinted postcard back is free of any writing. Disclosure per section 13 of REA's terms and conditions: This lot has been consigned from the personal collection of an executive or employee of Robert Edward Auctions (or a relative of an executive or employee). Reserve $500. Estimate $1,000+. SOLD FOR $1,763

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