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Johnny Evers
#?? | Second baseman | Chicago Cubs

John Joseph Evers: "Crab" - "Trojan"

     Evers was the second baseman in the double-play trio of "Tinker to Evers to Chance," immortalized by Franklin Adams in the poem "Baseball's Sad Lexicon."


     It was also his knowledge of baseball rules that produced the infamous Merkle Boner, the September 23, 1908 baserunning blunder by the Giants Fred Merkle that gave the pennant to the Cubs.  (With the score tited 1-1, a runner on third and himself on first, Merkle left the basepath after an apparent game-winning single before touching second; he was forced out by Evers.  The fans had already swarmed the field by the time umpire Hank O'Day made the ruling, so the game was called a tie.  Both teams finished the season 98-55, and so the Merkle game had to be made up.  It was replayed on October 8 - the Cubs won 4-2, to secure a playoff spot, and went on to win the World Series.)


     He joined the established infielders Joe Tinker and Frank Chance and was a key element of the Chicago Cub infield on the terrific 1906 squad, one of the greatest teams ever.  Under Chance's often brilliant guidance, what the trio did was to bring fielding into focus.  They devised new defensive strategies to defeat the bunt, the hit-and-run, and the stolen base (the key run-producing techniques of the dead-ball era) and implemented the first known version of the rotation play.


     The pugnacious, slightly built but temperamental Evers never got along well with shortstop Joe Tinker, the result of some imagined slight - they often traded blows in the club house.  One day in 1905, he argued with Tinker over a cab fare, which led to a fistfight on the field.  The contentious Evers would not speak to Tinker for decades, and gave him an unrepeatable nickname.  Unbeknownst to one another, both were invited to help broadcast the 1938 Cubs World Series, 33 years after their falling-out.  When they saw each other, after a moment's strained silence, they hugged and cried for some time.

     1910, just two years after Adams fashioned his poem, was the final full season that the trio played together.  Evers was hurt for most of 1911, and player-manager Chance had retired as a player to devote his full energies to managing.


     Evers enjoyed his best season in 1912, when he hit a career high .341, and replaced Chance as manager in 1913.  In February 1914, he was traded to Boston, where he formed another slick double-play combination with shortstop Rabbit Maranville.  In the Miracle Braves sweep of the Athletics in the 1914 Series, Evers batted .438 and drove in the winning runs in the final 3-1 victory; he was the key member of the Miracle braves team, and won the MVP Award, edging out Maranville and Braves pitcher Bill James.


     Evers was nicknamed "The Crab" because of the way he sidled up to grounders.  He retired with just a .270 lifetime batting average, but his career on-base average of .356 is excellent for a second baseman.



These are the saddest of possible words:
"Tinker to Evers to Chance."
Trio of bear cubs, and fleeter than birds,
Tinker and Evers and Chance.
Ruthlessly pricking our gonfalon bubble,
Making a Giant hit into a double-
Words that are heavy with nothing but trouble:
"Tinker to Evers to Chance."


Franklin P. Adams, New York writer (and Giants fan) on July 10, 1908


The term "gonfalon" refers to a flag or pennant, and the phrase "gonfalon bubble" describes the repeated success 

of the Chicago Cubs and their celebrated infield against their National League rivals, his beloved New York Giants.




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