July 21, Johnny Evers “turns” 134

Johnny-Evers-620x330

Rather than turning a double play, the middle portion of baseball’s best double play combination would turn 134 today.

Evers’ height pigeonholed him as a second baseman. In his 1903 rookie season, he found himself sharing an infield with Joe Tinker and Frank Chance. That trio turned into the famous Tinker to Evers to Chance, about which Franklin Pierce Adams wrote in 1910.

The poem grieves the Giants’ lack of success against the dynasty in Chicago. (Side note: Adams jotted his most famous piece of work on accident, it seems).

The Cubs rattled off National League pennants in 1906, ’07, ’08 and 1910 and particularly dominated the Giants, going 46-32 in that window. The 1906 squad nearly doubled their opponents’ runs on the season.

Keep in mind, this is the era of 152-game seasons. The stout defense allowed only 2.5 runs per contest. That led the Cubs to a 116-36 record, the best winning percentage of any team to date.

The infield triumvirate certainly contributed to the teams’ successes. For nine seasons, Tinker, Evers and Chance turned double plays and won a pair of World Series.

For as much as the three gelled on the diamond, they remained distant as teammates. As told in Pete Cava’s Tales from the Cubs Dugout, Evers and Tinker openly brawled in the middle of a September game.

Tinker and Evers never made up until 1946 when both players made the Hall of Fame, along with Chance’s posthumous induction.

At just 5’9” and 125 pounds in his Major League days, Evers represents an era of defensive appreciation. He batted over .300 just once in his career, but helped turn 689 double plays over 18 seasons.

His baseball IQ noticed a missed call by umpires in 1908 which then turned into a dominant part of the storyline of Merkle’s Boner. But to make a long story short, Evers noticed that Fred Merkle never touched second base on, what we consider, a walkoff base hit. Evers forced Merkle out by touching second.

Player-coach at the time, Chance argued in Evers’ defense and the play caused a new ballgame weeks later. The Cubs won, and took the World Series in the same season. More on that story at a later date.

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