The $30,000 Muff

Graeme
By
Posted: April 2, 2017


The harsh reality in sports is that sometimes no matter how good one is, rare failures can come to define one’s career. That is the unfortunate reality that former New York Giants outfielder Fred Snodgrass had to live with after dropping an easy ball that cost the Giants the 1912 World Series.

Having played a huge role in the Giant’s three consecutive World Series appearances between 1911 and 1913, his error he made in 1912 is perhaps what is best remembered for.

The costly error would also see the Giants miss out on $30000 in prize money, an eventuality that used in the christening of that play.

The Lead-up to the $30,000 Muff

During his nine-year spell in major league baseball, Fred Snodgrass was one of the most prolific outfielders in the league. In 1911, he had helped the Giants reach the World Series but they lost to the Philadelphia Athletics. In 1912, the Giants, determined to make amends were in spectacular form blasting into a 16.5 game lead in the National League by midway point of the regular season. In the American League, the Red Sox, playing in a new ballpark were also in great form, stunning the Athletics to reach the World Series.

The Red Sox triumphed in the first game but game two was an epitome of the closely contested nature of the series. The game had to be cancelled after darkness came with the two teams deadlocked at 6-6 and was replayed the following day, the Giants winning 2-1. The Red Sox won games three and four but the Giants responded with a 5-2 win in game five and an 11-4 thrashing of the Red Sox in game 6 to take the series to the wire.

How did the Play Unfold?

In game seven played at Fenway Park in front of a 17,000 crowd, the two teams dueled for nine innings and entered the tenth with the scores tied at 1-1. The Giants scored a run in the top of the inning and looked to be cruising to a historic victory until they suddenly were not. The Giants fans were already celebrating as the bottom of the inning set in. In the bottom of the inning, Red Sox Clyde Engel hit a high, lazy shot off a Christy Mathewson pitch, which flew towards Snodgrass in center field. Snodgrass waited for the ball, ready to make a catch that looked impossible to miss for the respected outfielder. However, he dropped the ball to the horror and shock of the entire Giants roster and fans section. By the time he retrieved it and got back to the infield, Engle had reached second base, and the Giants lead was wiped off. The shock among Snodgrass’s teammates was palpable but no one was as upset as Snodgrass himself. For a few seconds, he stood with his mouth agape, apparently disorientated but then composed himself, producing an acrobatic catch from a Harry Hopper hit. The Red Sox would however go on to score two more runs that sealed the Championship for them.

Aftermath of the $30,000 Muff

As expected, blame for the loss was directed at Snodgrass though many of the team’s staff including Coach John McGraw defended him animatedly. McGraw even claimed to have added Snodgrass’s salary by $1000. In a later interview, Snodgrass also refused to take blame for the loss, arguing that he did not let in the two winning runs which ended the Giants’ Series challenge. In 1913, the Giants made it to the World Series a third consecutive time but their luck was not about to change as they were beaten by the Philadelphia Athletics in five games. As expected, blame for the loss was directed at Snodgrass though many of the team’s staff including Coach John McGraw defended him animatedly. McGraw even claimed to have added Snodgrass’s salary by $1000. In a later interview, Snodgrass also refused to take blame for the loss, arguing that he did not let in the two winning runs which ended the Giants’ Series challenge. In 1913, the Giants made it to the World Series a third consecutive time but their luck was not about to change as they were beaten by the Philadelphia Athletics in five games. Snodgrass left the Giants in 1915 to join the Boston Braves for whom he played until 1916 and then retired to become a banker, councilman and mayor in his native town of Oxnard in Ventura County, California. In 1957, the Giants would relocate to San Francisco, becoming the present day franchise San Francisco Giants. Snodgrass died in 1974 and was buried at the Ivy Lawn Memorial Park in Ventura county.

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