Nov 4, 2015

Old Time New York Giant Who's Career Was Overshadowed By An Infamous Error: Fred Snodgrass (1908-1915)

Frederick Carlisle Snodgrass was born on October 19, 1887 in Ventura, California. His family owned a number of hotels throughout Los Angeles and Fred traveled there playing baseball in the parks of Los Angeles.

He later attended Loyola Marymount College, winning the Inter collegiate championship. The school played an exhibition series against the New York Giants and not only did his play make an impression on the team, but also an argument he had with manager John McGraw. On a trip to California, McGraw tracked down Snodgrass and offered him a contract to play in New York.

He would make two brief appearances in 1908 & 1909, before becoming the Giants everyday outfielder in 1910. That season Snodgrass went on to hit .321 (4th best in the league) with a .440 on base % (second in the NL). He walked 77 times (tenth in the NL) hit 22 doubles 8 triples 44 RBIs & stole 33 bases. Snodgrass secured himself in the Giants line up for five seasons, winning three straight pennants 1911-1913.

Although he never hit over .300 again he batted over .290 twice, and posted high on base percentages. He would be among the league's top ten in walks three times (1910-1912) and was third in stolen bases in 1911 & 1912. Snodgrass was also considered one of the best defensive outfielders of his time, with a strong throwing arm. Unfortunately a good career is overshadowed by one famous error he made in the 1912 World Series..

In the early part of the 20th century, John McGraw's Giants were the elite team in the National League. As mentioned they won three straight pennants during Fred Snodgrass's career in New York, but they lost each time in the World Series. In 1912 the Giants were beaten by the Boston Red Sox, in both 1911 & 1913 they were beaten by Connie Mack's Philadelphia A's. Snodgrass didn’t do too well in any of those World Series. He only hit .105 against the A’s in 1911, going just 2-19 with a first inning RBI sac fly off Chief Bender in Game #4.

Two years later he saw action in just two games of the 1913 Series going 1-3. It was in the 1912 World Series against the Boston Red Sox, that Snodgrass made his infamous history. The Series was tied at three games apiece and the decisive game was played at the new Fenway Park.

Game #2 ended in a tie, so this was Game #8. The game went into extra innings when the Giants went ahead in the top of the 10th on Fred Merkle’s RBI single. Merkle had his own problems living with a base running muff he had made in a tight 1908 game against the Chicago Cubs. The incident became known as Merkle's boner.

In the 1912 Series, The Giants ace Christy Mathewson took the mound with a one run lead, three outs away from a World Series championship. Boston’s leadoff batter Clyde Engel looped a fly ball to center field where usually the sure handed Snodgrass would have made the play. Instead he dropped the easy fly ball, and the Red Sox Engle slid into second. On the next play Snodgrass made up for it, by robbing Harry Hooper oh hit on a deep fly ball over his head. He saved a run as Engel advanced to third base.

The next batter was walked intentionally , then Hall of Famer Tris Speaker, popped up a foul ball that Fred Merkle stood and watched while catcher Chief Meyers attempted to catch. Speaker missed the fly ball & Speaker had another chance to hit. Sure enough the clutch Speaker came through, singling home the tying run. The next batter Larry Gardner hit a long fly ball to right field, the winning run scored from third and the Series was over.

The error is forever remembered as “Snodgrass’ muff” or “the $30,000 muff”. That was the that dollar amount the Giants would have won for the championship. Like his Giants team mate Fred Merkle, the two would forever be linked their errors for the rest of their lives and beyond.

Quotes: In 1940 Snodgrass said: "There is hardly a day in my life, hardly an hour, that in some manner or other the dropping of that fly doesn't come up, even after 30 years."

The fans & the news papers may have blamed him, but his team mates defended him. Christy Mathewson manager John McGaw both publicly denied blaming Snodgrass for the loss. McGraw even gave him a $1000 raise the next season for his accomplishments of the 1912 season.

Snodgrass would play for the New York Giants for a total of seven and a half years, and then was released in August of 1915. He signed on with the Boston Braves and finished up his career in 1916. He finished up his career playing in 923 games, batting .275 with 11 HRs, 143 doubles, 42 triples, 351 RBIs and 215 stolen bases.

Retirement: After baseball Snodgrass became a successful banker and councilman in Oxnard, Ventura County, California. In the 1960’s he recalled his error in the classic baseball book “The Glory of their Times”. Snodgrass passed away in 1974 at the age of 77 in California.

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