Jan 27, 2016

Old Time New York Giants Short Stop: Al Bridwell (1908-1911)

Albert Henry Bridwell was born January 4, 1884 in Friendship, Ohio. The five foot nine, left hand hitting infielder began his career with the Cincinnati Reds in 1904. In 1906 he was traded to the Boston Braves playing there for two seasons. He didn't hit much in either season & then got traded to the New York Giants.

By the time he got to the Polo Grounds, he became Manager John McGraw’s shortstop for the next three & a half seasons. Bridwell was a perfect player in the McGraw mold, he was hardnosed, rough & came right at you with all he had. Although he had all the respect in the world for McGraw, his own temper once caused him to punch the manager in the nose. Because of the incident, Bridwell was suspended for two games.

In 1908 Bridwell hit .285 (8th best in the league) & posted a .346 on base percentage (6th best in the league). He also stole 20 bases, hit 14 doubles & drove in 46 runs for the second place Giants, who were fighting for a pennant all year long. Bridwell posted a .933 fielding%, turned 39 double plays (4th most) and led all short stops with 55 errors.

Overall he was a pretty good player, but he is best remembered as being the player who got the base hit during a legendary ball game.

In the heat of a tight 1908 pennant race with the Chicago Cubs, the two team were tied up in a tight game at the Polo Grounds. In the 9th inning, Moose McCormick was on third base representing the winning run, as Giants Rookie; Fred Merkle was on first base, when Bridwell came to bat. He came through & singled home McCormick with the winning run. But Merkle never touched second base & walked off the field, thinking the game was over. The fans exited through the field in those days and began to leave the ball park.

The rules state, that a base runner must proceed to the next base after a run scores, or the run would not count. It was not enforced much at the time, but this had happened to the Cubs recently. This time, Cubs player Johnny Evers got hold of the umpire & called for the ball. He got hold of a ball, whether it was the actual ball that was in play or not will never be known. He stepped on second base for the third out, beating Merkle who had left the field.

There was chaos on the field & the umpires met after the game, contacting the League officials. The next day the league ruled the game had indeed ended in a tie. The two teams would replay the game if it was necessary at the end of the season.

As fate would have it, the Giants & the Cubs tied and needed to play the tie breaker. In a madhouse scene at the Polo Grounds, the Cubs beat the Giants & won the pennant.

In 1909, Bridwell came back to hit .294 & draw 67 walks (both fifth best in the league). He also stole 32 bases (tenth in the NL). Unfortunately the Giants finished third that year & second the next season. He was then traded back to Boston in exchange for Buck Herzog during the 1911 season.

The Giants went to the win three straight pennants, over the next three years, playing in the World Series. As for Bridwell, he played for two more seasons, in Boston, as well as one in one in Chicago with the Cubs. He then played two seasons in the Federal League finishing his career.

In his 11 year career he batted .255 average with 1064 hits, two HRs, 95 doubles, 32 triples & 136 stolen bases in 1252 games.

Retirement: He was interviewed in the classic baseball book; The Glory of Their Times in 1966. Bridwell passed away in Portsmouth Ohio in 1969 at age 85.

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