Thursday, February 10, 2005


February 10th, 1916

Chalres Ebbets Wins Coin Toss

It is sometimes forgotten in the frequently esoteric details of the modern game that for a long while Major League Baseball had an extremely casual attitude about elements of the game that were considered relatively minor. As recently as 1949 games featured unofficial "Courtesy Runners" that is, a player, usually one already in the line-up, pinch-running for a player temporarily unable to participate. After the inning both would return to their original position without penalty. Charles Ebbets' winning coin toss is another example of this. After the 1915 season John McGraw waived his long-time catcher Chief Meyers (Meyers real name was John. As you probably guessed, he earned his nickname on account of being an American Indian) and Meyers was claimed by both Brooklyn and Boston. Lacking the clear rules of the current system—which is based upon the record of the teams claiming the player—it was decided to settle the matter with a coin flip. Ebbets won, and Meyers was awarded to the Robins.

Meyers hit .247/.336/.314 in eighty games, seemingly not great numbers but a huge improvement on the .224/.245/.287 the Robins had gotten out of Otto Miller the previous season. With an improved offense and much improved pitching staff the Robins won the National League pennant but lost to the Red Sox (and their young ace, Babe Ruth) in five games in the World Series. Meyers would play another half a season for the Robins when he was waived and, in a twist, was picked up by the losers of the coin toss, the Boston Braves who needed a catcher to replace Hank Gowdy, who was the first ballplayer to enlist for service in World War I. After the season Meyers himself enlisted in the marines. After the war Meyers played in the minor leagues for a few years, until he retired and spent much of the rest of his life working with the Department of the Interior as an Indian supervisor. He appeared at both Dodger and Giants Old-Timer's Days (and was equally popular, perhaps the most impressive feat of his career) and passed away in 1971, moving the age of baseball as a game when a coin flip could decide player movement a bit farther into the realm of memory.

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