Touching All the Bases

“Touching all the bases” is an appropriate metaphor that may well have its roots in the tragic tale of Fred Merkle. At the time, Merkle was only 19 years old and in his second major league season with the New York Giants.

Merkle’s infamous mental lapse took place on September 23, 1908, in the last half of the ninth inning against the Chicago Cubs. With the score tied and two outs, the Giants had runners on first (Merkle) and third (Moose McCormick), when Al Bridwell singled to centerfield.

On the hit, Merkle was still on his way to second base when McCormick crossed home plate with what appeared to be the winning run. But when Merkle saw McCormick score, he thought the game was over and didn’t bother to go all the way to second base. Instead, he headed straight for the clubhouse.

Unlike Fred Merkle, however, the Cubs’ Johnny Evers was alert to what was going on. He immediately realized that even though the runner had already crossed home plate, the run wouldn’t count if a forced runner (Merkle) was thrown out at second. He yelled to the Cubs’ centerfielder “Solly” Hofman to throw him the ball. The ball went over Evers’s head, and Cubs third-base coach Joe McGinnity scooped it up. Realizing what was about to happen, McGinnity threw the ball into the stands.

Relentlessly, Evers climbed into the stands and retrieved the ball (or, according to some accounts, “a” ball), called to one of the umpires that there was a force play at second base, and touched the bag. The umpire, who also had been alert enough to note that Merkle had not bothered to touch second base, called him out. Because of the ensuing chaos, and with darkness setting in, the game was ruled a tie. The Giants disputed the ruling, but the National League office upheld the umpire’s decision.

After that historic game, the Giants, who had been in first place, fell apart in the last two weeks of the season. Further, to rub insult into injury, the Cubs won the pennant.

Today, more than a century after the fact, this historic moment is still referred to in baseball lore as “Merkle’s Bonehead Play.” And Fred Merkle became forever labeled “Bonehead Merkle.”

Poor Fred Merkle. He got labeled a dunce for making the same kind of mistake most of us make many times throughout our lives. Everyone forgets to “touch all the bases” at one time or another.

As an author, I can assure you from firsthand experience that writing a book is all about following through and touching all the bases. For each book I write, I have a checklist of over 100 items that I painstakingly address after I work my way through 20 to 25 drafts. If a writer’s aim is to produce quality work, he has to be willing to invest an enormous amount of time and effort in making certain that no important steps are missed.

The broader message I’ve been leading up to in this article is that you shortchange yourself if you fail to touch all the bases during your short stay on this planet. Take reading, for example. The last thing in the world you want to do is miss the one book that might have a major impact on how you end up living your life.

Touch all the bases. Make the effort to get up out of your chair, walk over and pick up the camera, and take a picture of that special moment in time that will otherwise be lost forever. Take the time to listen to your kids… play sports with them… laugh with them… communicate with your spouse… exercise… listen to good music… be active. Make a conscious effort to touch all the bases while you’re here, because you have no way of knowing if you’re ever going to pass this way again.

[Ed Note: Robert Ringer is a New York Times #1 bestselling author and host of the highly acclaimed Liberty Education Interview Series, which features interviews with top political, economic, and social leaders. His recently released work, Restoring the American Dream: The Defining Voice in the Movement for Liberty, is a clarion call to liberty-loving citizens to take back the country. Ringer has appeared on numerous national talk shows and has been the subject of feature articles in such major publications as Time, People, The Wall Street Journal, Fortune, Barron’s, and The New York Times. To sign up for his e-letter, A Voice of Sanity in an Insane World, visit]