Remember when fans at the Polo Grounds nearly missed the 1918 solar eclipse?

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It’s here! The day when thousands of people have crunched together within a 70-mile-wide path from Oregon to South Carolina to view, in totality, a solar eclipse.

I’m assuming you all have your official eclipse glasses. Got your cameras ready? Have a Major League Baseball doubleheader to attend that may go into extra innings and spoil your eclipse-watching fun?

OK, there are no MLB double dips or even afternoon games scheduled for today, but 99 years ago, on June 8, 1918, fans at New York’s Polo Grounds watching their Giants play the St. Louis Cardinals nearly had their eclipse peeping plans darkened because the two teams were deadlocked at 2-2 after nine innings and into a couple of extra frames.

The Giants easily won the first game that afternoon. However, in the second contest, neither team could break a 2-2 tie within the regulation nine innings.

The New York Times reported the next day:

“The Giants separated the Cardinals from the first game of a bargain-day bill at the Polo Grounds yesterday by a count of 8-1, but in the other portion of soiree the St. Louis lads stuck like glue and almost kept a crowd of 25,000 from seeing the eclipse of the sun by prolonging the agony of beating the Giants for eleven long innings, when they administered the dose of defeat by a score of 4 to 2.”

New Yorkers saw “a little less than three-quarters of the sun’s surface being obscured,” the Times reported, but the paper also noted that conditions were perfect for viewing in the city where “smoked glasses and green eye-shades were at a premium.”

The eclipse, the last before today to travel a path across the United States, hit New York City at 6:23 p.m., the paper said, and reached “the maximum of obstruction” at 7:20. At that point, hundreds of people had gathered in Times Square, on rooftops and other premium vantage points to enjoy the spectacle.

Back at the Polo Grounds, fans were rooting for their Giants to sweep the doubleheader, but also for a quick exit from the ballpark to join those already in place for the dramatic solar event.

The Saturday afternoon at the Polo Grounds was a doozy. It featured a hidden-ball trick – however, the umpire ruled a dead ball and disallowed the play – Giants’ Manager John McGraw getting tossed out a game, a spectator throwing a glass bottle from the upper deck and toward the umpire – it didn’t come close, the Times reported – and a foul ball off the bat of New York center fielder Benny Kauff smashing a fan’s straw hat. (I bet that fan was seeing stars way before the eclipse.)

The Cardinals created scoring chances in the ninth and 10th innings of game two, but those opportunities quickly faded.

St. Louis threatened again in the 11th inning, leading off with a pair of singles from Red Smyth and Marty Kavanagh. Cardinals’ catcher Frank Snyder then swatted a high fly ball to right field, where, as the Times wrote, “Ross Young got the ball and the eclipse of the sun all mixed up. He got under the ball and grabbed it all right enough, but then stumbled and fell, spilling the ball so disastrously that Smyth and Kavanagh both romped home with the victory.”

McGraw argued with Umpire William “Lord” Byron that Young had held the ball long enough to record the out. In doing so, “the old McGraw-Byron feud was ripped wide open and Byron felt quite natural when he folded his arms, struck a Napoleonic attitude, and waved McGraw into the outer darkness.”


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