Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Another Tinker to Evers to Chance Double Play - Two Poems

Tinker, to Evers, to Chance - A Double Play

The Chicago Cubs won four National League pennants over the five year span from 1906 through 1910.  One factor in their success was the play of infielders Joe Tinker (SS), Johnny Evers (2b) and Frank Chance (1b), who turned the 5-4-3 double-play 491 times during that span.  They were so successful that the phrase, “Tinker, Evers to Chance” is still in use today as an expression of efficient workmanship.

The phrase achieved immortality in 1910 when it was repeated, mantra-like, in a short poem written in the middle of the 1910 season by a New York newspaper columnist and New York Giants fan.  The poem, Baseball’s Sad Lexicon, expressed the heartbreak caused by the combination, Tinker to Evers to Chance (the Cubs had clinched the pennant in a game against the Giants in 1908, and the Cubs were on their way to taking another pennant away from the Giants):

                  Baseball's Sad Lexicon

These are the saddest of possible words:
   "Tinker to Evers to Chance."
Trio of bear cubs, and fleeter than birds,
   Tinker and Evers and Chance.
Ruthlessly pricking our gonfalon bubble,
   Making a Giant hit into a double –
Words that are heavy with nothing but trouble:
   "Tinker to Evers to Chance."

But times change; Tinker, Evers and Chance were separated before the 1913 season.  Evers was promoted to manage the Cubs, and Tinker and Chance were traded. Tinker managed the Reds that year and Chance managed the Yankees. Despite their long history of success, Evers and Cubs owner Charles Murphy[i] drew Tinker and Chance into a bitter, public feud, with allegations of mental instability, player tampering, and simple jealousy.  

In the midst of this turmoil, Chicago columnist Berton Braley put his own spin on the phrase; turning it around to express the pain of Cubs fans who had seen their last Tinker, to Evers, to Chance double play:  

Ballads of Past Glories
Written for The Day Book by Berton Braley

Jeff may come back from his slump, Nelson may manage it, too,
Corbett[ii] recover his jump, stranger things often come true;
(Leastwise in fiction they do), yet – it’s a sad circumstance,
Never this play shall you view – “Tinker to Evers to Chance!”

Say, but that team was a trump (that Cub machine that we knew)
It was the boss of the dump, it was the mightiest crew!
Wow, how we use to hurroo! Watching that outfit advance,
Seeing that double put through – “Tinker to Evers to Chance!”

Murphy was always a chump, so he has wrenched things askew;’
Someone should hand him a bump, hand him, in fact, quite a few!
Dull is the future in hue, gone is the glow, the romance!
This was the bleacherites’ cue – “Tinker to Evers to Chance!

Fans, we may rightly be blue, over the land’s vast expanse;
Busted this trio – boo hoo! “Tinker to Evers to Chance!”

The Day Book (Chicago, Illinois), January 4, 1913.

[i] Charles Murphy, owner of the Cubs from 1906 through 1913. See biography at SABR.org.
[ii] I read this as a reference to past-their-prime boxers, Jim Jeffries, Battling Nelson and James J. Corbett.

No comments:

Post a Comment