In the last half of the ninth, with the score tied, two men out and a runner on third, the batter hits to left field and the runner scores. The batter, seeing the runner score, stops between home and first. The ball is thrown to first baseman, who touches his base before the runner reaches it. Can runner score on this?
— (signed) Joseph Rupp
No. Run cannot score when third out is made before reaching first base.
— " Inquisitive Fans, " July 19, 1908
Each Sunday during 1908, the Chicago Tribune published a letter to the sports editor in a column titled " Inquisitive Fans." It was a forum for baseball enthusiasts, amateur umpires, and those merely curious about the rules of baseball. Many of the queries were mundane. But Joseph Rupp's letter may have started wheels turning that erupted into controversy a month and a half later.
G. H. Fleming, author of Unforgettable Season, linked this letter to the Merkle baserunning incident. The play depicted by Rupp is not exactly what occurred during the Merkle play, but it involves the same principle, which is that a run cannot score when the third out is a force-out. Technically, the batter-runner thrown out at first base is retired by force-out. In the Merkle play a Giants run was erased because Merkle,