Hometown Honors Fred Merkle With Plaque
Fred Merkle is again honored in his hometown of Watertown, Wisconsin. On July 22nd, 2010, Public Bonehead, Private Hero: The Real Legacy of Baseball’s Fred Merkle book author Mike Cameron, and Merkle Historian David Stalker met at Watertown’s Fred Merkle Field to donate a black granite plaque to Washington Park.
In 2008, the baseball field was named after Merkle, a sign was put up reading Fred Merkle Field. I was very pleased that Watertown’s Park and Recreation Department named the field in Fred’s honor. However, I still wanted those attending games at the park, to get some history about who Fred Merkle was. I proposed a plaque to the park, but once I received approval, funding needed to be found.
In 2005, a Fred Merkle monument was put in Watertown on the Octagon House Grounds. Funds were collected from the Merkle Family, which included his daughter Marianne Kasbaum.Â I decided not to ask the family to contribute again, because they have given much. Knowing that there is a good sized Merkle fan base, I decided to go that route, asking Mike Cameron to team up with me. What really made the project possible came from a very generous donation from MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann. In fact, he offered to cover the total cost, but with other donation’s coming in from more Merkle fans, it was decided to go with a larger plaque than originally planned. For many years now, Keith Olbermann has been a wonderful spokesperson for Merkle, annually telling the true Fred Merkle story on the air.
I am very thankful for the support of Merkle’s family and his ever growing fan base, together they eagerly give in efforts to preserve his legacy. From these effort’s, the public is learning who the real Fred Merkle is. He is no longer known for just a controversial play, but as an intelligent, outstanding person, family member and ballplayer. In his book,Cameron has labeled Merkle a “role model against adversity.” Watertown has taken much pride to claim Merkle as their own.
The plaque reads:
Fred C. Merkle was born in Watertown, WI on December 20, 1888 to Ernst and Anna Amalia (Thielmann) Merkle.Â He made his major league debut as a first baseman with the New York Giants on 9-21-07 at the age of 18. During his 16 years in the majors, he played for the Giants, Brooklyn Robins (Dodgers), Chicago Cubs and New York Yankees. With Merkle, each of these teams advanced to the World Series, totaling six times. Throughout his career, he displayed a blend of speed and power. He had eight seasons with 20 or more stolen bases and a solid .273 career batting average in an era dominated by pitching and defense. Teammates and opponents considered Merkle one of the smartest players in the game. Merkle was the only player who Giants manager John McGraw consulted on strategic decisions.
DONATED IN 2010 By
KEITH OLBERMANN MIKE CAMERON DAVID J. STALKER
AND THE FANS OF FRED MERKLE
After the plaque presentation, Cameron and Stalker proceeded to Tribeca Books in Watertown where Cameron signed books and Stalker displayed a Merkle Exhibit.