Cooperstown, NY —
“He was almost a mythic figure in our family,” 70-year-old Dennis McNamara, a grandnephew of O’Day, said as he choked back tears. “I wonder, what does this mean? It means everyone is recognized at some point. You may not know it, but recognition does come.”
O’Day’s most memorable call happened in September 1908 when he called Fred Merkle of the New York Giants out for not touching second base on what would have been a game-winning hit against the Chicago Cubs in the bottom of the ninth.
Cubs second baseman Johnny Evers noticed it and appealed to O’Day, the only man in the history of the NL to play, manage, and umpire in the postseason. O’Day, who went on to manage the Cubs, called Merkle out on a force play, the game ended in a tie and the teams finished the season tied for first place. The Cubs won the makeup game and the pennant, their last, and O’Day never wavered in his ruling.
“The lesson of Hank O’Day is do your best with honesty and integrity,” McNamara said.
When Lou Gehrig of the Yankees and Rogers Hornsby of St. Louis were inducted into the Hall of Fame, they never experienced a formal ceremony in Cooperstown. That changed Sunday, when the two, along with 10 other players elected between 1939 and 1945 were feted — Roger Bresnahan, Dan Brouthers, Fred Clarke, Jimmy Collins, Ed Delahanty, Hugh Duffy, Hughie Jennings, Mike “King” Kelly, Jim O’Rourke and Wilbert Robinson.
Returning Hall of Famers took turns reading the text of those players’ plaques in their honor. Former Baltimore Orioles star Cal Ripken Jr., who eclipsed Gehrig’s longstanding record for consecutive games, was chosen to read the inscription on the Iron Horse’s plaque, while former Cincinnati second baseman Joe Morgan read Hornsby’s.