Baseball's Sad Lexicon
"Baseball's Sad Lexicon," also known as "Tinker to Evers to Chance" after its refrain, is a 1910 baseball poem by Franklin Pierce Adams. The poem is presented as a single, rueful stanza from the point of view of a New York Giants fan seeing the talented Chicago Cubs infield of shortstop Joe Tinker, second baseman Johnny Evers, and first baseman Frank Chance complete a double play.
Tinker, Evers, and Chance began playing together with the Cubs in 1902, and formed a double play combination that lasted through April 1912. The Cubs won the National League pennant four times between 1906 and 1910, often defeating the Giants en route to the World Series.
The poem was first published in the New York Evening Mail on July 12, 1912. Popular among sportswriters, numerous additional verses were written. The poem gave Tinker, Evers, and Chance increased popularity. It has been credited with their elections to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1946.
Frank Chance joined the Chicago Cubs in 1898 as a reserve catcher, backing up Tim Donahue and Johnny Kling. Frank Selee, the Cubs' manager from 1902 to 1905, decided that Chance would be better suited as a first baseman. Chance at first opposed the move and even threatened to quit, but ultimately obliged.
Joe Tinker was a third baseman in minor league baseball, but in 1902 made the Cubs as a shortstop, replacing the departed Barry McCormick. Johnny Evers made his MLB debut with the Cubs on September 1 at shortstop, with Selee moving Tinker from shortstop to third base. Three days later, Selee returned Tinker to shortstop and assigned Evers to second base to back up Bobby Lowe. Lowe suffered a knee injury late in the 1902 season, providing Evers with more playing time.
The trio first appeared in a game together on September 13, 1902. They turned their first double play on September 15, 1902. Lowe's injury did not properly heal during the offseason, making Evers the new permanent second baseman for the Cubs. Chance succeeded Selee as manager during the 1905 season when Selee fell ill.
The Cubs, led by Tinker, Evers, and Chance, won the National League pennant in 1906, 1907, 1908, and 1910. In 1908, the Cubs clinched the pennant after defeating the Giants in part due to Merkle's Boner. In the Merkle game, Tinker hit a home run off of Christy Mathewson, and Evers alerted umpire Hank O'Day to Merkle's baserunning gaffe. In the replay of the Merkle game, Tinker hit a triple off of Mathewson that started the rally that gave the Cubs the victory, clinching the pennant.
From 1906 to 1910, the Cubs turned 491 double plays, the third-most in the NL during that time. According to Bill James' formula, "expected double plays", the Cubs led the NL with 50 more double plays than expected during those five seasons.
Text of the poem 
- 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."
Adams wrote the poem for his column "Always in Good Humor" in the Evening Mail; he signed it with his nickname, FPA. Adams, a native of Chicago and a former newspaper columnist there, penned the poem on his way to the Polo Grounds to see the Cubs–Giants game. The poem was such a hit that other sportswriters submitted additional verses.
This work was first published as "That Double Play Again" in the July 12, 1910, New York Evening Mail (not on July 10 as numerous sources state). The Chicago Daily Tribune reprinted it as "Gotham's Woe" on July 15, 1910. Three days later, on July 18, the New York Evening Mail republished it under the title by which it is best known today, "Baseball's Sad Lexicon."
Notes on the text 
- A gonfalon (Line 5) is a pennant or flag, referring in this context to the National League title.
- "Hitting a double" in baseball means a two-base hit, but "hitting into a double" refers to hitting into a double play (two outs on a single play), most commonly accomplished by a ground ball hit to the shortstop (Tinker) thrown to the second baseman (Evers) to force the runner out who had been on first base and then thrown to first base (Chance) to complete the play.
In 1911, the Giants overcame the Cubs, capturing the first of three consecutive league championships.
All three players were inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1946. Their inductions have been credited to the fame generated by Adams' poem. Bill James argued that Tinker was less accomplished than George Davis, who at the time was not a member of the Hall of Fame.
Despite their celebrated success at turning spectacular plays in collaboration, relations between the teammates were said to have been often strained. Tinker and Evers feuded for many years, and player-manager Chance was reputed to have had an occasionally combative approach to discipline, even suspending Tinker in 1911, though he rescinded the suspension two days later.
The trio played their final game together on April 12, 1912. Hospitalized for a brain injury suffered while playing, club owner Charles Webb Murphy released Chance when they argued about Murphy's releasing other players with high salaries. Murphy named Evers manager for the 1913 season, which displeased Tinker, who was traded to the Cincinnati Reds. Murphy fired Evers after one season, and a number of baseball people made an effort to drive Murphy out of baseball. This involved the National League president John K. Tener, and Charles P. Taft. The effort was successful, and Sporting Life commemorated the affair with this variation on the poem:
- Brought to the leash and smashed in the jaw,
- Evers to Tener to Taft.
- Hounded and hustled outside of the law,
- Evers to Tener to Taft.
- Torn from the Cubs and the glitter of gold,
- Stripped of the guerdons and glory untold,
- Kicked in the stomach and cut from the fold,
- Evers to Tener to Taft. — The National League Story, by Lee Allen, 1961.
The expression is still used on occasion today, to characterize any process that happens with smoothness and precision, as a near-synonym to expressions such as "like clockwork" or "a well-oiled machine." An advertisement for The Hours, a 2003 film, used the tagline in reference to Nicole Kidman, Meryl Streep, and Julianne Moore.
The poem has been set to music and recorded by Chicago singer/songwriter guitarist Chris McCaughan. The song, also titled "Baseball's Sad Lexicon," appears on the 2010 album We Chase The Waves, by his solo project, Sundowner.
On the poem's 100th anniversary, Tim Wiles, director of research at the Baseball Hall of Fame revealed a recent discovery. The poem was part of series of poems published in the New York Evening Mail and the Chicago Tribune. During the research process, combing the archives in the New York Public Library and the Center for Research Libraries, they have uncovered 29 poems, 15 of which detail a specific play or game that had occurred during the 1910 season, with "Baseball’s Sad Lexicon" the first poem published.
References in popular culture 
Ogden Nash's poem "Line-Up For Yesterday", written in 1949, mentions the famous trio:
- 'E' is for Evers
- His jaw in advance;
- Never afraid
- To Tinker with Chance
- Ryhal, Gregory. "Frank Chance". Society for American Baseball Research. Retrieved September 20, 2012.
- Jacobsen, Lenny. "Joe Tinker". The Baseball Biography Project. The Society for American Baseball Research. Retrieved 2009-10-15.
- Shiner, David. "Johnny Evers". The Baseball Biography Project. The Society for American Baseball Research. Retrieved October 15, 2009.
- Singer, Tom (June 25, 2008). "Power of poem immortalizes Cubs trio: Tinker to Evers to Chance flourished in early 1900s". MLB.com. Retrieved May 9, 2013.
- "THE CUBS WIN THE PENNANT - Hit Mathewson for Four Runs in Third Inning of Decisive Game and Beat the Giants. GIANTS SCORE TWO RUNS " Three-Fingered" Brown, Chicago's Star Twirler, Has Home Team at His Mercy. 40,000 SEE GREAT CONTEST Probably as Many More Shut Out - Wall Street Left Outside - One Would-Be Spectator Killed by a Fall. - Front Page - NYTimes.com". Select.nytimes.com. 2012-06-10. Retrieved 2013-05-09.
- Rob Neyer and Eddie Epstein (2000). Baseball Dynasties. pp. 37-38.
- Hageman, William (July 5, 2010). "Remembering 'Tinker to Evers to Chance': Even though Joe Tinker, Johnny Evers and Frank Chance last played together in 1912 – indeed, all have been dead more than 60 years -- their names live on among baseball fans. All because of an eight-line poem". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved May 9, 2013.
- Franklin P. Adams, "That Double Play Again," New York Evening Mail, July 12, 1910, p. 6
- Franklin P. Adams, "Gotham’s Woe," Chicago Daily Tribune, July 15, 1910, p. 4
- Franklin P. Adams, "Baseball's Sad Lexicon," New York Evening Mail, July 18, 1910, p. 6
- Jack Bales with Tim Wiles, "Franklin P. Adams's 'Trio of Bear Cubs,'" Nine: A Journal of Baseball History and Culture 19 (Spring 2011): 114-40; Tim Wiles, "Reason for the Rhyme: Adams’ 'Baseball’s Sad Lexicon' Turns 100," Memories and Dreams [published by the National Baseball Hall of Fame], Summer 2010, pp. 10-13.
- "GIANTS WIN PENNANT - MATTY IN THE BOX - Shutout in Brooklyn Clinches First Honors in National League for New York. - Article - NYTimes.com". Select.nytimes.com. Retrieved 2013-05-09.
- "Joe Tinker Fined And Suspended: Reprimanded by Chance for Failing to Get Fly Balls, He Answers Profanely and Is Given Severe Punishment; Declares Penalty is Unjust and Undeserved". The Pittsburgh Press. August 6, 1911. p. 6. Retrieved May 9, 2013.
- "Chance Has Reinstated Tinker". Trenton True American. August 8, 1911. p. 4. Retrieved May 9, 2013.
- “C. Murphy--His Lyric,” Sporting Life, March 14, 1914, p. 12.
- Weir, Tom (September 3, 1999). "Harry, we hardly knew ye Steinfeldt tops list of game's unsung heroes". USA Today. Retrieved September 22, 2012. (subscription required)
- Edward J. Rielly, ed. (October 30, 2006). Baseball in the classroom: essays on teaching the national pastime. McFarland. p. 59. ISBN 0786481528. Retrieved May 9, 2013.
- Nash, Ogden, "Line-Up for Yesterday"; Baseball Almanac (retrieved January 26, 2011)
- "'Baseball's Sad Lexicon': 100 Years Old Today" – Bleed Cubbie Blue
- "Baseball's Sad Lexicon for National Poetry Month, with Tim Wiles" – Baseballisms
- Tinker to Evers to Chance! – Library of Congress