A Time Travel Trip to NY 1927

On March 2, 1927, Babe Ruth signed a $70,000 contract with the New York Yankees for 1927, making him the highest paid player in baseball history.

It is Tuesday, February 20, 1927, in New York City and, even though these times will come to be remembered as the Roaring Twenties, most of the country still had a lot of catching up to do on how much freedom is OK on weekends. In South Carolina, on this date, some men are arrested and charged with violating the Sabbath by playing golf on Sunday. It’s good to know we will get passed this form of  prohibition by 2011. There aren’t enough jail cells in the nation to lock up all the Sunday golfers these days.

Hornsby Tags Ruth to End '26 Series.

New York City is the late winter of 1926 and early spring of 1927 is still stinging from their seven-game loss to the St. Louis Cardinals in 1926. The team had come home to Yankees Stadium with a 3-2 lead in games before blowing two straight to the pitching magic of the great Grover Cleveland Alexander, first as a starter in Game Six- and then as a shocking reliever in Game Seven. Game Seven and the famous episode contest in which Alexander gets called in to pitch with either a hangover or migraine  against the dangerous Yankee hitter Tony Lazzeri with the Cardinals leading by a run, 3-2, with two outs and the bases loaded. Alexander strikes out Lazzeri and then shuts down New York the rest of the way. As a final stinger, Babe Ruth reaches first as the potential tying run in the ninth, with Alexander still pitching, two outs, and the Yankees still down a run by the same fated score, but with Bob Meusel (.315) now hitting. Inexplicably, Ruth decides to steal second on the first pitch to Meusel. Meusel tries to cover, but misses, and Ruth is thrown out on a swift and accurate throw from catcher Bob O’Farrell to Cardinal Manager/Hall of Famer Rogers Hornsby.to end the Series and send New Yorker dreams of winning a World Series for only the second time into winter hibernation. Makes you wonder. Will the Yankees ever catch up to those five World Series titles won by the Boston Red Sox in the first two decades of the 20th century?

Prohibition against the legal sale of alcohol is still the law of the land in 1927, but smugglers, bootleggers, speakeasys, and home delivery services busily keep America’s thirst for a certain mind-altering substance quenched with great abandonment of moderation. Babe Ruth is one of the earliest supporters of illegal alcohol supply services in the winter of 1927 and he does what he can to keep the movement flowing.

Woolworth Bldg.: At 52 stories, the tallest building in New York, 1913-1930.

The Chrysler (1930) and Empire State (1931) Buildings are still only elegant dream salutes to skyscraping power in 1927. At this time,  the world’s first true scratcher of deep space blue remains the 52-story Woolworth Building, a position is has held as the world’s tallest building since 1913. New Yorkers are getting around town on street cars, subways, elevated trains, shoe leather, and that booming new brain baby of Mr. Henry Ford of Detroit, the Model A spontaneous combustion engine motor car. People smoke cigarettes, cigars, and pipes liked chimneys, and so do the dense belching industrial fire stacks of early 20th century American manufacturing, heating, and waste disposal by incineration. The air is bad, but the money is good, and the people are busy spending time, money, and energy on what makes them feel good – as opposed to exploring questions of what is good for them.

Nobody in New York worries about running out of money, oil, alcohol, nicotine, or good times. These are the 1920s’s, our apparently non-stop celebration of America’s successful venture into the war that ended all wars. The word “rehabilitation” has yet to be invented, but there is some talk of America’s need for moral “reformation.” To that notion, most New York  urbanites are saying, “”23 skidoo to you and the horse you rode in on. – Just take me out to the ballgame, but, since its wintertime, and not yet baseball season, a speakeasy will do.”

On March 1, 1927, a little boy by the name of Harry Belafonte is born in Harlem. Wonder if we shall ever hear from him again?

On March 2, 1927, Babe Ruth becomes the highest paid player in the history of baseball when he signs a 1927 contract with the New York Yankees to play for $70,000 over the course of a mere single season. Wonder again. What can the Bambino possibly do in 1927 to justify that kind of money? Herb Pennock will be the next highest paid Yankee in 1927, and he stands to make only $17,500 on the season.

On March 5, 1927, Notre Dame defeats Creighton, 31-17, to finish the 1926-1927 college basketball season with a record of 19 wins against only one loss. Fourteen years later, the Helms Athletic Foundation will cast a vote that names Notre Dame as the mythical National Champions of College Basketball for the 1926-1927 season.

On March 9, 1927, in Germany, the Bavarian government lifts a two-year ban on public speeches by minor political dissent Adolph Hitler. The matter is so small that it barely finds its way into the footnotes of new German history.

On March 10, 1927, Zenith becomes the first company to obtain an RCA license for the manufacture of home radios. Crosley will follow Zenith by obtaining a competitive license on March 18, 1927. Meanwhile, deep in the labs of radio science, rumor has it that RCA is also working on a newer, even more incredible communications device. If it works, this thing they are calling “television” will be able to bring “radio with pictures” into our homes someday.

On March 11, 1927, Samuel Roxy Rothafel opens the magnificent 5,920-seat capacity Roxy Theatre in Manhattan. The Roxy is the largest, most beautiful, and most comfortable movie palace in the world. With sound coming forth in the form of talking motion pictures, life cannot get much better than this.

It’s 1927. And life is good. And a whole lot of fun.


Photo Note: The Babe Ruth cookie jar used in the column’s pictorial probably avoided paying an MLB licensing fee by not crossing the “NY” on his cap. As far as I know, Babe always wore the famous combined “NY” of Yankee logo fame, even though the earliest days of the New York AL franchise did sport caps with the kind of “NL” that Babe wears here. While attempting to research this uniform question further, I did stumble onto a fact I never knew: Babe Ruth never wore a pinstripe jersey that also contained the famous “NY” logo on the heart-side breast plate. It was on his hat, but nowhere else. The plain pinstripe Yankee jersey with no initials was the Yankee home uniform until after Babe Ruth was out of the game.

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3 Responses to “A Time Travel Trip to NY 1927”

  1. Cliff Blau Says:

    Re: game 7 of the 1926 series, I’ll explain Ruth’s decision to steal to you: He was trying to get into scoring position. Lou Gehrig wasn’t the batter, it was Bob Meusel. What should Ruth have done, waited for the right-handed hitter Meusel, who’d hit 12 homers that year, to hit one out at Yankee Stadium off sinkerballer Grover Alexander?

    Also, I doubt the Model A had a spontaneous combustion engine. That would make it more dangerous than the Corvair!

    • Bill McCurdy Says:

      Hi, Cliff!

      It’s always nice to hear from our professional critic.

      First of all, the Gehrig mention was a brain freeze. I mentally caught and corrected it before I received your predictable “let me explain it to you” swat, but too late to escape the mental broomstick.

      As for Ruth’s attempted steal, I’m sorry I left it to implication that we all knew what he was trying to do. (DUH!) The question was why? On the first pitch? With a guy at bat who was capable of hitting Alexander? Remember? Meusel had a double and a triple off Alexander in Game Six. That should have been earned at least a slight pause in the decision to steal, but we could argue that one all day and still get nowhere.

      As for the “spontaneous combustion engine,” I’m no engineer, but you are aware of their existence, are you not? Here’s a patent reference link for you:


      I guess my question for you, Cliff, is: Why are you always so surly and critical here? Are you just that way in general? Or do you always make decisions that human error, or choices that differ from your own, are simply deserving of nothing less than your abject best condemnation and condescension?

      Forgive my personalization in this reaction, Cliff. You simply caught me on a day in which my tolerance for annoyance is running low. You have a right to be exactly who you are, as do I.

      As in all things, large and small, we simply have to each decide if our personal interaction is worthwhile or a waste of time. I don’t mind disagreement and I welcome error correction, but I don’t much care for either by derision. OK?

  2. Travel Says:


    […]A Time Travel Trip to NY 1927 « The Pecan Park Eagle[…]…

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