The First and Last Hurrahs of Babe Ruth

The One and Only

When I think of baseball, which is fairly often, my thoughts run inevitably to Babe Ruth, the man whose long shadow still lingered upon the sandlots of my later kid generation in the years that immediately followed World War II. How could we not remember the Babe after that 1948 movie with William Bendix? Why, the Babe was practically Superman in a Yankee uniform, hitting home runs for sick kids everywhere, taking care of an injured dog that caught a foul ball off his own club at batting practice, even if it meant getting into trouble for missing his game, and finally finishing things off in his last game ever by crashing three monster home runs as he hammered out his last ounce of power as an old man playing for the Braves against the Pirates at Forbes Field in Pittsburgh in 1935.

Breathtaking, except for one thing. It wasn’t all exactly true. We dumb kids of the Houston East End simply didn’t know or even want to hear of such nonsense. The Babe may have paid attention to sick kids, and promised a few homers, here and there, but he never hit a dog at BP with a hard foul ball and then rushed the dog off to be treated at a hospital for humans. And he didn’t hit those last three home runs in his final game at Pittsburgh and then humbly turn over his place as a runner at first on a fourth hit to a young rookie who had been riding him as a washed up has-been, In fact, Babe Ruth played on for two more road series as a member of the Boston Braves at Cincinnati and Philadelphia, going 0 for 9 in his final official times at bat to put the hammer on his illustrious career as The Sultan of Swat.

So, today I just felt the need to hit the highlights of some landmark home runs in the history of Babe Ruth. These start in 1915, when Babe Ruth was only 20-year-old fresh second MLB season pitcher – and they don’t stop until Pittsburgh in 1935, when the Bambino was then a tired old outfielder at age 41.

Landmark Ruthian HR # 1:  May 6. 1915 @ the Polo Grounds in New York. Ruth is pitching for the Red Sox against the home club Yankees. Ruth comes to bat in the 3rd inning and hits the first pitch from Jack Warhop out of the park for his first home run in the big leagues. Boston and Ruth go on to lose to the New York Yankees by a score of 4-3 in 13 innings. Ruth had been up to plate a handful of times in his brief 1914 rookie season, going 2 for 10 with no homers.

Landmark Ruthian HR # 2: September 27, 1919 @ Griffith Stadium in Washington. Ruth is playing left field for the Boston Red Sox when he hits a record-setting 29th HR off Rip Jordan of the Senators with one on in the 3rd inning. The home club Senators go on to defeat Ruth and the Red Sox, 7-5. The home run is Ruth’s 49th career blow and his last as a member of the Red Sox.

Landmark Ruthian HR # 3: May 1, 1920 @ the Polo Grounds in New York. Ruth is again in left field for the Yankees, facing his old club, the visiting Boston Red Sox. Ruth hit his first home run of the season and as a Yankee in the 6th inning with no runners on off Herb Pennock.It is the 12th game of the season in which Ruth will shatter his own old record of 29 season homers by blasting 59. The first eleven games were spent trying too hard or sitting on the bench. Yankees win the game, 6-0.

Landmark Ruthian HR # 4: September 30, 1927 @ Yankee Stadium in New York, Washington @ New York. Ruth blasts HR # 60 off Tom Zachary of the Senators in the 8th inning with one on base. The Yankees win 4-2. And Ruth’s new season record of 60 HR stands for 34 years before Roger Maris of the 1961 Yankees breaks it with his also famous 61* homers.

Landmark Ruthian HR # 5: September 29, 1934 @ Griffith Stadium in Washington. The Yankees lose the home club Senators, but Ruth hits his last home run as a Yankee ,and as an American Leaguer. 1934 season HR # 22 comes off Syd Cohen of the Sens in the 7th with 2 on, but it’s too little too late for the Yanks as they fall, three runs short. Final Score: Senators 8 – New York 5.

Landmark Ruthian HR # 6: April 16, 1935, with Ruth now playing right field for the Boston Braves, it’s Boston @ the New York Giants in the Polo Grounds. Ruth hits his first National League and Braves home run in the 5th inning off the great Carl Hubbell with one on. The first smack for the NL Boston club provides the winning difference in a 4-2 Braves win.

Landmark Ruthian HR #7: May 25, 1935, Braves @ Pirates at Forbes Field in Pittsburgh. The Babe gets the last four hits of his career and three of them are home runs # 712, 713, and 714. The first HR of the day comes off starter Red Lucas in the first with 1 on. The second comes off Guy Bush in the 3rd with one on. And the thrid and last also comes off Guy Bush in the 7th with none on. Pittsburgh still wins the game, 11-7, but Ruth goes 4 for 4 with 3 homers, 3 runs scored, and 6 runs batted in.

As in the 1948 movie, it would have been the perfect time to retire, but that’s not how it played out in reality. Ruth’s incredible last hurrah somehow encouraged him to keep playing through two more road series for the Braves at Cincinnati and Philadelphia. After going 0 for 9 in both places total, Ruth finally hung ’em up, finishing his career with that number “714” that all kid fans grew up with back in the day as the mark of home run excellence.

In summary, Babe Ruth hit 49 home runs for the Boston Red Sox, 659 home runs for the New York Yankees, and 6 for the Boston Braves. That adds up to “714” on your fingers, or an abacus, or a computer. Unless Babe Ruth knew a chemist who was decades ahead of his time, every home run  hit by the great overgrown kid from Baltimore was steroid, but not necessarily alcohol, free.

Babe Ruth is a good way to start out Monday. I need to put that realization into the old memory bank. Have a great week, everybody. And don’t do anything the Babe wouldn’t do.

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7 Responses to “The First and Last Hurrahs of Babe Ruth”

  1. Anthony Cavender Says:

    Ruth hit 59 home runs in 1921-how many will the Astros hit this year?

  2. John Watkins Says:

    Watty Watkins, who went from the Houston sandlots to the St. Louis Cardinals, played seven seasons in the National League during the 1930s, four with the Redbirds. He was with the Philadelphia Phillies in 1935 and participated in two historical games that season.

    One was the major league’s first night game at Crosley Field in Cincinnati. The other was Babe Ruth’s last game.

    At Philadelphia’s Baker Bowl on May 30, Watkins was in left field for the Phillies against the Boston Braves for the opening game of a Memorial Day doubleheader. Ruth, batting third for the Braves, grounded out softly to first baseman Dolph Camilli to end the top of the first. In the bottom half of the inning, Ruth attempted a shoestring catch on Lou Chiozza’s fly ball to left with one on and two out. The Babe missed and the ball rolled to the wall as the runner scored, although Chiozza was thrown out at the plate.

    Putting his glove in his pocket, Ruth trotted to the clubhouse in center field as the crowd gave him a standing ovation. The Phillies went on to win 11-6. The Babe announced his retirement a couple of days later.

    • Bill McCurdy Says:

      John:

      Thanks for that tragic, but wonderfully accurate description of Babe Ruth’s real last game of May 30, 1935. No three home runs and final last one-more-time triumph against the clock of aging here in the reality of the Baker Bowl on that day. Ruth’s long walk off the field on the heels of a deadly error that afternoon must have been hard to watch. In the 1948 movie, “The Babe Ruth Story,” they sort of worked the bum fielding episode into the 1948 fictional last game at Pittsburgh, but they threw in the bad fielding prior to Ruth swatting those three HRs that really did happen on May 25, 1935.

      Wow! And your relative, Watty Watkins, was there to see the whole thing.

      For anyone who’s interested, here’s a link to the Baseball Almanac box score of Babe Ruth’s last game:

      http://www.baseball-almanac.com/box-scores/boxscore.php?boxid=193505301PHI

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  5. Brian Gel Says:

    I can’t tell if your making fun of the movie or Babe. One thing you can’t ever change is Babe Ruth still is today the biggest name in baseball and will be for decades to come. That’s the reason the movie was being made in the first place. I think Roy Del Ruth made a great movie, in fact he only really wanted to make one man happy before he died. Due to Babe’s declining health Roy rushed production. In fact critics then shot down the movie for it’s inaccuracy on facts. But answer this. Have you ever seen a movie about any sportsman from any sport that was 100% accurate. The movie did it’s job if you asked me. Kids saw what they wanted to see and it kept baseball alive with the number 714 in their minds. Thinking they will be the next babe Ruth. The movie just erased all the mistakes babe made in his life or the game. Babe couldn’t do it but at least the movie could. After all he was only human and never got to watch dying in 1948. Plus the 1948 movie is a lot better then what they did to him in the 1992 movie. Remember it was a movie not a documentary.

    • Bill McCurdy Says:

      Brian – I’m sorry you couldn’t see it, but I wasn’t making fun of either the movie or the Babe. Perhaps you took that reference to me being one of the “dumb” kids who saw the movie as a statement of literal disappointment in some kind of betrayal. It wasn’t that at all. As a 10-year old kid in 1948, I got just what I needed from the movie for Babe Ruth to be my hero for life. I stiil cringe when little “Pee Wee” the dog gets hit by Babe’s hard foul ball – and I still get misty-eyed when they are carting Babe down the hospital corridor at movie’s end with the kids singing “Take Me Out To The Ballgame” outside his window. By the time I was old enough to access the whole truth about the Babe, those lessons weren’t all negative. They included all the really incredible things he did on the field and all the many good things he really did for others, and especially for kids. – Be clear, my friend – The Babe will live in my heart for life as the greatest hero in baseball history.

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