Did Ruth Call His Shot in Chicago?

Wrigley Field, Chicago Game 3, World Series 5th Inning October 1, 1932

Wrigley Field, Chicago
Game 3, World Series
5th Inning
October 1, 1932

I’m sorry, but I choose to ask it one more time, one of the most over-asked and over-worked questions in baseball history: Did Babe Ruth really call his shot in the 5th inning of Game Three in the 1932 World Series at Wrigley Field in Chicago? The answer is about as rhetorical as the query  that is so flippantly applied these days to all things obvious, “Is the Pope Catholic?”

Did Ruth really predict his 440 foot home rune to deep center field that day off Cubs pitcher Charlie Root? The answer is plain by now, or should be: ~ No! Not only “No!”, but “Hell, no!”

After more than eighty years of selective media myth-building, rational evidence-building to the contrary, and plenty of off-the-cuff denigrating comment by players who were there that October 1, 1932 afternoon in Chicago, the person who still thinks Ruth called his shot is right in there with the Mills Commission and its selection of Abner Doubleday and Cooperstown as the proven inventor and definitive home of baseball’s first game.

The whole “called shot” thing was set in motion by writer Joe Williams of the New York World-Telegram, who wrote the following headline for his same day story of Game Three: “RUTH CALLS SHOT AS HE PUTS HOME RUN NO. 2 IN SIDE POCKET.” In his article, Williams described events this way: “In the fifth, with the Cubs riding him unmercifully from the bench, Ruth pointed to center and punched a screaming liner to a spot where no ball had been hit before.” The words of the lone cherished writer who took that angle were like flint upon flint in a small pocket of sawdust-textured myth. The thing just grew into baseball’s version of the 2nd Great Chicago Fire.

For me, the greatest confirming evidence to the ruse would have been to have had one hundred ear witnesses to the following exchange between Babe Ruth and pitcher Charlie Root in 1942:

In 1942, during the making of The Pride of the YankeesBabe Herman (who was at that time a teammate of Root with the minor league Hollywood Stars) was on the movie set as a double for both Ruth (who played himself in most scenes) and Gary Cooper (who played Lou Gehrig). Herman re-introduced Root and Ruth on set and the following exchange (later recounted by Herman to baseball historian Donald Honig), took place:

  • Root: “You never pointed out to center field before you hit that ball off me, did you?”
  • Ruth: “I know I didn’t, but it made a hell of a story, didn’t it?”

Root went to his grave vehemently denying that Ruth ever pointed to center field. 

– Wikipedia …  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Babe_Ruth’s_called_shot





12 Responses to “Did Ruth Call His Shot in Chicago?”

  1. Bob Hulsey Says:

    A Chicago man in the stands that day shot a film of the game that was unearthed about 30 years ago. It has been blown up and slowed down. Though grainy and not conclusive, it seems to indicate Babe was pointing his finger at the Cubs dugout along third and responding to hecklers, not pointing towards center field, certainly not in the way William Bendix did back in The Babe Ruth Story.

    • Bill McCurdy Says:

      Bob –

      After Bendix and the Babe Ruth Story, all the kids on our sandlot were doing the same thing we saw Bill Bendix do as The Babe. We would defiantly jab that finger to center on every pitch we thought we could hit, sometimes delivering the goods on our pee wee size versions of the called monster shot. It felt so, so, very, very good.

  2. Mark W. Says:

    Two home movies now have been found documenting this event. It is clear that Ruth is pointing to center field. Note the angle of the shadow in this still from the movie footage. The shadow’s edge runs almost parallel to the third base line. If Ruth was pointing to the dugout, his arm and finger should extend downward towards the shadow. But his arm and finger are angling upward and away from the shadow, Also, if you draw a straight line along the plane of Ruth’s arm and finger, the trajectory follows a path above Root’s head (Root isn’t visible in this still but is in the original footage) and just to the left of the second baseman. I’ve studied this six ways to Sunday. Most people now agree that he pointed to center field. The debate has shifted to whether he said, “I’m going to hit a homerun to center field” or not. Gabby Hartnett, who certainly was close enough to hear, claimed Ruth said, “It only takes one to hit it!” Whatever he said, the gesture of pointing to centerfield – in the video he cocks and points three times, quite emphatically the third time – is stunning and unheard-of enough for a pro baseball player to forever be etched in public consciousness. Who does that? In a world series game at that?

  3. Mark W. Says:

    Forgot the link to the still:

  4. Mark W. Says:

    Not exactly a still … you have to stop the video.

  5. Anthony Cavender Says:

    Was there a contemporary report in the New York Times? John Drebinger of the Times followed the Yankees very closely–and Dan Daniel or Fred Lieb? The newsreel footage is interspersed with crowd scenes cheering the Babe, which is not the reaction you would expect to see from a Wrigley Field crowd. I believe that Supreme Court Justice Stevens, who attended the game (as did FDR I believe), agreed that the Babe called his shot.
    Lots of fun to speculate.

  6. Greg Lucas Says:

    The video is an edit as was done in those days. The “pointing” was a still shot edited in. He did point, exactly where and what he was saying at the time is lost in history for the most part.

  7. Wayne Roberts Says:

    Regardless, Ruth swung and threw like a man whereas William Bendix, perhaps the worst casting call until Tony Perkins in “Fear Strikes Out” threw like a 3 year old…I can’t watch those awful movies. This is a fun argument, no more resolvable than abortion vs pro-life, which is not fun.

    • Bill McCurdy Says:

      Wayne ~ “Worst Actor-Athlete of All Time” would make great ice house talk or good column fodder. You mentioned my favorite worst in Tony Perkins. He did throw like a 3-year old in “Fear Strikes Out” – or worse – that dad in the recent commercial who is showing his son how to play catch. – As for Bendix, he went up a little on my list a few years ago when I read that he did hit one into the right field stands in BP at Yankee Stadium. Then I remembered that old Yankee stadium was 297′ down the right field line.

  8. Mark W. Says:

    Greg, where did you get the information that the video is edited? I have never heard that. I don’t think it can be correct. And there are two, completely separate videos, both showing Ruth pointing. They are home movies that sat in people’s storage trunks for decades before being viewed and understood as historically precious artifacts. I exchanged e-mails with the grandson of one of the videographers, Matt kandle. I’m awfully confident neither video has been edited.

  9. Mark W. Says:

    Bill, I busted a gut laughing the first time I saw that commercial.

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