Did Ruth Really Call His Shot in the 1932 Series?

The Sultan of Swat Did he or didn't he, call his shot?

The Sultan of Swat
Did he or didn’t he, call his shot?

Did Babe Ruth really call his shot at Wrigley Field in the 1932 World Series?

The answer may rest with what you most prefer, a good story or the certifiable truth? Or you may simply be too bowled over by the volume of romantic writing that has come down upon us over the eighty plus years that have passed since Ruth supposedly called his shot on Cubs pitcher Charlie Root by pointing his finger toward the center field wall and then, following that arguably real display of arrogance, crushing the very next pitch from Root over that same central fence for a home run.

https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=BABE+RUTH%27S+%281932+WS%29+CALLED+HOME+RUN+SHOT%27+RARE+VIDEO+%26+COMMENTARY

How much light this little film shines upon the truth about what really happened is hard to gleam from either the pictures or the comments of these ancient thinkers and eyewitnesses to history. Ruth’s teammate, pitcher Lefty Gomez, apparently acknowledges that the argument may never be settled, but that he prefers to believe that Ruth truly did call his shot. Billy Herman, the Cubs’ future Hall of Fame 2nd baseman, states that Ruth used his arm-extended pointed finger at the Cubs’ dugout to note that he only had two strikes on him after the umpire’s last call.”

My favorite reason for disbelieving Ruth’s called shot isn’t covered in the film. Pitcher Charlie Root convinced me years ago in far fewer words than we shall use here to paraphrase his answer to the question: “Did Babe Ruth call his shot in Chicago?”

“You gotta be kidding me,” Root uttered, but in far less genteel words that I am paraphrasing here. “If Ruth had jabbed his fist and finger in the air as his signal that he planned to hit the next pitch for a home run to center field, do you really think I would have given him the pitch he got in the film to hit for that homer? – I saw him pointing to the dugout. The Cubs bench was really going after him, but he wasn’t pointing at me. If I had thought that Ruth was calling me out – in any bragging way, the next pitch he would have gotten from me would have left him sprawling in the dirt around home plate – and unable to hit anything!”

Charlie’s reasoning simply made a whole lot of sense. It doesn’t feed our hunger for romance, but it sure fits well with how the game used to be played by pitchers, even if the batter was the great Babe Ruth.

____________________

MARCH 1, 2016 ~ ADDENDUM MATERIAL BY SABR FRIEND AND COLLEAGUE, MARK WERNICK

Mark tried to leave all of this material in two posts as a comment upon this article, but due to a glitch in the WordPress website, he was thrown into one of those damnable Internet digital loops in which the more you try, the harder you stand still.

Our lucky break. Mark Wernick’s comments deserve to be up here as an addendum to the Ruth Called Shot story. ~ They could easily stand alone as a column unto themselves, but they substance they contribute here is a wonderful expansion of the topic started here. ~ Thanks, Mark, for this real contribution of merit:

Roger Snell,  who wrote a book about the  1929 Cubs and Charlie Root,  said the following:  “I actually viewed the entire original film in Kirk Kandle’s Louisville home. Babe was waving his hand toward the Cub dugout and also made a motion like pointing a handgun at Charlie before the pitch when Hartnett said he had one more pitch. “Highly controversial” means two strongly opposing views of honest and earnest factions. My book was about the 1929 season. Charlie Root should be remembered for more than this one pitch in 1932. I read every single same-day newspaper account I could find of reporters actually at the game. All details are in the conclusion of my book. It is sad that Root’s name is never mentioned as the winningest Cub pitcher in franchise history.”  
          I wrote back to him and said the following:
          I have a copy of the Kandle home movie, and I have seen the Harold Warp home movie of the called shot as well. The first home movie of the event was discovered by the Kandle family among the effects of their grandfather after his death in the 1970s. It’s likely his relatives didn’t immediately realize that he had recorded on film the most hotly debated event in baseball history, even after multiple viewings, because the film didn’t come to public attention until the 1980s. Prior to the widespread awareness of these films, the controversy and debate was over the question of pointing, with naysayers insisting that Ruth never pointed or gestured, and others insisting he did. After seeing the irrefutable evidence of Ruth pointing, the naysayers shifted their argument, insisting that Ruth was pointing at the Cubs dugout or towards the stands in left field. But this argument was easily refuted by simple geometry. The still photo of the point shows a lengthy shadow cast along the lower portion of the frame, and the angle of the shadow cuts across the foul line. If Ruth was pointing towards the dugout, his arm would be at least parallel to the shadow,  if not intersecting it; instead, the position of his arm near the socket is about 30 degrees above the shadow and angles upward and away from the shadow, reaching about 40 degrees at his fingertip.
          So once the evidence clearly showed that Ruth was pointing in the direction of Root and center field, the naysayers insisted that Ruth was pointing at Root. (Which is a helluva gesture unto itself, don’t you think?) However, Root’s back is to Ruth and Ruth easily must be aware that Root doesn’t see him at that moment, standing as he is in the center of Ruth’s field of vision. It seems rather unlikely that Ruth would be pointing at a man who wasn’t looking at him. What’s left is for naysayers to complain that it’s a disservice to Root to make such a fuss about Ruth pointing defiantly at center field and then hitting a home run, forcing people to remember Root for the wrong thing. Roger, I wish with great respect to differ from that belief. I can’t speak for Charlie Root, but speaking for myself, I would be greatly honored to be associated with the memory of this event if I was the pitcher. Root was a fine pitcher and perhaps he was the greatest pitcher in Cubs history. (Jake Arrieta may yet have something to say about that.) But I’d say it’s a very reasonable bet that had Ruth never pointed in that ballgame, Root would at best be remembered by members of his family and maybe some close friends and a few Chicago baseball aficionados, but most folks wouldn’t remember him any better than they remember Tony Freitas, who won 373 games in his professional career. Now Root is an immortal and respected part of baseball lore.”
          So,  to reiterate,  if you look closely at the still photo of Ruth pointing,  three important things are immediately evident:  1) Charlie Root’s back is to Ruth.  Root is facing the outfield while Ruth is pointing,  so Root could not have seen Ruth point.  2) Gabby Hartnett is facing umpire Roy Van Graflan.  So Hartnett’s back also is to Root.    And so,  they could not have seen where Ruth was pointing.  (How ironic it is that neither the Cubs pitcher nor their catcher was looking at Ruth at precisely one of baseball’s most historically significant moments.)  3) The geometry of the photo,  as detailed above,  confirms the direction of the pointing towards center field.  
          All my nay saying friends can take comfort in knowing that we’ll probably never unearth audio evidence of precisely what Ruth said at that moment.  So for now,  Gabby Hartnett’s insistence that Ruth’s words were:  “It only takes one to hit it”,  while pointing towards center field with two strikes on him,  can be construed as evidence that Ruth didn’t really call his shot.  Consider, however,  that while it’s mighty unlikely Ruth said he’s going to put the next pitch over the center field fence next to the flag pole,  as he asserts in his retrospective comments,  what he did do, as visually evident and as asserted by Gabby Hartnett,  is plenty audacious enough.  
         
          Who else in the universe points to center field with two strikes in a world series game in front of a furious, screaming full house road audience and says loud enough for the opposing catcher to hear him,  “It only takes one to hit it”?  Is that not audacious enough for all eternity?  And we have him pointing – towards center field – on film!  I’d love to have that on color video replay,  but I feel blessed that we have the celluloid of Mr. Kandle and Mr. Warp.  And it only took 50 years to discover those films.
          There is an alleged surviving radio broadcast,  although I’ve heard pro and con re: whether it’s a reproduction or the real thing.  I’ll see if I can find a link.
~Above Addendum material (in Italicized lettering) by Mark Wernick.

____________________

 eagle-0range Bill McCurdy

Publisher, Editor, Writer

The Pecan Park Eagle

Houston, Texas

https://bill37mccurdy.com/

 

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4 Responses to “Did Ruth Really Call His Shot in the 1932 Series?”

  1. stanfromtacoma Says:

    Too bad the radio call has not been preserved. Tom Manning and Gene Elson did play by play of the 32 WS but sadly it was not preserved. There is boxing from that era that has been saved but no baseball. The Gene Tunney long count from 1927 can be heard today but not Babe’s called shot from the 32 WS. The earliest baseball broadcast that I know of that has been preserved is the 1934 All-Star game that Babe Ruth played in. It is the only broadcast of a game in which the Babe played that has been preserved. It is a mystery to me why that is so. The WS was as big an event in those days as a heavyweight prize fight yet none of those broadcasts were preserved. How great would it be to hear Gene Elson or Tom Manning describing Babe’s at bat against Charly Root? BTW Gene Elson (not to be confused with Houston’s Gene Elston) broadcast White Sox games on the radio into the -1960’s.

  2. gregclucas Says:

    Bob Elson..famed Chicago voice…that was his first name.

  3. stanfromtacoma Says:

    Greg, you are right. Bon Elson was around for a long time. I have a tape of him calling a White Sox game in 1967 and a cd of him doing play by play in the 1941 WS. Houston’s Gene Elston had a long career too. Vin Scully, Jack Buck, Ernie Harwell, Milo Hamilton and many others— if a person makes it to the top to broadcast Major League Baseball, it seems like they stick around for a lot of years.

  4. Beam Us Back, Babe! We Need the Truth! | The Pecan Park Eagle Says:

    […] Astros, Baseball History, and other Musings of Heart and Humor « Did Ruth Really Call His Shot in the 1932 Series? […]

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