Who was Joe Mowry?

Joe Mowry

Joe Mowry

 

Who was Joe Mowry?

Joe Mowry was born in St. Louis, Missouri on April 6, 1908. After attending the University of Iowa, the 6’2″, 198 lb. athlete became a professional baseball player back in the 1930s and pre-war 1940s. His major league career consisted only of the 192 games he played for the Boston Braves in parts of two and all of one season. From 1933 to 1935, the switch-hitting, right hand throwing outfielder played as a reserve member of the roster for the Boston Braves, batting .233 with 2 HR for his brief big league career. For his ten season minor league career (1931-34, 1936-41), Mowry hit .328 in 908 games for several teams, also finishing with 70 career minor league home runs.

Joe Mowry’s big, but usually forgotten moment in baseball came in a game the Braves lost to the Pirates, 11-7, at Forbes Field in Pittsburgh in the afternoon of May 25, 1935, but it wasn’t  for anything he actually did by his own ability. It was for the man he replaced in one of the most legendary ordinary games in baseball history. That was the date of Babe Ruth’s “Last Hurrah” as a home run hitter. It was the day the “on-his-last-legs” Babe showed one last time as the greatest slugger of them all, crushing 3 monster home runs, and also his last career home runs #s 712, 713, and 714 – and on one a day in which a fourth hit gave him a perfect game at the plate – one capped off with 6 RBI.

It’s been often lamented that real life could not have done with this moment what the script writers did with it in the 1948 flick, “The Babe Ruth Story.”

Who would have believed it?

In the film, Ruth (played by William Bendix) has to settle for a single in his last time at bat and – at the same time – he comes to the lucid understanding, as he stumbles his way to first base, that this is the time to call it quits. In the movie, Ruth calls over to the Braves bench, signaling to his “up-until-the-three-homers-moment, critical-of-him” understudy to come take his place at first as a pinch runner.

In fiction, Babe Ruth is taking himself out of his last ever glorious game – and rightly so, turning baseball over to the next generation.

The kid (presumably Joe Mowry) runs over to take Ruth’s place as the pinch runner, but the Babe can see that the young man is feeling badly about his previous trash talk about Ruth as a has-been. Before “Mowry” can really apologize to Ruth, the Babe picks up on his mood and says something close to this paraphrase: “It’s your time now, kid. Don’t worry about it. If you take care of baseball, baseball will take care of you.”

Of course, that was the irony lost on me when I first saw the movie at age 10. This is also the time in the story line in which Babe Ruth finally realizes that the Braves were never serious about naming him their next manager, as he supposedly had been led to believe, and that they only had acquired him from the Yankees as a boost to the gate – and clearly not as a positive example of how baseball takes care of its own to those who serve the best interests of baseball by their high level of play.

Reality, of course, has been overrun by the legendary movie ending over the years. A large number of people today actually think that the 3-Homers-in-Pittsburgh show was Babe Ruth’s actual sweet adieu – and the last game of his storied career.

It wasn’t.

Babe Ruth played 5 more games after “Pittsburgh” – going 0 for 9 official times at bat, and 0 for 13 in total plate appearances before he actually played his actually last game  at the Baker Bowl in Philadelphia on May 30, 1935. (This paragraph was edited for accuracy and clarity on 3/15/2016.  In our original statement, we errored in stating that Ruth went 0 for 13 in his last 13 times at bat. We meant to say 0 for 13 in his last total plate appearances. He was 0 for 9 in official times at bat after the big game at Forbes Field.-  Our apologies.)

Joe Mowry never knew a bigger day in baseball than the time he replaced Babe Ruth in right field, late in the 3-homer game.

There also is no evidence we’ve found that Mowry ever bad-mouthed the aging Babe Ruth in reality – as the anonymous younger teammate in the 1948 Ruth film so completely did. There’s also hardly any proof, either, that many people today remember that Joe Mowry was the guy who took Ruth’s place in the field in 1935 during his last “big” game.

Joe Mowry died at the age of 85 in St. Louis, Missouri on February 9, 1994.

____________________

 eagle-0rangeBill McCurdy

Publisher, Editor, Writer

The Pecan Park Eagle

Houston, Texas

https://bill37mccurdy.com/

 

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