The 5-Game Shadow on Ruth’s Last Big Game

The 5-Game Shadow on Ruth’s Last Big Game

The 5-Game Shadow on Ruth’s Last Big Game


Stronger Than Fiction.

When the aging Babe Ruth suddenly arose from the ashes of greatness on May 25, 1935, like the famous Phoenix fire bird, the door to his glorious departure from the game by twilight loomed as easy to see as a three-spotlight path route to his exiting stage right of baseball forever that same day. The 40-year old Ruth had been struggling all of the early 1935 season of his inglorious once-only season with the Boston Braves. And things were physically wobbly and mentally wearing. The Babe had only three home runs and a sub-.200 batting average to show for his out of shape effort – and his fielding was both slow and atrocious. Until this day, people who bought a ticket to see the great Babe Ruth in 1935 only got to witness the locust shell of the guy who once devoured pitchers like amber grains of wheat.

Suddenly, Ruth must have been struck by a lightning bolt from the baseball gods version of Zeus at Forbes Field. Suddenly, Ruth was as great as ever – one more time. He would hit 3 home runs on the day, one of which was the first to ever clear the right field roof that had been added in 1925. He also had a single mixed in there to go 4 for 4 on the day with 3 runs scored and 6 runs batted in. His last homer, a solo shot in the ninth, also took him to his magical “714” career HR number, the baseball record that would last until Henry Aaron it as an “Atlanta” Brave in 1974.

As everyone now knows, there could not have been a better day for Ruth to retire, but did he do the obvious, did he do a James Durante “Goodnight, Mrs. Kalibash, wherever you are” exit forever to a roar of loving affection – from even the fans in Pittsburgh? – From all accounts, even the Pirate fans were prepared to give him that kind of deserved and classy send-off.

No, Ruth did not.

The Human Ego Has a Mind of its Own.

Everybody has an ego – and the more we run on pride alone, the more the ego gets in the way of both common sense and an acceptance of our limitations. Nobody plays baseball forever, not even the great Babe Ruth. In the case of Ruth, as detailed yesterday in the column, “Who Was Joe Mowry?”, it was easy for this 10-year old kid in 1948 to believe the William Bendix movie version of “The Babe Ruth Story” fiction that Ruth took himself out of the 3-HR game and did retire that same day.

Again, he did not.

For Ruth, our guess is that two things probably kept him going, but they are both ego defensive stands: (1) Ruth’s ego may have wanted him to believe that his big day meant that he still had some gas for greatness left in the tank; and (2) Ruth knew that retirement might be resented by the Braves owner (Lou Perini) – and make it easier for Perini to kill any remaining hope the Babe still held for becoming the club’s manager in the near future.

After the 3-HR game in Pittsburgh, Ruth simply got on the train with the Braves and continued on to Cincinnati for a 3-game series with the Reds.

The Five Shadow Games.

It took five more games for Babe Ruth to reach an even more obvious painful conclusion that it was time to retire. The following table shows it best in short form. After the big game in Pittsburgh, Ruth would get no more major league hits. He went o for 9 in official times at bat and hitless in his total of 13 plate appearances.

Here’s the line on the missed golden moment exit game – and the five shadow games that followed:


5/25/35 PGH RF 4 3 4 6 0 0 3 0 0 0 0
Last 5 G
5/26/35 CIN LF 4 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
5/27/35 CIN PH O O O O O O O 1 0 0 0
5/28/35 CIN LF 2 1 0 0 0 0 0 2 0 0 0
5/29/35 PHI LF 2 1 0 1 0 0 0 1 0 0 0
5/30/35 PHI LF 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Ttl Last 5 G 9 2 0 1 0 0 0 4 0 0 0


The “Breaking Bad” Moment for Babe Ruth.

It happened on May 30, 1935 in a game the Braves played against the Phillies at the Baker Bowl in Philadelphia. Babe Ruth started the game in left field for the Braves and made the third out in the top of the first on an easy unassisted ground ball out to Phillies first baseman Dolph Camilli. Ruth then retrieved his glove and trotted out to left field. Although we don’t know, Ruth probably was unaware that he was about to play his last three outs of a very long and significant baseball career.

In the first, Phillies’ second baseman Lou Chiozza lifted a dying quail fly ball to left field. As best he could, Ruth came running in, trying to make the catch for the out. He simply couldn’t get there in time. The ball touched down on the clumpy hard grass in front of Ruth, and caromed past him, on a fairly speedy roll. This ball had booked a ticket to the wall as Ruth turned for it in hapless pursuit.

A base runner scored, but the lucky Chiozza wanted it more. He was going all out for an inside-the-park home run. “You can’t always get what you want” has been true forever.

Braves shortstop Bill Urbanski retrieved the ball and got it to the plate on a clothesline throw to Braves catcher Al Spohrer.  Spohrer got it in time for the swift slap tag out on the ambitious Chiozza, but the Braves blood had been spilled early. The Phillies scored three quick runs in the first inning. They would go on to take the game from the Braves by 11-6.

What Happened Next.

In an article for the Philadelphia Athletics Fan Club site back in 2005, writer Bob Warrington quoted Rich Westcott, who described what happened next in his book, “Philadelphia’s Old Ballparks”. These two sentences are an unfortunately bare, but eloquently empty statement of how the career of the great Babe Ruth came to a screeching halt at the end of the first inning at the Baker Bowl on May 30, 1935:

“As the inning ended, Ruth tucked his glove in his pocket, turned, and ran to the clubhouse in center field. The fans, sensing that the end of a glorious career might have arrived, rose and gave Ruth a standing ovation.” ~ Rich Westcott, “Philadelphia’s Old Ballparks.”

Babe Ruth never played another out of baseball. It was over.

On June 2, 1935, Ruth was given his unconditional release by the Boston Braves. He responded by formally announcing his retirement from baseball.

Nobody’s Perfect.

You should enjoy the article by Bob Warrington, but be mindful of one error. The Braves did not go from Pittsburgh directly to Philadelphia, as Warrington reports. After Pittsburgh, they first played a three game series in Cincinnati. Then they went to Philadelphia. – We forgive you, Bob. We don’t know anyone among us who is free from mistakes in baseball research and writing. One way or another, the truth is what we all seek – and making errors over the long haul of any worthwhile effort is certainly not restricted to playing baseball over the full season.

Here’s the link to Bob Warrington’s article, which we found both interesting and helpful to the ends of this column.

The Babe’s Last Game


eagle-0rangeBill McCurdy

Publisher, Editor, Writer

The Pecan Park Eagle

Houston, Texas


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