Teddy and The Babe: Only One Was a Writer

Babe Ruth 1935 Boston Braves

Babe Ruth
1935 Boston Braves

 

Ted Williams wrote the best exit line possible on his final plate appearance. Babe Ruth wasn’t able to play the best hand ever dealt to a great ballplayer for going out in style. It was so good a hand, in fact, that most fans remember it today as the movies portrayed it – and not as it actually happened.

Why didn’t Babe Ruth retire after that famous game at Forbes Field in Pittsburgh on May 25, 1935 when he crushed 3 mighty home runs? Until that game, everything the Babe had done for his new Boston Braves club had spelled it was time. He couldn’t hit, couldn’t move around well enough to field or runs the bases, and, if that weren’t enough, it was abundantly clear to the Babe that the Braves were not going to promote him to manager, as they had indicated when he accepted the trade to Boston from the Yankees. Heck! Even the 1948 William Bendix version of the “The Babe Ruth Story” showed the 3-Homer Day as his dramatic last game of ball. – It simply wasn’t true. Babe Ruth struggled through five more games beyond the big one, going 0 for 9 in the process, and eventually taking himself out after 1 last failed time at bat on MAY 30, 1935.

Babe Ruth’s Last 6 MLB Games for the 1935 Boston Braves *

1935 GAME POS AB R H RBI 2BH 3BH HR GAME BA
MAY 25 L 7-11 @ PGH RF 4 3 4 6 0 0 3 1.000
MAY 26 L 3-6 @ CIN LF 4 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000
MAY 27 L 5-9 @ CIN PH 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000
MAY 28 L 4-13 @ CIN LF 2 1 0 0 0 0 0 .000
MAY 29 W 8-6 @ PHI LF 2 1 0 1 0 0 0 .000
MAY 30 L 6-11 @ PHI LF 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000
TOTALS MAY 25 GAME RF 4 3 4 6 0 0 3 1.000
TOTALS LAST 5 G’S OF-PH 9 2 0 1 0 0 0 .000
TOTALS ALL 6 G’S OF-PH 13 5 4 7 0 0 3 .308
  • Chart data derived from the research material available at Baseball Almanac.com.

Babe Ruth was a human being – managed by other human beings. As a ballplayer, he was an actor in the play about his own life. He was not the author or screenplay writer of his glorious baseball career. Had he been the screenwriter, he would have written it as they did for the 1948 William Bendix bio film: He hits the three mighty Forbes Field homers. Then he singles, almost stumbling as he works hard to reach first. Then he takes himself out of the game, calling for a young outfielder to take his place at first. The rookie reaches the Babe bearing a chastened look. He had been trash mouthing the Babe all through the game as a washed up guy who was standing in the way of his own playing time. And now the humble newbie is asking, as he reaches the bag: “Did you call for me, Babe?”

“Yeah, Kid I called for you,” Babe Ruth answers (in so many words). “I want you to take my place here at first. It’s your time now. Give baseball all you’ve got. Take care of the game. And baseball will take care of you.”

Then the Babe trots off the field and never plays again.

Regardless of what you may have thought of the first “Babe Ruth Story” movie, the screenwriter got it right. That’s when Babe Ruth should have walked away from the game, but he did not. In reality, as the six-game chart we derived from Baseball Almanac shows, he played three more games against the Reds and two more against the Phillies, both sets on the road, before he finally gave it up for good in Philly on May 30, 1935. He had taken himself out of that final game after one unsuccessful time at bat and finally quit – adding an 0 for 9 official at bat skein on the tail of the big 3-homer game that could have been his spotlight swan song five days earlier.

Ted Williams Boston Red Sox 1939-42, 1946-60.

Ted Williams
Boston Red Sox
1939-42, 1946-60.

Had Babe Ruth been the script writer that Ted Williams proved himself to be after his last game ever at Fenway Park in 1960, who knows what he might have written? The “called shot” in the 1932 World Series was pretty good, but Ruth didn’t write that pipe dream. The sports writers did. And, even if he did write it, it wasn’t his Act III closing line. Let’s look at Ted Williams for an education on how the spotlights line up for an exit walk off stage right that no one shall ever forget.

Williams was a real student of all the great hitters. He almost certainly could have had the obvious thought about Babe Ruth’s timing when he proceeded to play five dud games beyond his peerless moment in Pittsburgh.

“He could’ve gone out as the only great hitter in history to hit 3 home runs in his last major league game!” Now there’s no proof that Ted Williams ever thought or said that to himself, or anyone else, for that matter, but given what he did in 1960 in his own last time at bat as a major leaguer in 1960, it  does shed a little support for the calculations that Williams made of his own choice for a memorable exit statement. At age 42 going into the season, it was public knowledge that Williams was playing ball for one last season because Ted did not want with a career line score that showed him batting .254 for 1959. And he already had assured himself that 1960 was allowing him to leave with a healthy .300 plus batting average. When Williams took his place for one last time in left field at Fenway Park for the Red Sox on Wednesday afternoon, September 28, 1960, in a final home game with Baltimore, Boston only had a three game series with the Yankees at The Stadium left to finish the 1960 season with everything important in the standings settled. The Yankees already had clinched the AL pennant; the Red Sox could no longer rise above or fall below the number 7 spot in a league of 8 teams.

It’s called “playing out the string,” folks.

Going into the bottom of the 8th with the Baltimore Orioles leading 4-2, 42-year old Ted Williams came to the plate with nobody on to face 21-year old right hander Jack Fisher. He had been hitless in two official at bats on the day and everyone figured that this would be his last plate appearance at Fenway, unless a big home rally or a tied game dragged the ending into extras.

On a 1-1 pitch, Williams suddenly unloaded on a Fisher pitch with one his signature high fly balls to right. This one was destined for the Red Sox bullpen for Ted’s 29th home run of the year. It also moved Williams’  batting average up to a respectable .319.

Williams wanted the Boston fans to remember them, but he never could bring himself as a player to accept their love. Too many public harangues between Williams and the media, and with some rowdy taunting fans from early on, had soured him on ever acknowledging anyone else at moments of this kind. He again refused to tip his cap to the fans during his brisk home run trot around the plate – nor would he come out of the dugout after the homer to acknowledge their recognition.

The Red Sox rallied for 2 in the bottom of the 9th to defeat the Orioles, 5-4, with no further help from Ted Williams. It was shortly after the game that the Red Sox had played his last game in the big leagues. He would not even make the trip to New York for the last three game series of the year. If fans wanted to remember his last game, Williams would leave them with the memories that he played 21 years for the Red Sox, and that he was now retiring as the last big leaguer to have hit .400 (.406 in 1941) in one season, and that he batted .319 with 29 homers as a 42-year old guy who even homered in his last time at bat as a major leaguer.

Ted Williams knew how to write his own screenplay; Babe Ruth did not.

____________________

eagle-0range
 Bill McCurdy

Publisher, Editor, Writer

The Pecan Park Eagle

 

 

 

 

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One Response to “Teddy and The Babe: Only One Was a Writer”

  1. Cliff Blau Says:

    Babe didn’t retire after the 3-homer game because the Braves asked him to wait. Several clubs had promoted his appearance and he didn’t want to disappoint the fans in those cities.

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