Babe Ruth’s Busy Life

Time Never Runs Out on The Babe.

 

How Busy Was The Babe?

First, let’s remember – Babe Ruth was a superstar player with a grinder life schedule most of the year. No player today would be asked to do what he was expected to do back in the mid-1920s. Each season he played a ton of games in spring training that were every bit about gate as they were season skill-honing. Nobody honed the Babe. Yankee manager Miller Huggins just put him in the #3 hole and then sat back like everyone else and watched him blast golden eggs, whether he got to the park on time – or just came in from an all night romp in time to blast a homer in his first eye-rubbing trip to the plate. Give the Yankees a four-hour delay on their pre-season trip home from spring training and they would quickly find a game to play against a jaw-dropping over-matched put-together team of local amateurs before a paying crowd.

Once the 154-game American League season schedule began back in the Babe Ruth 1920s Era, the Yankees would continue to schedule off-days paying gate games against nearby minor league and amateur club, using their front line players, when possible, or Babe Ruth and bench players, if necessary. Either way, there would be a game, every time.

No Ruth. No game. No payday. That simple.

These sidebar risks to injury – or real AL game performance decline due to fatigue – just were not figured into the decision to play all these extra-buck contests. The Yankees were merely like chickens in the yard, pecking up every loose piece of corn they could see.

And That’s Not All

Once the season ended, and that was often with the World Series for the Yankees, Babe Ruth and others were off to play the barnstorming circuit across America on their own. For the balance of post-season October and most of the part of November that leads up to Thanksgiving, clubs like the “Bustin’ Babe” and “Larrupin’ Lou” (for Gehrig) All Stars would each other or others another thirty or forty games in whole or in part – as members of a local club – just so people could watch their daddies play ball with or against – Babe Ruth – or his lesser light major league buddies. Unlike organized white baseball, Babe Ruth and company welcomed the opportunity to cross the color line and play games with some of the ancient greats of the Negro League too. And that’s where the Babe and his white buds got to learn full bore that some excellent great players were being denied their opportunity to play the game on its self-proclaimed “biggest stage.”

Aside from the really racist white players who did not play in games with Negro League barnstormers, there had to be at least as many marginally talented white guys who did play inter-racial games – who saw the color line as the only thing out there protecting their shelf life in the big leagues.

Babe Ruth had nothing to fear from integration. He launched iconic distance homers against some of the best Negro League pitchers. And he struck out in gusto too. He was the Babe. He could play the game like no one else, but like everyone else in the thirty years prior to Jackie Robinson he did all these things, even the greatness of Babe Ruth wasn’t big enough to push aside the deep level of blind ignorance and bigotry that protected racism in the 1920s like the Grand Canyon from the better America that awaited us on the other side of racial change.

I Had A Dream!

“I had a dream …. now fulfilled by men named Robinson, DiMaggio, Doby, Williams, Paige, Musial, Irvin, Mantle, Mays, Kaline, Aaron, Aparicio, Clemente, and so many others …. that one day …. the greatest baseball players of all time shall meet on the same field with each other …. and not have the sides they played for determined by the color of their skins …. whether that color happened to be black …. white …. brown …. or whatever! …. And may the team of best color-blind strength and ability emerge victorious as the ultimate triumph of justice in human effort! …. I had a dream!”

~ MLK didn’t actually include this stanza, but he could have.

The Year Babe Ruth Hit 104 Home Runs

“The Year Babe Ruth Hit 104 Home Runs” is the playful title of Bill Jenkinson’s wonderful 2007 book. It chronicles the official activity level of Babe Ruth in 399 pages, 412 pages, if you include it’s jewel of an index for further research. The author could just as well have called it any year he picked during Ruth’s 1920-1934 Yankees career, maybe cutting a little fat off the earliest and latest years in that fabled run. Even the Babe had to wind up for starters and wear down as eventuals.

And the activity only side-brushes the amount of time and energy that Ruth spent dealing with the public on these side jaunts – signing baseballs, taking pictures, shaking hands, visiting sick kids, and even make short speeches. And this doesn’t explain either how Babe found time to work in his compulsive pursuits of debauchery that flew into high gear priority for the Babe during his early and mid-career years. Chalk those up to the magnetic pull that “wine, women, and song” had upon Babe Ruth during his salad days. Nothing ever opens a closed and rusty locked gate that stands between supply and demand faster than the driving forces of addiction – and Ruth had his full load bag of things he compulsively required in his pursuit of happiness to the point of addiction on a close to daily basis.

All that. And 714 career home runs. The public loved him in 1927. And we still love him in 2017.

And September 30, 2017 is the 90th anniversary date of Babe Ruth’s 60th one-season home run record. The record lasted until 1961, when Roger Maris broke the mark by hitting 61*

* The record fell in the first season of the new 162 game season and was hit by Roger Maris on October 1, 1961, in the last game of the new longer season.

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Check out a copy of Jenkinson’s book too. You probably will find a used copy for sale on Amazon or E-Bay.

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Bill McCurdy

Principal Writer, Editor, Publisher

The Pecan Park Eagle

 

 

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