Babe Ruth’s 1st Batting Strikeout

Willie Mitchell, LHP
Cleveland Naps, 1914
~ Was this the glove that Willie Mitchell wore when he struck out Babe Ruth for the first time in his first MLB plate appearance?


No big surprise. If a rookie batter takes two high and tight ones on his first couple of big league pitches, he shouldn’t be too shocked to see the third throw bending in low and tight to the outside black ~ or maybe even moving a tad further away into that unreachable, but still swinger-attractive space in the outside dirt ~ but the rook swings anyway ~ part out of some primitive desire to get even for those first two close shaves ~ and the other part out of that most often ill-founded hope to do something that shows his new team that he can put the bat on the ball of any pitch the guy on the mound throws.

He misses. ~ The count’s now 2 and 1.

The fourth pitch is a low-moving fastball in the high 90s. A way-too-late swinging miss moves the count to 2 and 2.

The next pitch comes in looking just like the last one. The rook swings hard ~ but he swings far too soon and gets nothing but air ~ and the registration of his first strikeout as a big league hitter. ~ It was a deliciously cruel change up that did him in.

Some guys don’t last much longer than that hypothetical first time at bat. Others do because they learn and get better ~ or because they simply sell tickets by killing the ball often enough to be sufficiently valuable to a Congo-Line based AL power offense ~ or because they possess certain other skills on defense or as pitchers that keep them employed ~ in the NL, at least.

Today’s subject again is Babe Ruth ~ a fellow who struck out 1,330 times as a batter in his 22-season (1914-1935) MLB career. The first time happened at Fenway Park in Boston on July 11, 1914, when Babe Ruth made his debut for the Red Sox as a 19-year old rookie, pitching his club to a 4-3 win over the visiting Cleveland Naps.

Ruth pitched 7 innings that day, getting his first MLB win in his first try, but it didn’t come easy. Here’s how the New York Times reported it the following day, July 12, 1914:

“Ruth, formerly of Baltimore, made his debut and held Cleveland to five scattered hits in the first six innings. In the seventh three singles and a sacrifice netted two runs for Cleveland and tied the score.

“Ruth was lifted in the bottom of the inning for pinch hitter Duffy Lewis, who reached base and scored the go-ahead run. Boston went on to win 4-3, with Ruth picking up the win.”

Willie Mitchell

The Babe also picked up his first MLB strikeout in his first time at bat against the Cleveland lefty starter, Willie Mitchell of Sardis, Mississippi. Mitchell lived until 1973, keeping a glove that he may have been wearing on that day in 1914 he achieved that lesser known moment he struck out the destined-for-greatness Babe Ruth. Mitchell’s wife later donated the glove featured here to a historic museum in Jackson, Mississippi.

In spite of some knowledgeable-sounding debate over the actual age of the Williams glove, no one ever has been able to confirm or eliminate the possibility that the glove featured here is the actual glove that held the actual game ball prior to that orb’s first trip past Ruth for an historic “K” event.

The dilemma is a beautiful confirmation, nevertheless, of the fact that most people don’t seem to live life with much interest in preserving history until the logical people who may have been able to confirm the truth have passed away. If only Willie Williams had been asked ~ at some point: “Willie, was that the glove you used back in 1914 when you struck out Babe Ruth for the first time?”

We said Willie Mitchell “may have been able to confirm the truth” for this reason: Had someone asked that question of Mitchell, he may have said something like, “Babe Ruth? ~ I don’t recall ever striking out Babe Ruth!”

Historical research is not as easy as it looks.

Thanks to friend and colleague Tony Cavendar for sending us this great short piece on Willie Mitchell and the glove. They furnished the inspiration for anything else we have written this morning. “The Babe’s First Major League Trip to the Plate Ended in a Whiff” was written by Steve Moyer for HUMANITIES, Spring 2018, Volume 39, Number 2.


Bill McCurdy

Principal Writer, Editor, Publisher

The Pecan Park Eagle


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