Posts Tagged ‘Babe Ruth’

The First and Last Hurrahs of Babe Ruth

May 9, 2011

The One and Only

When I think of baseball, which is fairly often, my thoughts run inevitably to Babe Ruth, the man whose long shadow still lingered upon the sandlots of my later kid generation in the years that immediately followed World War II. How could we not remember the Babe after that 1948 movie with William Bendix? Why, the Babe was practically Superman in a Yankee uniform, hitting home runs for sick kids everywhere, taking care of an injured dog that caught a foul ball off his own club at batting practice, even if it meant getting into trouble for missing his game, and finally finishing things off in his last game ever by crashing three monster home runs as he hammered out his last ounce of power as an old man playing for the Braves against the Pirates at Forbes Field in Pittsburgh in 1935.

Breathtaking, except for one thing. It wasn’t all exactly true. We dumb kids of the Houston East End simply didn’t know or even want to hear of such nonsense. The Babe may have paid attention to sick kids, and promised a few homers, here and there, but he never hit a dog at BP with a hard foul ball and then rushed the dog off to be treated at a hospital for humans. And he didn’t hit those last three home runs in his final game at Pittsburgh and then humbly turn over his place as a runner at first on a fourth hit to a young rookie who had been riding him as a washed up has-been, In fact, Babe Ruth played on for two more road series as a member of the Boston Braves at Cincinnati and Philadelphia, going 0 for 9 in his final official times at bat to put the hammer on his illustrious career as The Sultan of Swat.

So, today I just felt the need to hit the highlights of some landmark home runs in the history of Babe Ruth. These start in 1915, when Babe Ruth was only 20-year-old fresh second MLB season pitcher – and they don’t stop until Pittsburgh in 1935, when the Bambino was then a tired old outfielder at age 41.

Landmark Ruthian HR # 1:  May 6. 1915 @ the Polo Grounds in New York. Ruth is pitching for the Red Sox against the home club Yankees. Ruth comes to bat in the 3rd inning and hits the first pitch from Jack Warhop out of the park for his first home run in the big leagues. Boston and Ruth go on to lose to the New York Yankees by a score of 4-3 in 13 innings. Ruth had been up to plate a handful of times in his brief 1914 rookie season, going 2 for 10 with no homers.

Landmark Ruthian HR # 2: September 27, 1919 @ Griffith Stadium in Washington. Ruth is playing left field for the Boston Red Sox when he hits a record-setting 29th HR off Rip Jordan of the Senators with one on in the 3rd inning. The home club Senators go on to defeat Ruth and the Red Sox, 7-5. The home run is Ruth’s 49th career blow and his last as a member of the Red Sox.

Landmark Ruthian HR # 3: May 1, 1920 @ the Polo Grounds in New York. Ruth is again in left field for the Yankees, facing his old club, the visiting Boston Red Sox. Ruth hit his first home run of the season and as a Yankee in the 6th inning with no runners on off Herb Pennock.It is the 12th game of the season in which Ruth will shatter his own old record of 29 season homers by blasting 59. The first eleven games were spent trying too hard or sitting on the bench. Yankees win the game, 6-0.

Landmark Ruthian HR # 4: September 30, 1927 @ Yankee Stadium in New York, Washington @ New York. Ruth blasts HR # 60 off Tom Zachary of the Senators in the 8th inning with one on base. The Yankees win 4-2. And Ruth’s new season record of 60 HR stands for 34 years before Roger Maris of the 1961 Yankees breaks it with his also famous 61* homers.

Landmark Ruthian HR # 5: September 29, 1934 @ Griffith Stadium in Washington. The Yankees lose the home club Senators, but Ruth hits his last home run as a Yankee ,and as an American Leaguer. 1934 season HR # 22 comes off Syd Cohen of the Sens in the 7th with 2 on, but it’s too little too late for the Yanks as they fall, three runs short. Final Score: Senators 8 – New York 5.

Landmark Ruthian HR # 6: April 16, 1935, with Ruth now playing right field for the Boston Braves, it’s Boston @ the New York Giants in the Polo Grounds. Ruth hits his first National League and Braves home run in the 5th inning off the great Carl Hubbell with one on. The first smack for the NL Boston club provides the winning difference in a 4-2 Braves win.

Landmark Ruthian HR #7: May 25, 1935, Braves @ Pirates at Forbes Field in Pittsburgh. The Babe gets the last four hits of his career and three of them are home runs # 712, 713, and 714. The first HR of the day comes off starter Red Lucas in the first with 1 on. The second comes off Guy Bush in the 3rd with one on. And the thrid and last also comes off Guy Bush in the 7th with none on. Pittsburgh still wins the game, 11-7, but Ruth goes 4 for 4 with 3 homers, 3 runs scored, and 6 runs batted in.

As in the 1948 movie, it would have been the perfect time to retire, but that’s not how it played out in reality. Ruth’s incredible last hurrah somehow encouraged him to keep playing through two more road series for the Braves at Cincinnati and Philadelphia. After going 0 for 9 in both places total, Ruth finally hung ’em up, finishing his career with that number “714” that all kid fans grew up with back in the day as the mark of home run excellence.

In summary, Babe Ruth hit 49 home runs for the Boston Red Sox, 659 home runs for the New York Yankees, and 6 for the Boston Braves. That adds up to “714” on your fingers, or an abacus, or a computer. Unless Babe Ruth knew a chemist who was decades ahead of his time, every home run  hit by the great overgrown kid from Baltimore was steroid, but not necessarily alcohol, free.

Babe Ruth is a good way to start out Monday. I need to put that realization into the old memory bank. Have a great week, everybody. And don’t do anything the Babe wouldn’t do.

Texas and The Babe.

December 13, 2009

Babe Ruth was baseball from the 1920s forward. He still is, if you scratch the surface of things even ever so slightly. And he had all the makings of an unforgettable character from the very start too. His unbelievably gifted joint talent as first a pitcher and then a slugger remains unmatched in the game to this day. Baseball has never known another player who could’ve made it all the way to the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown with either of those singular talents for throwing or slugging the baseball alone, but “The Babe” had them both, and he owned them at just the right moments in baseball history. By now it’s a biographically worn out story. After sparkling in two World Series championship seasons for the Boston Red Sox in 1916 and 1918, Ruth moved over to the New York Yankees in 1920 by way of a devilishly infamous/heavenly fortuitous trade, dependent upon the presence of your Red Sox/Yankees red corpuscles.

Regardless, Babe Ruth got to New York just in time to help America soon forget about/or recover from the terrible blow inflicted upon the game by the Chicago “Black Sox” Scandal of 1919. For those who haven’t heard, eight members of the 1919 White Sox club were expelled forever from baseball after the 1920 season for conspiring to fix the 1919 World Series in favor of the Cincinnati Reds. They were kicked out of the game in spite of the fact that they were never found guilty of such an act by a court of law. It consquentially fell upon the broad shoulders of one George Herman”Babe” Ruth to help fans find positive distraction from the dark side of things – and to do it with his ability to blast a baseball out of the park with a bat. He did it often – and for prolific distances.

During the 1920s and early 1930s, Babe Ruth came to Texas and Houston often in the springtime as a barnstorming member of the New York Yankees. The club played minor league teams and sometimes even squared off against the local Texas college clubs where they toured. My late father often told me the story of how the New York Yankees came to Austin in the spring of 1928 to play the Universty of Texas Longhorns during the time that Dad was a prep school outfielder at St. Edwards there. Somehow the school arranged to get the entire St. Edwards Bronchos team into the game over at UT for seating down the right field line, where Ruth was playing that afternoon against the Longhorns.

Dad long ago forgot the final score, but he implied that it was a heavily crushing “no mercy” margin in favor of the Yankees over the Longhorns. One of these days I may get around to actually checking Dad’s memory against the library line score record of that game, but I have no question about his most vivid recollection of that afternoon. During the game, Babe Ruth had an autographed baseball business set up down the right field line at UT. Ruth had a guy posted in foul territory with a bag full of balls. For five dollars cash, Babe Ruth would run over to the sidelines between batters and sign one of these balls for any fan who was willing to pay. The assistant would then toss it up to purchaser and that lucky fan got to leave with an authentic Babe Ruth signature on a baseball for the price of five dollars.

Of course, my adolescent question of Dad always rose quickly to”Why didn’t you get one?” That always opened the door for Dad to launch into the subject of prep school student poverty and the value of five dollars in 1928. It never even occurred to Dad that getting one of those Ruth signed baseballs was within the realm of possibility. “It would have been like you going to Buff Stadium in the spring and finding out that Stan Musial was signing balls during the game for those who were willing to pay him five hundred dollars for the thing,” Dad said. “Could you have bought one of those Musial balls in 1954 at that rate?”

“No, Dad,” I always answered, “I got the point a long time ago.”

Stiil, the Babe didn’t always come to town just to take people’s money. In 1930, the Yankees were in Houston to play the Buffs at Buff Stadium in single games scheduled for March 29th and March 30th. The Yankes took both games by scores of 17-2 and 6-5. while he was here, Babe Ruth went downtown and gave an address to Houston kid members of the Knothole Gang. The presentation took place at the old City Auditorium on the corner of Lousiana and Texas, on the site of the current Jones Hall building. The full house meeting was sponsored by the Kiwanis Club and a good time was had by all.

Wish we had the text of what “The Babe” actually said that day in 1930 Houston. It would be sort of  interesting to see if Ruth gave any advice to the kids that day that we wasn’t actually living up to in his own real life adult adventures. On the other hand, it really doesn’t matter what Ruth said or didn’t say that long ago day in Houston history. He was Babe Ruth, a guy who led by example on the field – and by the fact that he would even show up on a spring day in 1930 to speak with hundreds of Houston kids for free.

He was Babe Ruth and, for a few hours long ago, he walked among us here in Texas as our flesh and blood, larger than life hero. For those who were around at that time, nothing could detract from the power and magic of those Ruthian moments of joy that they were simply here together in his presence – and in their very own state and home town.