Posts Tagged ‘Babe Ruth’

The Demons Within Us

May 23, 2019

“Eddie” Waitkus in 1941

Eddie Waitkus was a first baseman in the 1940s and 1950s for, first, the Chicago Cubs, then the Phillies and Orioles. He had a nice little career hitting .285 with 24 home runs, 373 RBIs, and 12.9 WAR. He’s of course known more for being shot than for playing ball.

It seems he had a fan named Ruth Ann Steinhagen who had an entire array of internal demons. In 1949 she shot him in a hotel room in Chicago. He survived and she spent some time in Kankakee State Hospital.

Maybe all of this sounds familiar. It should be. It is the opening basis for both the book and the movie The Natural. They occasionally have things in common, like the name of the main character, but essentially they differ thematically. The movie tells us that after a mistake, there is redemption. The book tells us that after a mistake, we don’t really learn anything and our demons persist.

Baseball is a sport involving the demons within us; and we all have them. Ty Cobb channeled his internal demons into a ferocity the made him a great player, a miserable human being, and someone neither fans nor teammates particularly liked. Babe Ruth had his own demons within him. They drove him to a lifestyle that might have killed him if he hadn’t gotten the help he needed to control them. Some internal demon drove Leo Durocher to be a martinet that ended up losing his players, his owners, his coaches. The racial demons that all of us seem to have lurking within just below the surface of civility allowed people to relegate players like Martin DiHigo and Josh Gibson to something other than the Major Leagues.

They are a mixed bag, these demons of ours. Without them DiHigo and Gibson might have been among the foremost Major Leaguers of the 1930s and 1940s. But without them Cobb might not have ruled Deadball baseball as he did and Ruth would surely have become merely another fine player without becoming a legend.

I try to keep away from politics around here, but this all came up because I hate what’s going on in American politics. Without reference to who’s President or Speaker of the House or Chief Justice, we currently are unleashing our demons in a way not seen in 150 years. That unleashing led to people shooting each other at places with names like Shiloh and Antietam.

I have hope. I watch a game and see those demons on display frequently. They disturb me, but I also recognize that there is at least something constructive going on at a ball game. You think the politicians might want to pay attention?

 

Adding it up

April 30, 2019

Yaz

Baseball has a ton of stats. There are stats for everything. You have hits, runs, number of strings on the webbing of a first baseman’s mitt, and other assorted great things. Some are pretty much ignored, others almost worshipped.

One of my favorites, which sits somewhere between ignored and worshipped, is Total Bases. For those who don’t know the stat is singles+ (doublesx2)+(triplesx3)+(homerunsx4)=total bases. It’s a quick way of seeing exactly what a player has done on the basepaths. The higher the total bases, the more hits and the more slugging a player has contributed to his team. I like it because it’s simple and it does its job well. It has a huge flaw and if you’re quick, you’ve already noticed it. It doesn’t include walks, which is sort of equivalent to a single. Despite what you may have been told in Little League by a coach saying “A walk is as good as a hit,” it’s not exactly the same because with a man on base a walk gives him one base. A single might give him two or more.

So I decided to take a look at the men at the top of the total base list. Their names are Aaron, Musial, Mays, Bonds, Cobb, Alex Rodriguez, Ruth, Rose, Pujols, and Yastrzemski. You’ve probably heard of them. What I did was take their total bases (as given by BaseballReference.com) and add to that number their walks (same source). I didn’t factor out intentional walks because they are not complete for early players like Cobb. I also didn’t add in hit batsman or catcher’s interference (other ways to get on base) because those numbers are so small that they didn’t make a difference in the calculations. If you’re interested in doing this yourself, feel free to add them in (and to factor out intentional walks if you think that’s best). The list above (Aaron, Musial, Mays, et.al.) is in order of total bases. With walks factored in, the list reads:

Barry Bonds-8534

Henry Aaron-8258

Babe Ruth-7855

Stan Musial-7733

Willie Mays-7530

Carl Yazstremski-7484

Pete Rose-7318

Alex Rodriguez-7151

Ty Cobb-7103

Albert Pujols-6946

A couple of quick points. First, Pujols is still active so will rise up the list probably. Second, I didn’t look at the total bases and walks of players not in the top 10 in total bases. It is entirely possible that someone listed 11th or lower would, when walks are added, move ahead of one of the current top 10.

I found this interesting and thought I’d pass it along.

Here We Go Again

April 21, 2019

Albert Pujols

Was just over at ESPN and tucked into their headlines on the top right is the announcement that Albert Pujols just passed Babe Ruth on the all-time RBI list. Sounds like something to celebrate, right? Of course it isn’t really.

Here’s the thing. In its desire to grab a headline, ESPN decided to inform us that Pujols just passed Ruth in RBIs recorded since the RBI became on official stat in 1920. Got that? 1920, not ever, but 1920 when the RBI became official. Any RBIs Ruth hit prior to 1920 don’t count on this list. So I went to BaseballReference.com and looked up the RBI numbers they have. Well, they have Pujols at 1993 and Ruth at 2214. So between his rookie year in 1914 and his home run title in 1919, inclusive, the Babe had 222 RBIs that apparently, for somebody’s purpose, don’t count.

I hate this kind of thing. I’ve complained about it before. Look, team, Pujols is a great enough player without having to come up with some kind of artificial stat to make him even better. ESPN does this a lot and should be ashamed of themselves (although there doesn’t seem to be much shame left in most anything today) for doing it again.

Babe Ruth

For anyone interested, BaseballReference.com lists the top eight in RBIs as: Henry Aaron, Babe Ruth, Alex Rodriguez, Cap Anson, Barry Bonds, Lou Gehrig, Albert Pujols, and Stan Musial in that order.

Opening Day, 1919

March 28, 2019

Ollie O’Mara at bat for Brooklyn

It’s Opening Day for the 2019 season (I don’t count the 2 games in Tokyo). As I normally do, I take the occasion to look back 100 years. This year it’s 1919, a year of infamy.

Opening Day in 1919 was 19 April, a Saturday. The only games played on that date were a double-header between the Brooklyn Robins (now the Los Angeles Dodgers) and the Boston Braves (now setting up shop in Atlanta). Brooklyn won both, 5-2 and 3-2. Leon Cadore and Jeff Pfeffer were the winnings pitchers (in order) with Dick Rudolph and Pat Ragan taking the losses (again in that order). All but Ragan pitched complete games. In game one Ivy Olson hit the season’s first double and Hall of Famer Zack Wheat had the season’s first triple. Boston left fielder Joe Kelly had the year’s first stolen base. Boston’s first sacker Jimmy Johnston was the first batter of the season. Brooklyn third baseman Ollie O’Mara went 0 for 3 in game one, 0 for 4 in game two, reached base on a sacrifice and scored a run in game two. It was his last game in the Major Leagues. Over six years he hit .231/.280/.279/.559 with two home runs, 46 stolen bases, 77 RBIs, 166 runs scored, and more strikeouts than walks, and OPS+ of 68 and -0.8 WAR.

There were no games in the American League. They began play on the 23rd with the big news being a 13-4 rout by the White Sox over the Browns. Lefty Williams of Black Sox infamy got the win with six of the Black Sox (including Williams) playing (Fred McMullin and Eddie Cicotte sat it out). Buck Weaver was the hitting star with four hits and three runs scored. Back east, Boston shut out the Yankees 10-0 with left fielder Babe Ruth slugging the league’s first home run of the season in the first with a man on (yep, he hit it against the Yanks).

At this point the eventual National League champion Reds were in second place with the White Sox tied (with Boston ) for first in the American League. No one yet knew they would meet in the World Series and change baseball forever.

1919: 100 Years On

January 4, 2019

Judge Landis’ plaque at Cooperstown

It’s now 2019. That makes it 100 years from the nadir of Major League Baseball. It’s not something to celebrate, but it is something to note.

In 1919, the Black Sox Scandal occurred. A number of gamblers bribed members of the American League champion Chicago White Sox to throw the World Series to the Cincinnati Reds. The players were promised $10,000 each and most of them never got that much, but they did manage to lose the Series. In 1920 it came out into public view and the sport was rocked to its core.

As far as I know, MLB isn’t going to even acknowledge the event, let alone commemorate it. That’s a shame. They say we learn from our mistakes, and some of us do, at least occasionally. This is a time to look back at the event and let MLB talk about what it learned from the Black Sox.

It learned quite a lot, actually. It learned that there needed to be someone in charge who could make decisions without the consent of the owners (or the players either). That got MLB the Commissioner system and Kenesaw Mountain Landis. It’s difficult to like Landis, but he did move immediately to clean up the gambling aspects of the sport. Those measures still hold today, as Pete Rose finally discovered. Baseball learned that innovation wasn’t necessarily bad and allowed the explosion of home runs as epitomized by Babe Ruth to continue, changing the nature of how the game was played. Those are both valuable lessons.

But MLB didn’t learn to deal with one of the more significant issues that led to the Scandal, the pay of players. It would take into the 1970s, a union, and an arbitrator to begin addressing the problem. If you can double your salary by losing five games (the 1919 World Series was a best of nine), why wouldn’t you at least consider it? With million dollar salaries today, that’s virtually impossible.

In all this I make no comment on the guilt or innocence of any particular player. That’s not my point. I don’t want to see baseball take an inordinate amount of time detailing the guilt or innocence of Joe Jackson. Rather, I want it to look at the Scandal in an open manner and address it as an historical event that changed the game.

And by the way, I’m not holding my breath waiting for anything to happen. I’ve also commented on this recently, but I wanted to insure that it remained fresh in the new year.

The Ending of Another Season: 2018

December 31, 2018

Shohei Ohtani

Most years I do an end of season post in nine points (because there are nine innings) with some random thoughts on the just completed year. Here it is for 2018:

1. Congratulations to the Boston Red Sox. Between 2001 and 2018 Boston has four World Championships. Between 1901 and 1918, the BoSox won five. I can’t help but wonder if they have one more in them or if they’ll follow-up the 2018 run the same way they did the 1918 run. After losing in 1919, they let Babe Ruth go. If they fail to win in 1919, watch to see if Mookie Betts is traded.

2. Speaking of Betts. He had a heck of an 2018 and seems poised to continue at the highest level for some time. I’m not a particular fan of his, but I like to see good players excel.

3. The Dodgers lost the World Series for the second consecutive year. Dave Roberts played all the percentages again and the Bums blew it again. Improvise, Dave, just once, will ya.

4. I got to watch the Angels a couple of times this year. Mike Trout is terrific and Albert Pujols used to be terrific. I wonder if the Angels might consider dropping him to sixth or so in the lineup. He’s no longer a three or four hole hitter. It’s a shame that the newer fans don’t get to see just how good Pujols was at his height.

5. And while we’re on getting to see stuff, it’s getting increasingly difficult to actually watch a game. They’re getting longer and longer and getting to be more and more the same. Lots of home runs, lots of strikeouts, and a mind numbing number of pitchers. I’ve come to the conclusion that the average Major League right-handed pitcher can’t throw a ball to a left-handed hitter and that lefties can’t throw to a right-hander. I wonder how someone who can’t get out a hitter who swings from the opposite side of the plate managed to make the big leagues. I keep waiting for a 25 man roster that includes four infielders, three outfielders, two catchers, and 16 pitchers. Is it just me, or do all the things designed to speed up the game end up slowing it down? It’s probably me. It usually is.

6. How much you want to bet that Christian Yelich is happy to be out of South Florida? Now the question becomes is 2018 a fluke for him?

7. Congratulations are also in order for Vladimir Guerrero, Trevor Hoffman, Chipper Jones, Jack Morris, Alan Trammell, and Jim Thome for making the Hall of Fame as the class of 2018.

8. Harold Baines made the Hall of Fame, along with Lee Smith. Does anyone on the 2019 Veteran’s Committee know how to read a stat sheet?

9. Shohei Ohtani did the best Babe Ruth impression since the Babe himself. Let’s see how that holds up.

That’s a bit of a look at the 2018 season. Now on to 2019 and we’ll see if MLB notices it’s the 150th anniversary of the 1869 Cincinnati Red Stockings, the so-called First Professional Baseball Team and if they bother to note it’s the 100th anniversary of the Black Sox Scandal. Don’t hold your breath waiting for either.

The War to End All Wars

November 11, 2018


Hell” by George LeRoux

Today marks the end of World War I, one hundred years ago. At 11 am in France, the guns fell silent and an armistice took over. Ultimately a peace treaty was worked out and the guns remained silent until a greater, but not more significant, war broke out.

As with everything else, the war touched baseball in a number of ways. Here’s a sampling of how:

1. The 1918 season was shortened to 140 games from the standard 154. It led to some funny statistics as the season was simply chopped down without being reworked. Some teams played more games than others, some played one team a lot of times, other teams not so many.

2. A lot of great and good players were away from the diamond during the season. Many were in the military, others were off at “war work.” The government allowed players to join war-related industries (like ship building or munitions making) in lieu of actually joining the military. Many players took up the offer. Some of them found that “war work” generally consisted of playing exhibition games for the rest of the workers.

3. A handful of owners, notably Charles Comiskey, thought using the “war work” option was “shirking” and held it against their players when they returned to the field after the war. A number of 1919 “Black Sox” were in this category and some scholars feel it further soured the team’s relationship with their owner.

4. The careers of some players were changed. Grover Cleveland Alexander played a handful of games, went off to the war (not to war work) and saw combat. He suffered “shell shock,” which added to his drinking problem, was to plague his pitching for a number of years. The 1918 season was also the first year in which Babe Ruth played more games in the outfield than he did on the mound. Some of that had to do with Ed Barrow noting the Babe’s hitting prowess, but Duffy Lewis was off to war and the Red Sox needed outfield help.

5. Former New York Giants infielder Eddie Grant was killed in action while a training accident drastically shortened the life of Hall of Famer Christy Mathewson.

There are more, lots more, effects, but this should give you a short taste of how much this early 20th Century catastrophe changed the world, but also changed American sport.

“The Trench”–Otto Dix

MIBGs

March 29, 2018

The Judge

A couple of weeks ago my wife and I were watching Ken Burns’ documentary on Jackie Robinson. When we were done she turned to me and the following conversation (more or less) took place:

She: Is he the most important player ever?

Me: Let me think about it.

Ultimately all that led me to thoughts about the Most Important Baseball Guys. And sorry, ladies, but it is all guys, Effa Manley, Helena Robeson, and the All-American Girls baseball ladies not withstanding (not to mention Marge Schott). So I put together, just for my wife, my list of the 10 MIBGs and you know you’re about to be let in on it, don’t you?

First, the usual caveats. This is a list of the MOST IMPORTANT baseball people, not the BEST PLAYERS. There is a difference. I’m looking here for people whose contribution is so important that it cannot be overlooked when detailing the history of the game. Also, I’ve done something like this before years back and I’m cleaning up that list because it included groups (like the Knickerbockers or the Atlantic) and that’s not what I’m looking for. As we really don’t know who “invented” baseball, the origins guy, whoever he is, can’t be on this list and the earliest teams are not a substitute for him.

So here’s my list. I reserve the right to declare, in a week or two, that it is utterly stupid and that this post doesn’t really exist.

Here’s my list of the 10 MIBGs in baseball history. First a list of seven non-playing contributors (in alphabetical order):

1. Ed Barrow invented the Yankees. OK, I know Colonel Ruppert owned the team and coined the name, but when Ruppert brought Barrow to the Yanks, he changed the fortunes of the team. As the team secretary (we’d call him the general manager today), Barrow was a knowledgeable baseball man who’d been instrumental in making the Red Sox a power (he’d managed the 1918 team to World Series title). Barrow went out and collected a number of players like Babe Ruth, Joe Dugan, and added new guys like Lou Gehrig and created a juggernaut that, by the time Barrow retired in 1946 his charges had won 14 pennants and 10 World Series’.

2. Do you like baseball statistics? Do you study them and quote them and use them to bolster your arguments? Then you owe a great debt to Henry Chadwick. A 19th Century sportswriter, Chadwick was the first to systematize baseball statistics. He invented the box score and came up with a number of other statistics that are still in use. New stats may have made some of Chadwick’s work obsolescent, but the guys who came up with them owe a debt to Chadwick.

3. William Hulbert invented the modern league system in 1876 when he founded the National League of Professional Base Ball Clubs (baseball was two words in 1876). The key word here is “Clubs.” Hulbert’s system put the clubs, not the players, in charge of the league. It created labor problems, it gave us owners who were first-rate jerks (including Hulbert himself), but it worked. It stabilized professional baseball and served as the model for all American team sport leagues (whatever sport) created since.

4. Byron Bancroft “Ban” Johnson founded the American League. After a quarter century of leagues coming and going, ultimately destroyed or absorbed by the National League, Johnson created a league that was stable enough to challenge the NL for players and gate receipts. After a short “baseball war,” the American League emerged as the equal and rival of the more established league, an equality and rivalry that remain today.

5. Kennesaw Mountain Landis was the first commissioner of baseball and, arguably the most powerful person in the history of the game. Coming into office with a lifetime contract he was able to clean up the sport in the wake of the Black Sox Scandal and to rule the game with an iron fist. He kept Branch Rickey from cornering the market for new players by opening up the farm system for other teams. That made it possible for teams to be more competitive. At the same time he was a staunch segregationist and almost single-handedly kept baseball from integrating until after his death (I never said these were all nice, enlightened guys).

6. If you are opposed to wage slavery and think people ought to be paid what they’re worth and what the market will bear, you have to tip your ball cap to Marvin Miller. Head of the Player’s Union, Miller revolutionized baseball by destroying the reserve clause (admittedly he had help) and opening up salaries. This led to more movement of players and thus more chances for teams to compete as the best players were no longer locked up forever.

7. Twice Wesley Branch Rickey revolutionized the game. A mediocre catcher and manager, he became team secretary for the St. Louis Browns in 1913, moved to the St. Louis Cardinals in 1919 and invented the farm system. This may have been deadly to a free minor league system, but it bound players to an organization in such a way that the best players were able to hone their skills in a team system, that emphasized working together, melding groups of players into a unit that knew each other and to at least some extent learned how to play together. It assured Major League teams of a constant supply of quality players (provided the scouts, owners, and executives knew what they were doing). In 1942 he moved to Brooklyn where he again revolutionized the game by integrating the Major Leagues in 1947. This action helped truly nationalize the game and was a major step in the civil rights movement of the 1940s through the 1960s.

And now two transcendent players:

8. Jack Roosevelt Robinson was not the first black man to play in the Major Leagues. There is evidence that William Edward White who played one game with Providence in 1879 was black. Moses Fleetwood Walker and his brother Welday, both of which played for Toledo (a big league club) in 1884 certainly were black. But none of them stuck. All were out of the major leagues within a year and the so-call “Gentlemen’s Agreement” re-segregated baseball until 1947, when Jackie Robinson joined the Brooklyn Dodgers. He was an excellent player, a leader, and a person who could not be ignored as either a man or a player. His arrival opened up the game for an entire group of players who had been excluded for 60 years.

9. George Herman “Babe” Ruth revolutionized the game by introducing power as a central element of baseball. His feats were legendary, some were even true, but he became a household name unlike any other in the game and arguably in American sport. “Ruthian” still describes a larger than life feat in sports. He didn’t save baseball in the early 1920s (Landis did), but he made it popular again and became the centerpiece of the Yankees Dynasty that has been at the heart of baseball since 1921.

All of which brings me to the tenth guy. I thought about a lot of people, Al Spalding and Happy Chandler, Harry Wright, John Montgomery Ward, and Vin Scully, William Rufus Wheaton and Duncan Curry, Daniel Adams and Jim Creighton. All are important in American baseball history and I sort of hate to leave any of them off, but I’ve only got one place left and it belongs to

10. Andrew “Rube” Foster. Foster was an excellent pitcher in the rough and tumble black leagues of the early 20th century. By 1904 he was in Philadelphia and moved in 1907 to Chicago. Still a terrific pitcher, he became a manager and team owner of the American Giants. In 1920 he moved to form the first stable black league, the Negro National League. It was later joined by the Eastern Colored League. These leagues, led by Foster’s NNL, gave form and order to much of black baseball and made it possible for players to coalesce around specific teams. There was still a lot of barnstorming and player movement, but order was coming to what had been an essentially disorganized group. It made it possible for the black press to more easily highlight the black players and it popularized the game. Foster was confined to a mental institution in 1926 and died in 1930. The Great Depression killed the NNL, but the idea remained and a new NNL was formed in the 1930s. It joined the Negro American League in creating a stable playing system for black baseball until the Major Leagues were willing to integrate.

So that’s my list and my present to you on opening day. Feel free to disagree (I know many of you will). Now “Play Ball.”

 

 

A Crushing: Final Blow

October 30, 2017

Down three games, the 1932 Chicago Cubs would need four consecutive wins to pull out the World Series victory. They started well in game four.

Game 4

Wilcy Moore

In game four Chicago sent Guy Bush to the mound. He didn’t make it out of the first inning. two singles, a hit by pitch and the bases were loaded for Lou Gehrig. A long fly plated the first New York run. Another walk sent Bush to the showers and brought in Lon Warneke who got the two outs to finish the inning.

The Yanks responded with Johnny Allen on the mound. He did even worse than Bush. With two outs he gave up a three run home run to Frank Demaree. A single and an error brought up Billy Jurges who singled to bring in a fourth Cubs run. That was all for Allen. His replacement was veteran pitcher Wilcy Moore. Moore was a member of the 1927 and 1928 World Series teams and had won a game in the ’27 Series. He got the final out to end the inning. At the end of one, the score stood Chicago-4 and New York-1.

The Yankees crept closer in the third with a Gehrig double and a Tony Lazzeri home run. In the sixth they took the lead. A walk and a double brought up Gehrig with two outs. He singled to put New York ahead 5-4. The lead lasted for one out. In the bottom of the sixth a Charlie Grimm single and two errors gave the Cubs a run and tied up the score.

The tie also lasted for one out. In the top of the seventh, New York scored four runs on a double, an intentional walk, and three back-to-back-to-back singles. Joe Sewell’s single, the middle of the three hits, drove in two runs with Earle Combs and Babe Ruth supplying the other key hits. They added four more in the ninth on home runs by Combs and Lazzeri plus an RBI double by Ben Chapman.

Down 13-5, the Cubs tried to rally in the ninth. A Billy Herman single and two defensive indifference calls put Herman on third for a Woody English grounder that got both the first out and a run. A strikeout and a fly to right ended the threat, the inning, the game, and the series. New York won by a final score of 13-6.

After the Cubs took a 4-1 lead, Wilcy Moore had done a great job holding the fort through the sixth, giving up only one earned run. Then Yankees bats took over, put the game away, and let reliever Herb Pennock finish the game by giving up only one inconsequential run.

The 1932 World Series certainly wasn’t a tight, great Series. New York swept Chicago in convincing fashion. The Yanks outhit the Cubs .313 to .253, getting 37 runs to Chicago’s 19. Babe Ruth had two homers, including the famous “called shot” of game 3, to go with six RBIs, four walks, and six runs scored. Lou Gehrig was even better. He hit a Series leading .529 with three home runs, eight RBIs, and nine runs scored. For Chicago, only Riggs Stephenson was close in average (.444) and tied Frank Demaree with four RBIs. Billy Herman scored five runs.

The Cubs staff had an ERA of 9.26 and walked 23 men (with 26 strikeouts). New York, in contrast, posted an ERA of 3.00 with only 11 walks to go with 24 strikeouts. Charlie Root, Bush, and Jakie May all posted ERA’s north of 10.

So on the surface the 1932 looks like a thorough thrashing by New York. And of course it is. But let me point out that, in defense of the Cubs, Chicago actually led in two of the games, and was tied in the fifth inning or later in the other two. It’s not like the Cubs simply rolled over in the Series. They were quite competitive in each game, but only for a while. The pitching simply couldn’t hold the Yankees in check over nine innings and the Yanks could hold them down long enough for the New York bats to respond.

Ultimately none of that mattered. It is still remembered as Babe Ruth’s last World Series. More than that, it is remembered for Ruth’s most famous and most controversial home run. Somehow, because it’s the Babe, that makes sense.

 

 

 

A Crushing: The Called Shot

October 26, 2017

Game three of the 1932 World Series became, over the years, one of the most famous of all World Series games. It is still talked about in a way that most games aren’t. In the center of it all was Babe Ruth.

Game 3

Charlie Root

Game three was played 1 October in Chicago. The Cubs sent long time hurler Charlie Root to the mound. He was ineffective and, as usual for this Series, runs crossed the plate in the first inning. An error by shortstop Billy Jurges put Earle Combs on base. A walk to Joe Sewell, brought up Babe Ruth, who promptly homered to put New York up 3-0.

Root was able to staunch further damage and Chicago was able to get a run back off Yanks pitcher, veteran George Pipgras. A walk to Billy Herman and a Kiki Cuyler double made the score 3-1.

Both teams scored in the third inning. New York got one run on a Lou Gehrig home run to make it 4-1. A Cuyler home run followed by a Riggs Stephenson single and a Charlie Grimm double cut the score to 4-3. Then they added one more in the fourth on a Jurges double and a Tony Lazzeri error that let Jurges score. That made it 4-4 going into the fifth.

Ruth at bat

The inning began with a Sewell ground out. That brought up Ruth. He and the Cubs had been at odds for the entire Series. It seems that he liked Mark Koenig, who’d been a former teammate on the “Murderer’s Row” Yanks of the 1920s. Koenig now played for Chicago and because he hadn’t been there the entire season was voted less than a full share of the World Series take. Ruth, and most everyone else, thought Koenig had been instrumental in the Cubs pennant drive and felt he wasn’t given a fair shake. So he and the Cubs were at each others throats during the Series. So with the score tied he faced off against Root.

And it’s here that legend takes over from fact. Root threw a strike, which Ruth took. Then a second strike, which the Babe also took. Then Ruth gestured with his hand, pointing to center field. Root threw another pitch and Babe Ruth, being the Babe, smashed the ball deep over the wall in center field for a 5-4 lead. He’d “called his shot” and put the Yanks ahead to stay. To top it off, it would be his last World Series homer.

Great story, right? There’s even a picture showing it (see just above). Well, maybe. But all the picture shows is Ruth gesturing. It’s too blurry to tell it he’s pointing or simply lifting his arm. Is he pointing to center field? Is he pointing at Root? Is he pointing at the Chicago dugout? Is he giving the middle finger salute to the Cubs? Frankly, I don’t know and neither does anyone else. Knowing what I know about Ruth I wouldn’t be surprised if it was the middle finger. Charlie Root went to his grave swearing Ruth never called the shot. Joe Sewell swore Ruth did. The Babe never said. Whatever actually happened, here’s an artist’s rendition of the moment.

Ruth calling his shot (the catcher is Gabby Hartnett)

With the Yankees now ahead, Root had to deal with Lou Gehrig. The “Iron Horse” proceeded to send another homer into the stands, this one in right field. It was all for Root. In came Pat Malone, who managed to get out of the inning without more New Yorkers crossing the plate. Both teams managed one more run in the ninth. An error and a double gave the Yankees seven runs and a Gabby Hartnett home run gave the Cubs a final tally of five.

In all the press about Ruth’s homer, a number of good performances were overshadowed. Gehrig’s follow-up home run had finished the shell-shocked Cubs and Hartnett’s home run, along with Cuyler’s, were totally lost. Pipgras had pitched well for eight innings (Herb Pennock pitched the ninth and picked up a save). And Root was forever tagged as the man who gave up Ruth’s called shot. Worse, from a Chicago point of view, the Cubs were down three games to none with game four scheduled for the next day.