Babe's Career to October, 1923



Babe Ruth was born at 216 Emory Street in Pigtown, a rough neighborhood of Baltimore, Maryland. Ruth's German-American parents, Kate Schamberger-Ruth and George Herman Ruth, Sr., owned a succession of saloons and sold lightning rods.[9] Only one of Ruth's seven siblings, his sister Mamie, survived past infancy.[10


]Not much is known about Ruth's early childhood.[11] His mother was constantly ill (she later died of tuberculosis while Ruth was still a teenager).[12] Ruth later described his early life as "rough".[13] When he was seven years old, his father sent him to St. Mary's Industrial School for Boys, a reformatory and orphanage, and signed custody over to the Catholic missionaries who ran the school (the site of St. Mary's was occupied by Cardinal Gibbons School).[14] Ruth remained at St. Mary's for the next 12 years, visiting with his family only for special occasions.[15] Brother Matthias Boutlier, the Head of Discipline at St. Mary's, first introduced Ruth to the game of baseball.[16] He became a father figure in Ruth's life, teaching him how to read and write, and worked with Ruth on hitting, fielding and as his skills progressed, pitching.[17] During his time in St. Mary's, Ruth was also taught tailoring, where he became a qualified shirtmaker and was a part of both the school band and the drama club.[18]


In 1913, St. Mary's Industrial School was playing a game against Mount St. Mary's University (then college) in Emmitsburg, Maryland. That day, the game was attended by Joe Engel, a former Mount St. Mary's student who was now a pitcher for the Washington Senators.[19] Impressed with Ruth's pitching abilities, Engel, along with a teacher at St. Mary's, Brother Gilbert, brought Ruth to the attention of Jack Dunn, owner and manager of the then minor-league Baltimore Orioles. After watching Ruth pitch in a workout for half an hour, Dunn signed Ruth to a contract for $250 ($5,500 in current dollar terms) a month on February 14, 1914.[20] Since Ruth was only 19 years old, Dunn had to become Ruth's legal guardian as well; at that time, the age of majority was 21.[citation needed]


When the other players on the Orioles caught sight of Ruth, they nicknamed him "Jack Dunn's baby".[21] The reference stayed with Ruth the rest of his life, and he was most commonly referred to as Babe Ruth from then on.[22] "Babe" was not a unique nickname (see e.g., Babe Adams). His teammates eschewed the public nickname "Babe", and instead called him "George"; or "Jidge" (a nickname for George); or "The Big Fellow"; or just "Bam".[23]


On July 7, 1914, Dunn offered to trade Ruth, along with Ernie Shore and Ben Egan, to Connie Mack of the Philadelphia Athletics. Dunn asked $10,000 ($220,000 in current dollar terms) for the trio, but Mack refused the offer.[24] The Cincinnati Reds, who had an agreement with the Orioles, also passed on Ruth. Instead, the team elected to take George Twombly and Claud Derrick.[25] Two days later, on July 9, Dunn sold the trio to Joe Lannin and the Boston Red Sox.[26] The amount of money exchanged in the transaction is disputed.Ruth appeared in five games for the Red Sox in 1914, pitching in four of them. He picked up the victory in his major league debut on July 11.[27]


The Red Sox had many star players in 1914, so Ruth was soon optioned to the minor league Providence Grays of Providence, Rhode Island for most of the remaining season. Behind Ruth and Carl Mays, the Grays won the International League pennant.[28] Shortly after the season, in which he had finished with a 2–1 record, Ruth proposed to Helen Woodford, a waitress whom he had met in Boston. They were married in Ellicott City, Maryland, on October 17, 1914.[28] During spring training in 1915, Ruth secured a spot in the Red Sox' starting rotation. He joined a pitching staff that included Rube Foster, Dutch Leonard, and Smokey Joe Wood. Ruth won 18 games,[29] lost eight, and helped himself by hitting .315. He also hit his first four home runs. The Red Sox won 101 games that year on their way to a victory in the World Series. Ruth did not pitch in the series, and grounded out in his only at-bat.[2]


In 1916, after a slightly shaky spring, he went 23–12, with a 1.75 ERA and nine shutouts, both of which led the league. On June 27, he struck out ten Philadelphia A's, a career high. On July 11, he started both games of a doubleheader, but the feat was not what it seemed; he pitched only one third of an inning in the opener because the scheduled starter, Foster, had trouble getting loose. Ruth then pitched a complete-game victory in the nightcap. Ruth had unusual success against Washington Senators star pitcher Walter Johnson, beating him four times in 1916 alone, by scores of 5–1, 1–0, 1–0 in 13 innings, and 2–1. Johnson finally outlasted Ruth for an extra-inning 4–3 victory on September 12; in the years to come, Ruth would hit ten home runs off Johnson, including the only two Johnson would allow in 1918–1919. Ruth's nine shutouts in 1916 set an AL record for left-handers which would remain unmatched until Ron Guidry tied it in 1978. Despite a weak offense, hurt by the sale of Tris Speaker to the Indians, the Red Sox made it to the World Series. They defeated the Brooklyn Robins four games to one. This time Ruth made a major contribution, pitching a 14-inning complete-game victory in Game Two.


Ruth went 24–13 with a 2.01 ERA and six shutouts in 1917, and hit .325. Ruth also was involved in a combined no-hitter in 1917, when he walked the first batter in the game and yelled at the umpire and was ejected. Ernie Shore came in to replace ruth and didn't give up a single hit in the entire ball game. But the Sox finished second in the league, nine games behind the Chicago White Sox. On June 23 against the Washington Senators, after walking the leadoff hitter, Ruth erupted in anger, was ejected, and threw a punch at the umpire, which would result in a ten-game suspension. Ernie Shore came into the game in relief, the baserunner was out stealing, and Shore retired all twenty-six batters he faced, for which he was credited with a perfect game until the 1990s. Ruth's outburst was an example of self-discipline problems that plagued Ruth throughout his career, and is regarded as the primary reason (other than financial) that then-owner Harry Frazee was willing to sell him to the Yankees two years later. The left-hander was pitching a no-hitter in a 0–0 game against the Detroit Tigers on July 11, before a single deflected off his glove in the eighth inning. Boston finally pushed across a run in the ninth, and Ruth held onto his 1–0 victory by striking out Ty Cobb. In 1942, Ruth called this game his greatest thrill on the field.


In 1918, Ruth pitched in 20 games, posting a 13–7 record with a 2.22 ERA. He was mostly used as an outfielder, and hit a league-leading eleven home runs. His statistics were curtailed slightly when he walked off the team in July following an argument with Boston's manager. Ruth threw a 1–0 shutout in the opener of the 1918 World Series, then won Game Four in what would be his final World Series appearance as a pitcher. Ruth won both his starts, allowing two runs (both earned) in seventeen innings for an ERA of 1.06. Ruth extended his World Series consecutive scoreless inning streak to 29⅔ innings, a record that would last until Whitey Ford broke it in 1961.In the years 1915–1917, Ruth had been used in just 44 games in which he had not pitched.


After the 1917 season, in which he hit .325, albeit with limited at bats, teammate Harry Hooper suggested that Ruth might be more valuable in the lineup as an everyday player. In 1918, he began playing in the outfield more and pitching less, making 75 hitting-only appearances. Former teammate Tris Speaker speculated that the move would shorten Ruth's career, though Ruth himself wanted to hit more and pitch less. In 1918, Ruth batted .300 and led the A.L. in home runs with eleven despite having only 317 at-bats, well below the total for an everyday player. During the 1919 season, Ruth pitched in only 17 of his 130 games. He also set his first single-season home run record that year with 29 (passing Ned Williamson's 27 in 1884), including a game-winning homer on a September "Babe Ruth Day" promotion. It was Babe Ruth's last season with the Red Sox.


On December 26, 1919,[30][31] Frazee sold Ruth to the New York Yankees. Popular legend has it that Frazee sold Ruth and several other of his best players to finance a Broadway play, No, No, Nanette (which, though it actually did not debut until 1925, did have origins in a December 1919 play, My Lady Friends).[32] The truth is not so simple, as Frazee had another financial concern: Babe Ruth. After the 1919 season, Ruth demanded a raise to $20,000 ($220,000 in current dollar terms)—double his previous salary.[33] However, Frazee refused, and Ruth responded by letting it be known he would not play until he got his raise, suggesting that he might retire to undertake other profitable ventures.[34] Frazee finally lost patience with Ruth, and decided to trade him. However, he was effectively limited to two trading partners—the Chicago White Sox and the then-moribund Yankees. The other five clubs rejected his deals out of hand under pressure from American League president Ban Johnson, who had never liked Frazee and was actively trying to remove him from ownership of the Red Sox.[35] The White Sox offered Shoeless Joe Jackson $60,000 ($660,000 in current dollar terms), but Yankees owners Jacob Ruppert and Tillinghast L'Hommedieu Huston offered an all-cash deal—$100,000 ($1,100,000 in current dollar terms). Frazee, Ruppert and Huston quickly agreed to a deal. In exchange for Ruth, the Red Sox would get $125,000 ($1.37 million in current dollar terms) in cash and three $25,000 ($270,000 in current dollar terms) notes payable every year at 6 percent interest. Ruppert and Huston also loaned Frazee $300,000 ($3.29 million in current dollar terms), with the mortgage on Fenway Park as collateral. The deal was contingent on Ruth signing a new contract, which was quickly agreed to, and Ruth officially became property of the Yankees on December 26. The deal was announced ten days later.[36] In the January 6, 1920 edition of The Boston Globe, Frazee described the transaction: "I should have preferred to take players in exchange for Ruth, but no club could have given me the equivalent in men without wrecking itself, and so the deal had to be made on a cash basis. No other club could afford to give me the amount the Yankees have paid for him, and I don't mind saying I think they are taking a gamble. With this money the Boston club can now go into the market and buy other players and have a stronger and better team in all respects than we would have had if Ruth had remained with us." However, the January 6, 1920 The New York Times was more prescient: "The short right field wall at the Polo Grounds should prove an easy target for Ruth next season and, playing seventy-seven games at home, it would not be surprising if Ruth surpassed his home run record of twenty-nine circuit clouts next Summer."[36]


After moving to the Yankees, Ruth's transition from a pitcher to a power-hitting outfielder became complete. In his fifteen year Yankee career, consisting of over 2,000 games, Ruth re-wrote the record books in terms of his hitting achievements, while making only five widely-scattered token appearances on the mound, winning all of them.In 1920, his first year with the Yankees, Ruth hit 54 home runs and batted .376. His .847 slugging average was a Major League record until 2001. Aside from the Yankees, only the Philadelphia Phillies managed to hit more home runs as a team than Ruth did as an individual, slugging 64 in hitter-friendly Baker Bowl.


In 1921, Ruth improved to arguably the best year of his career, hitting 59 home runs, batting .378 and slugging .846 (the highest with 500+ at-bats in an MLB season) while leading the Yankees to their first league championship. On July 18, 1921, Babe Ruth hit career home run #139, breaking Roger Connor's record of 138 in just the eighth year of his career. (This was not recognized at the time, as Connor's correct career total was not accurately documented until the 1970s. Even if the record had been celebrated, it would have been on an earlier date, as Connor's total was at one time thought to be only 131.)


Ruth's name quickly became synonymous with the home run, as he led the transformation of baseball strategy from the "inside game" to the "power game", and because of the style and manner in which he hit them. His ability to drive many of his home runs in the 450–500 foot range and beyond resulted in the lasting adjective "Ruthian", to describe any long home run hit by any player. Probably his deepest hit in official game play (and perhaps the longest home run by any player), occurred on July 18, at Detroit's Navin Field, in which he hit one to straightaway center, over the wall of the then-single-deck bleachers, and to the intersection, some 575 feet (175 m) from home plate. As impressive as Ruth's 1921 numbers were, they could have been more so under modern conditions. Bill Jenkinson's 2006 book, The Year Babe Ruth Hit 104 Home Runs, attempts to examine each of Ruth's 714 career home runs, plus several hundred long inside-the-park drives and "fair-foul" balls. Until 1931 in the AL, balls that hit the foul pole were considered ground-rule doubles, and balls that went over the wall in fair territory but hooked foul were ruled foul. Many fields, including Ruth's home Polo Grounds, had exceptionally deep center fields; in the Polo Grounds' case, nearly five hundred feet. The author concluded that Ruth would have been credited with 104 home runs in 1921, if modern rules and field dimensions were in place.


However, these claims ignore the extreme short distances down the left and right field lines, which were 279 and 258 feet respectively. In addition, the 21-foot overhang in left field often intercepted fly balls which would otherwise have been catchable and turned them into home runs. In any case, Ruth set major league records in total bases (457), extra base hits (119) and times on base (379), all of which stand to this day. The Yankees had high expectations when they met the New York Giants in the 1921 World Series, and the Yankees won the first two games with Ruth in the lineup. However, Ruth badly scraped his elbow during Game 2, sliding into third base (he had walked and stolen both second and third). After the game, he was told by the team physician not to play the rest of the series. Although he did play in Games 3, 4 and 5, and pinch-hit in Game 8 of the best-of-9 Series, his productivity was diminished, and the Yankees lost the series. Ruth hit .316, drove in five runs and hit his first World Series home run. (Although the Yankees won the fifth game, Ruth wrenched his knee and did not return to the Series until the eighth [last] game.) Ruth's appearance in the 1921 World Series also led to a problem and triggered another disciplinary action. After the series, Ruth played in a barnstorming tour. A rule then in force prohibited World Series participants from playing in exhibition games during the off-season, the purpose being to prevent Series participants from "restaging" the Series and undermining its value. Baseball Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis suspended Ruth for the first six weeks of the 1922 season.[37] Landis had made his point about adhering to the letter of the rules, but he also recognized that the rule was no longer needed, and rescinded it.


Despite his suspension, Ruth started his 1922 season on May 20 as the Yankees' new on-field captain. But five days later, he was ejected from a game for throwing dirt on an umpire, and then climbed into the stands to confront a heckler; Ruth was subsequently stripped of the captaincy. In his shortened season, Ruth appeared in 110 games, batted .315, with 35 home runs and drove in 99 runs, but compared to his previous two dominating seasons, the 1922 season was a disappointment for Ruth. Despite Ruth's off-year, Yankees managed to win the pennant to face the New York Giants for the second straight year in the World Series. In the series, Giants manager John McGraw instructed his pitchers to throw Ruth nothing but curveballs, and Ruth never adjusted. Ruth had just two hits in seventeen at-bats, and the Yankees lost to the Giants for the second straight year by 4–0 (with one tie game).[38] Following his disappointing performance, the Yankees considered trading Ruth that offseason.[39]


In 1923, the Yankees moved from the Polo Grounds, where they had sublet from the Giants, to their new Yankee Stadium, which was quickly dubbed "The House That Ruth Built".[40] Ruth hit the stadium's first home run on the way to a Yankees victory over the Red Sox. Ruth finished the 1923 season with a career-high .393 batting average and major-league leading 41 home runs. For the third straight year, the Yankees faced the Giants in the World Series. Rebounding from his struggles in the previous two World Series, Ruth dominated the 1923 World Series. He batted .368, walked eight times, scored eight runs, hit three home runs and slugged 1.000 during the series, as the Yankees won their first World Series title, four games to two.



There was an air of anticipation and excitement in Mahanoy City and the surrounding patches as the community and baseball fans in particular awaited the arrival of Babe Ruth in the autumn of 1923. The twenty-eight year old Ruth had just completed his fourth season with the New York Yankees in which he batted .393 ( the best of his career ) and hit 45 home runs. The Yankees had won their first world series less than two weeks before. The Bronx Bombers had defeated the New York Giants in a "subway series" in six games. This would be the first of the Yankee's 27 world championships. Babe was originally scheduled to be in town on Tuesday, the 23rd of October, but that date was postponed because of rain. Babe's appearance was rescheduled for Friday, October 26th. The local schools and collieries closed early in anticipation of the great event. The articles below are from the Record American prior to Ruth's arrival and following the game on Friday.


The photo below of the West End Stadium was taken in the 1930. The layout of the baseball field is the same as it was in 1923. I have inserted the distances to the outfield fences based on the article below which appeared in the Record American Sports Notes on the day of Ruth's appearance.


Baseball fans are familiar with the " Hot Stove League" in which the sport's more avid fans spend the winter months rehashing the previous season's highlights and pondering their favorite team's prospects for the coming season. I assume Mahanoy City's Stove League was that type of "league". On the same night as the Babe's game at the West End, the Stove League was holding a "smoker" at Nork's Hall and the Babe was invited. The Record American doesn't report whether Babe ever made it there or not. He may have had to catch the train for Oil City, his next barnstorming stop. I assume that "Dazelle", the other babe, showed up and was a big hit.


Read Stove League Smoker at Nork's Tomorrow


Click Here to Expand the Image Above


Click Here to See the "West End" in 1930



There have been many stories told throughout the years about the Babe's trip to Mahanoy City. One that was often repeated was about the towering drives that landed on the roof of the Assumption B.V.M. Church. Ruth was a left handed batter and no doubt could have pulled some long fouls in that direction, but the article below doesn't mention any long balls hit there. If he had hit a ball on the Assumption roof that blast would have rivaled the one described below at Artillery Field.


The Babe was known for some long home runs. Perhaps the longest was hit in a game that took place at Artillery Field on the campus of Wilkes University just 45 minutes up the road from Mahanoy City on October 12, 1926. Here's what the AP wires had to say about that blast.


"The ball cleared the right field fence 400 feet from the plate by more than 40 feet and was still ascending. The ball landed on the far side of the running track of a high school athletic field in Kirby Park. Officials estimated the length at 650 feet."


Per Associated Press report the day after the home run. The following articles appeared in the Record American the day after the Babe's West End Park appearance.