Here’s an old record I picked up along the way. Thought you guys might dig it.
Put the needle the groove and enjoy.
Here’s an old record I picked up along the way. Thought you guys might dig it.
Put the needle the groove and enjoy.
Excerpted from From Black Sox to Three-Peats: A Century of Chicago’s Best Sports Writing (University of Chicago Press), edited by Ron Rapoport and featuring stories from the Chicago Tribune, the Chicago Sun-Times, the Chicago Daily News, and the Chicago Defender, among other papers. It’s an excellent collection, and this week we’ll be selecting a story every day to give you a taste. First up: Westbrook Pegler’s “The Called Shot Heard Round the World,” from the Chicago Tribune, Oct. 2, 1932.
There, in the third ball game of the World Series, at the Cubs’ ball yard on the north side yesterday, the people who had the luck to be present saw the supreme performance of the greatest artist the profession of sport has ever produced. Babe Ruth hit two home runs.
Now, Lou Gehrig also hit two home runs, and Jimmy Foxx of the Athletics or any other master mechanic of the business might have hit three or four home runs and you would have gone away with the same impression that a factory tourist receives from an hour of watching a big machine lick labels and stick them on bottles of mouthwash or pop. The machine might awe you, but would you love it?
The people who saw Babe Ruth play that ball game and hit those two home runs against the Cubs came away from the baseball plant with a spiritual memento of the most gorgeous display of humor, athletic art and championship class any performer in any of the games has ever presented.
The Babe is 38 years old, and if you don’t know that he is unable to hike as far for fly balls or stoop as nimbly as he used to for rollers coming to him through the grass, that must be just your own fault, because he would not deceive you. As an outfielder he is pretty close to his past tense, which may mean that one more year from now he will be only a pinch-hitter. He has been breaking this news all year to himself and the customers.
Why, when Bill Jurges, the human clay pigeon, hit a short fly to him there in left field and he mauled it about, trying for a shoestring catch, he came up off the turf admitting all as Jurges pulled up at second.
The old Babe stood up, straightened his cap and gesticulated vigorously toward Earl Combs in center. “Hey!” the old Babe waved, “my dogs ain’t what they used to be. Don’t hit them out to me. Hit to the young guy out there.”
The customers behind him in the bleachers were booing him when the ball game began, but they would have voted him president when it was over, and he might not be a half-bad compromise, at that. Somebody in the crowd tossed out a lemon which hit him on the leg. Now there are sensitive ball players who might have been petulant at that and some stiff-necked ones who could only ignore it, boiling inwardly. But the Babe topped the jest. With graphic gestures, old Mr. Ruth called on them for fair play. If they must hit him with missiles, would they please not hit him on the legs? The legs weren’t too good anyway. Would they just as lief hit him on the head? The head was solid and could stand it.
I am telling you that before the ball game began the Babe knew he was going to hit one or more home runs. He had smacked half a dozen balls into the right-field bleachers during his hitting practice and he knew he had the feel of the trick for the day. When his hitting practice was over he waddled over toward the Cubs’ dugout, his large abdomen jiggling in spite of his rubber corsets, and yelled at the Cubs sulking down there in the den, “Hey, muggs! You muggs are not going to see the Yankee Stadium any more this year. This World Series is going to be over Sunday afternoon. Four straight.”
He turned, rippling with the fun of it and, addressing the Chicago customers behind third base, yelled, “Did you hear what I told them over there? I told them they ain’t going back to New York. We lick ’em here, today and tomorrow.”
The Babe had been humiliating the Cubs publicly throughout the series. They were a lot of Lord Jims to him. They had had a chance to be big fellows when they did the voting on the division of the World Series pool. But for a few dollars’ gain they had completely ignored Rogers Hornsby, their manager for most of the year, who is through with baseball now apparently without much to show for his long career, and had held Mark Koenig, their part-time shortstop, to a half share. The Yankees, on the contrary, had been generous, even to ex-Yankees who were traded away months ago, to their deformed bat boy who was run over and hurt by a car early in the season, and to his substitute.
There never was such contempt shown by one antagonist for another as the Babe displayed for the Cubs, and ridicule was his medium.
In the first inning, with Earle Combs and Joe Sewell on base, he sailed his first home run into the bleachers. He hit Charlie Root’s earnest pitching with the same easy, playful swing that he had been using a few minutes before against the soft, casual service of a guinea-pig pitcher. The ball would have fallen into the street beyond the bleachers under ordinary conditions, but dropped among the patrons in the temporary seats.
The old Babe came around third base and past the Cubs’ dugout yelling comments which were unintelligible to the patrons but plainly discourteous and, pursing his lips, blew them a salute known as the Bronx cheer.
He missed a second home run in the third inning when the ball came down a few feet short of the wire screen, but the masterpiece was only deferred. He hit it in the fifth, a ball that sailed incredibly to the extreme depth of center field and dropped like a perfect mashie shot behind the barrier, long enough to clear it, but with no waste of distance.
Guy Bush, the Cubs’ pitcher, was up on the top step of the dugout, jawing back at him as he took his turn at bat this time. Bush pushed back his big ears, funneled his hands to his mouth, and yelled raspingly at the great man to upset him. The Babe laughed derisively and gestured at him. “Wait, mugg, I’m going to hit one out of the yard.” Root threw a strike past him and he held up a finger to Bush, whose ears flapped excitedly as he renewed his insults. Another strike passed him and Bush crawled almost out of the hole to extend his remarks.
The Babe held up two fingers this time. Root wasted two balls and the Babe put up two fingers on his other hand. Then, with a warning gesture of his hand to Bush, he sent him the signal for the customers to see.
“Now,” it said, “this is the one. Look!” And that one went riding in the longest home run ever hit in the park.
He licked the Chicago ball club, but he left the people laughing when he said good-bye, and it was a privilege to be present because it is not likely that the scene will ever be repeated in all its elements. Many a hitter may make two home runs, or possibly three in World Series play in years to come, but not the way Babe Ruth made these two. Nor will you ever see an artist call his shot before hitting one of the longest drives ever made on the grounds, in a World Series game, laughing and mocking the enemy with two strikes gone.
Westbrook Pegler (1884-1969) was one of America’s most widely read sportswriters during the Golden Age of Sports in the 1920s. He then turned to political reporting, for which he won a Pulitzer Prize for articles on union racketeering, and wrote columns that were reviled in many quarters for their mixture of personal invective and right-wing politics.
There’s one thing you should know about the Banter–we spare no expense in the pursuit of a story, and we are never truly on vacation.
So even as my family and I have been enjoying the tropical breezes, idyllic pace, and pristine beaches of Hawaii this week, I’ve kept my nose to the ground the entire time, searching for a story. I found one on Day One.
Directly outside our hotel on the Hilo side of the Big Island, stood an enormous banyan tree marked with a simple sign, “Geo. Herman “Babe” Ruth, Oct. 29, 1933″. After some serious reporting (a five-second conversation with the concierge), I procured a pamphlet which described the evolution of Banyan Drive. Back in 1933 someone decided it might be a fun idea to have celebrities and local luminaries plant banyan trees along a stretch of road that curved around an inlet of the Pacific Ocean. The Babe was on a barnstorming tour, so he was a natural pick, as was Cecil B. DeMille, who was in town filming a movie.
Banyan trees appear as if they’ve been imported directly the planet Dagobah. They begin as a tree with a single trunk, but as they mature, the branches drop long tendrils which twist downward until they find the ground and take root, eventually thickening to the point where it becomes difficult to identify the original trunk. Mature trees have hundreds of separate trunks encompassing hundreds of square feet.
I took my daughter Alison down to the tree on the morning we left to take a few pictures. Before we left I asked her to put her hand next to mine on the outermost root. It was rough and full of history.
“Can you feel it?” I asked. “Babe Ruth planted this tree. Babe Ruth.”
On July 11, 1914 Babe Ruth made his big league debut.
Yesterday, the Photo Booth blog at the New Yorker ran a photo gallery of Ruth to mark the occasion.
Dig this scene from the 1928 Harold Lloyd feature, “Speedy” featuring Babe Ruth.
And check out this post that our man William did on the movie not long ago.
Over at Grantland, Jane Leavy has a long piece on Babe Ruth’s daughter, his last surviving relative:
He was the Babe, the Bam, the Big Bam, and the Great (and Bulby) Bambino (or Slambino); the Barnstorming Babe, the Bazoo of Bang, the Behemoth of Biff and Bust; Blunderbuss, and the Modern Beowulf. He was the Caliph and Colossus of Clout and Club, the Circuit Smasher and Goliath of Grand Slam, Homeric Herman and Herman the Great. He was the High Priest of Swat, and before that the Infant of Swategy. Also: the Kid of Crash, King of Clout/Diamonds/Swing, and, until Roger Maris, Hank Aaron, and the steroid marauders came along, the Home Run King. He was the Maharajah/Mauler of Mash, the Mauling Menace, Mauling Monarch, Mauling Mastodon, as well as the Mastodonic Mauler, Bulky Monarch, and Monarch of Swatdom; the Prince of Pounders, Rajah of Rap, Sachem of Slug, and Sultan of Swat; Terrible Titan, Whazir of Wham, Wali of Wallop, Wizard of Whack. And, not to be outdone, Damon Runyon added: “Diamond-Studded Ball-Buster.”
The priests at St. Mary’s Industrial School, the Xaverian reform school on the outskirts of Baltimore to which he was consigned at age 7, called him George. The parents who didn’t visit called him Little George. The boys incarcerated along with him called him Nigger Lips. The Red Sox called him the Big Baboon and sometimes Tarzan, a name he liked until he found out what it meant. The Yankees called him Jidge.
Julia Ruth Stevens, his sole surviving daughter, calls him Daddy. Odd as it is to hear a nonagenarian refer to a man 60 years gone as Daddy, it is also a tender reminder of the limits of hyperbole, how grandiose honorifics obscure the messy, telling details of an interior life.
To others he is a brand, an archetype, a lodestar. His shape is ingrained in our DNA. His name recognition, 96 percent, is higher than any living athlete. (His Q score, a measure of how much the people who know him like him, is 32 percent compared to 13 percent for today’s average major leaguer.) And yet, as well-known as he is, the most essential biographical fact of his life, one that demands revisiting what we thought we knew, one that Julia assumed everybody knew, remained unknown.
I wasn’t going to write about this Colby Lewis paternity leave debate, because it seems like such a cut-and-dry issue to me. Basically: Lewis missed a start last week to be there for the birth of his child; a Dallas Observer writer thought that was “ludicrous”; many people begged to differ. But I remember from our discussion here of Mark Teixeira’s missing games for his child’s birth last year that many people have a different take, so maybe it’s worth bringing up again. For one thing, Rob Neyer, a generally eminently reasonable guy, played devil’s advocate and thought the Obvserver writer had a point.
I guess there’s an argument to be made for a player staying with the team rather than taking paternity leave (which has a three-day maximum limit, by the way), although I would certainly not make it myself. But what rubbed me and, I think, many other people so much the wrong way about Richie Whitt’s blog post was its obnoxiously scornful tone:
But a pitcher missing one of maybe 30 starts? And it’s all kosher because of Major League Baseball’s new paternity leave rule?
Follow me this way to some confusion.
Imagine if Jason Witten missed a game to attend the birth of a child. It’s just, I dunno, weird. Wrong even…
…Baseball players are paid millions to play baseball. If that means “scheduling” births so they occur in the off-season, then so be it. Of the 365 days in a year, starting pitchers “work” maybe 40 of them, counting spring training and playoffs.If it was a first child, maybe. But a second child causing a player to miss a game? Ludicrous.
See, you can disagree with a player taking paternity leave… but “ludicrous”? Of course it’s not ludicrous. That’s a massively entitled attitude for any fan or writer to take. A team, the player’s employer, might have a right to ask a player to stay with the club – ask, not tell – but what right do the rest of us have to make that kind of demand? Anyway, there were about 80 comments on the piece last time I checked, most of them calling Whitt a jerk. Rob Neyer, however, is not a jerk, and here’s some of what he had to say:
What if we’re talking about your favorite NFL team’s quarterback? Do you want him skipping Sunday’s big game to attend the birth of his third child? Yeah? What if it’s the Super Bowl?
The answer’s not so obvious now, huh?
I’m going to be honest here, as I have been since the first time this came up, some years ago (official paternity leave is new, but players taking a game off to attend childbirth is not) … As a human being, I think this is fantastic. As a baseball fan, though? If my team’s in the playoff hunt, I’m sorry, but I don’t want one of my starting pitchers taking the night off. We’re not talking about some guy who works on the assembly line for the Integrated Widget Corporation. We’re talking about one of the most talented pitchers on the planet, not easily replaceable. What if your team finishes one game short of the playoffs? Was it really worth it?
Neyer’s much more reasonable than Whitt, as you might expect, but I don’t find his argument remotely convincing here. There are dozens of moments and events that cause a team to miss the playoffs by one game; to blame that on a player missing a start makes no more sense than blaming it entirely on one pitch, one play, one middling relief pitcher. I’d also add that players miss games all the time – for the flu, for a sore back, for a stiff neck – for reasons that, while they may be physical and therefore a different beast, are also vastly less important than a birth. Most players miss a few games here and there during a season, and every team expects it. Beyond that, in the U.S., the only jobs I can think of for which employees are expected to miss childbirth are military positions – and even then, when it’s possible the army will arrange a soldier’s leave so that he can be there for childbirth. As much as I love baseball, Colby Lewis’s presence in any given game is hardly a life-or-death issue or a matter of national security.
What if it’s a playoff game, a World Series game even? Well, that’s a harder decision, but one that the player and his family should be allowed to make for themselves. I wouldn’t judge someone on that either way. And I know if I ever have a baby, I would absolutely not be okay with the father missing it for his job, unless we needed that particular paycheck to survive or unless he was literally saving lives. Neither is the case for a pro athlete, though, however much a World Series win might mean for fans.
I know that not all of the Banter’s regular commenters agree with me on this, though, so marshall your arguments below…
Japanese baseball card.
Hey, head on over to Life.com and dig these cool images from Babe Ruth Day (June 13, 1948).
Thanks to Baseball Think Factory for the link.
The Wall Street Journal ranks the the greatest Yankees by their stats, economic impact and cultural relevance. No surprise at number one.
Leigh Montville edited this year’s edition of The Best American Sports Writing. If you’ve got the extra scratch, pick-up a copy to see Todd Drew’s terrific Yankee Stadium memory in print. It’s one of the great moments in this site’s history.
WEEI in Boston ran a short interview with Montville who has some interesting thoughts about the newspaper business, Sports Illustrated, and the nature of sports writing today (thanks to the Think Factory for the link).
Also, there’s this on the Babe:
What’s the most surprising thing you learned about Babe Ruth when you wrote that book?
“I think he was smarter than most people think he was. He grew up without much education. He came out of an orphanage. He had that reputation, and it was well-deserved of being a late-night guy, a carouser who ate a million hot dogs and all that stuff. But he was very smart in lining up his career. He had the first real business manager of any athlete. The guy took care of him and his money. Babe Ruth had money until he died and lived a good life. He made sound decisions in the people he enlisted to help him. He got a personal trainer back when nobody had personal trainers, when he was starting to fall apart. The personal trainer got him on the road and got him hitting again. He had the knowledge to straighten himself out. A lot of guys don’t have that — Antoine Walker being the latest one. He had more self control that I think most people give him credit for.”