Monday, May 25, 2015

Babe Hits Three And Says Goodbye

On Saturday May 25, 1935 the lowly Boston Braves, with a record of 8-19 played the Pittsburgh Pirates at Forbes Field.  A crowd of 10,000 showed up, many to see the Braves' 40 year-old, out of shape right fielder who entered the game hitting only .153 -  Babe Ruth.

By the end of the 1934 season the New York Yankees had made it clear to Ruth they would not bring him back for the 1935 campaign.  Nor would they make him manager, something Babe desperately wanted.  It was an unceremonious and unsentimental act by the club towards the star who made the Yankees the best brand name in baseball since joining them in 1920 and who remains, by any measure, the greatest player in the history of the game even 101 years after his debut. 

Instead, Yankees owner Jacob Ruppert arranged, with Ruth's concurrence, to trade him to the Boston Braves of the National League. The Babe was excited about the opportunity.  He'd be back in Boston where his career started with the Red Sox in 1914 and Braves owner Judge Emil Fuchs made him a club vice-president and assistant manager, while leading him to believe he'd be the next manager.  In reality, the only interest Fuchs had in Ruth was as a gate attraction which meant he needed to take the field as a player., Ruth, Ruppert),800/0/default.jpg(Fuchs from digitalcommonwealth)

Two things quickly became apparent to the Babe in the early weeks of the season.  The first is that  his jobs were just for show; he had no role in the direction of the club and would never be made manager.  The second was that his playing days were over.  While Opening Day provided a wonderful moment when he homered off New York Giants star hurler Carl Hubbell, Ruth was awkward and slow in the outfield and he soon stopped hitting.  Entering the game on May 25, the Babe had only three hits in his last 44 at bats., odd-man out, from

Starting for the Pirates was Red Lucas, a pretty fair pitcher who won 157 games in his career. but he didn't have much that that day.  After walking the first batter who was bunted to second he faced Ruth who slugged a home run.  Lucas didn't make it out of the inning, being replaced by Guy Bush another good pitcher who won 176 games over a long career. Amazon)
Ruth came up again in the third and hit another two run homer.  In the fifth he singled home yet another run.

He came up for the fourth time in the seventh.  On a 3-1 count he launched a titanic soaring solo shot to right field.  It was the longest home run ever hit at Forbes Field and the first to leave the park, traveling more than 500 feet and hitting a house across the street.  It was the last of Babe's 714 regular season home runs. Post Gazette)

In the bottom of the seventh something occurred that would not happen today with a batter having already hit three homers and with the opportunity to come to the plate again.  Ruth was taken out of the game and replaced in right field by Joe Mowry who came to the plate in the 9th and singled.  Despite Ruth's four hits, three homers and six RBI's the Braves lost 11-7.

Bush, who had been a nemesis of Ruth's in the 1932 World Series when he was with the Cubs and plonked the Babe with a pitch, later recalled:
I never saw a ball hit so hard before or since. He was fat and old but he still had that great swing. I can't remember anything about the first home run he hit off me that day.  But I can't forget that last one.  It's probably still going.
In 1966, Bush wrote to a fan:
I feel proud that Babe Ruth hit his last 2 Home Runs off of me – as he more or less made Base Ball what it is to-day. He was by far the greatest of all players.
It was symbolically the Babe's goodbye to baseball.  Too bad it was not his real goodbye.  He'd promised Judge Fuchs that he would play out the rest of the road trip and he kept his word, though Fuchs didn't deserve the respect.  He appeared in five more games with two singles in nine at bats before announcing his retirement on June 2.  It wasn't pleasant. rarenewspapers)

By the end of the 1935 season the Braves record was 38-115, Fuchs had run out of money and the team was in receivership.

Babe Ruth was never given the opportunity to be a major league manager.

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