Babe's Philly Facts
May 25, 1935. Simple math says that is 71 years ago today.
What is the significance of this date, you ask?
Well, it was on this date that Babe Ruth hit his 714th and final home run. Actually, he hit three that day against the Pirates at Pittsburgh’s Forbes Field. #714 was the first ever to be hit over the towering right field roof at Forbes. Playing for the Boston Braves, Ruth hit six home runs in 28 games during his final season.
Five days later (simple math says May 30), Ruth played his final game in the big leagues and it was against the Phillies, the first game of a doubleheader at Baker Bowl. Ruth started in left field, was third in the batting order, batted once and left the game. No hits, no fly ball outs and one assist. Crowd was listed at 18,000.
Gone, career over.
There are a lot of ties to Philadelphia for the Babe. Thanks to Dave Vincent, a SABR member who is the master of home run information, Phillies historian Rich Westcott and Dave Smith of Retrosheet.org, here are Babe’s Philly facts:
**His first at-bat in a World Series came against the Phillies at Baker Bowl, October 8, 1915. He grounded out as a pinch-hitter for Ernie Shore in the ninth inning. The Phillies won that game, 3-1, but the Red Sox swept the next four.
**His first hit as a member of the Yankees came against the Philadelphia A’s at Shibe Park, April 14, 1920, a first-inning single off Scott Perry. Ruth dropped a line drive that led to two unearned runs and a 3-1 loss for the Yankees. The headline the next day in the Philadelphia Evening Bulletin: “Macks win opener on Ruth’s Muff, 3-1.” Ruth struck out in the fourth inning. “The fans roared for three minutes as Ruth missed three terrific swings,” reported the Evening Bulletin.
**Phillies right fielder Clifford Carlton “Gavvy” Cravath set a new single-season home run record for the Major Leagues in 1915 with 24. According to The Ballplayers, Cravath was a “tobacco-chewing, cussing bruiser called ‘Cactus’ for his prickly personality.” What fun today’s media would have in covering such a character. Four years later, Ruth broke Cravath’s record with 29. It was Ruth’s last Red Sox season.
**September 29, 1920, Ruth, now with the Yankees, broke his own single-season record by hitting #54. That came in the final game of the season against the A’s at Shibe Park.
**Shibe Park was Ruth’s favorite visiting park as he hit 68 there, including six in back-to-back doubleheaders (May 20-21) in 1920.
On May 1 of this year, Frank Fitzpatrick of the Philadelphia Inquirer wrote a story about the Babe, what might be his finest tie to Philadelphia. You won’t find it in the record book.
This time the date was September 4, 1923. The Rev. William Casey from Ascension of Our Lord Church in the Kensington section of Philadelphia took out a loan and built a baseball field at I and Tioga Streets, Boger Field. Rev. Casey, who also served as the Philadelphia Athletics’ chaplain, realized the collection plate wouldn’t cover the expenses.
According to Fitzpatrick, “He noticed that Ruth and the Yankees would be at Shibe Park in September. He knew that Ruth had grown up at St. Mary’s, a Catholic orphanage in Baltimore, and had a soft spot for kids.” Rev. Casey had asked Ruth earlier in the season and the Babe agreed to play a game at Boger Field on their last trip to Philadelphia.
That game, Ascension and Babe versus a team from Lit Bros. department store, was scheduled for 6 p.m. after the 3:15 p.m. Yankees-A’s game. Following the 90-minute no-hitter by Sam Jones against the A’s, Ruth was driven to the field where an estimated crowd of 10,000 awaited him.
It is a fabulous story filled with lots of details. In summary, Ruth played nine innings, hit a home run, dived in vain to make a catch and signed autographs.
Babe Ruth is a legend… in many ways.