Young Ruth Thrills Crowd
NEW YORK – In January of 1920, the course of two baseball franchises would be forever changed. The Boston Red Sox sold their star pitcher and emerging offensive juggernaut, George Herman ‘Babe’ Ruth, to the New York Yankees for a record $125,000. Though it was the highest amount of money ever paid for a baseball player at that time – not including a personal loan Yankee owner Colonel Ruppert bestowed onto Sox owner Harry Frazee for the funding of ‘No, No, Nanette’ – Yankee attendance doubled in 1920. Ruth had hit a then-record 29 homeruns the year before, and pitched 17 out of the 132 games in which he played. In his first year with the Yankees, and coincidentally his first as a full-time position player, the Babe broke his year-old record, and bashed 54 round trippers. This astounding figure was more than that of any other American or National League team, with the exception of the Phillies.
During a June 25th game in New York, the Yanks played to a loud summer crowd of just under 20,000 who were eager to welcome the boys home after a successful western stint. The game was not punctuated by the blistering sunny haze that enveloped the field, but by the explosive offense provided by the young star. With no one on in the first inning, Ruth hit a 2-out shot into the right field bleachers, giving the Babe 21 homeruns for the season, and the Yankees, a 2-1 edge. Boston lefty Herb Pennock pitched carefully to Ruth for his next two at bats, as he clearly was not eager to give up anymore moonshots from the slugger. With somewhat of a cushy lead in the bottom of the ninth, he took his chance.
Depicted is the aftermath of that at bat, as Ruth is shown crossing the plate in the massive Polo Grounds after his second homerun of the afternoon off of Pennock. The monstrous shot hit the top of the grandstand frieze in right field, and then bounced back onto the field. Eye witnesses stated that Ruth’s 22nd home run of the season certainly would have hit the far tracks of the ‘L’ train had the balls path not been obstructed. Though Boston could not contain Ruth, the Yankees fell by the score of 6-3. Right fielder Bob Meusel was at home plate to greet the powerful hitter, as was Boston catcher Roxy Walters and umpire Oliver Chill.
Though only a game out of first place on this hot day, the Yankees would ultimately finish third in 1920, behind the Chicago White Sox and the eventual champion Cleveland Indians. The following season would see the Yankees win their first pennant, and two years later, their first world championship. Boston, however, reaped few on-the-field benefits from Frazee’s gamble of 1920. The Red Sox would not even play in another World Series until over a quarter of a century after the sale of Ruth.