Come Spring, A Man’s Mind Turns to Baseball – (With History of Babe Ruth)

Ah! Spring has sprung, and “the boys of summer” are warming up at the Charlotte County Stadium for another season of that elegant sport baseball.

As usual, I am awakened to the new season by Jason Austin, my old high-school buddy. He was sports editor of the fortnightly “Arrow Head” newspaper and I was feature editor.

Upon graduation, Jas went on to become a big shot at the Buick Motor Car Co. I was more Babe168 deeply inoculated with printer’s ink and jumped at the offer of $15 per week as a rookie sportswriter for the Flint (Mich.) Daily Journal.

Our mutual affection for baseball seemingly entitles him to rattle my cage with baseball sticklers when the daffodils in his back yard sprout.

Here is this year’s brain buster: “How many hits can a team make in one inning without scoring a run?”

To understand the peculiar Babe168 RTP attraction of baseball, one must read Sportswriter Roger Kahn’s “Intellectuals and Ball Players” in the American Scholar of November 1957.


“A major league baseball team is a collection of 25 youngish men who have made the major leagues and discovered that in spite of it, life remains distressingly short of ideal. 

“A bad knee still throbs before a rainstorm. Too much beer still makes for an unpleasant fullness. Girls still insist on tiresome preliminaries. And now there is a wife who gets headaches or a baby who has colic.

“Football is violence and cold weather. Horse racing is animated roulette. Boxing is smoky halls and kidneys battered until they bleed. Tennis and golf are best played, not watched.

“Basketball, hockey and track meets are action heaped upon action, climax upon climax, until the onlooker’s response becomes deadened.

“Baseball is for the leisurely afternoons of summer and for the unchanging dreams.”



Babe Ruth’s Homer

My own explanation for the attraction of baseball is the eternal drama of one man facing nine others dedicated to defeating him. To win against these odds is a singular triumph that we can share vicariously.

A memorable example is immortal Babe Ruth’s greatest hit as recorded in faded newspaper clippings.

It all happened Oct. 1, 1932 – in the third game of the Yankee-Cubs “World Serious.” The Yankees had won the two opening games in New York and had invaded Chicago aiming for a clean-sweep blitz.

Feeling between the two teams was bitter. Ruth, always a liberal spender – had publicly denounced the Cubs as “a lotta cheapskates.” They had confined their World Series money to 24 shares – dealing out the popular Rogers Hornsby, their ex-manager.

The Babe was a popular hero of his day. Top heavy, on spindly legs, he hardly fit the role of an athlete. Yet, his keen eye, superb timing and powerful arms had made him the Home Run King.

In addition to all else, Ruth was a showman. A foundling orphan, Ruth had been reared in a children’s home. He learned to fend for himself in the hap-hazard manner of street kids.

He loved baseball, he loved the fans and he loved life. He had fun in whatever he did.

Thus, his personality and the circumstances of that third hotly-contested ball game created a situation that was to thrill 50,00 baseball fans.

* * *

The big moment came in the Yankee half of the fifth inning. The reliable Charlie Root was on the mound for Chicago.

Cub players and Chicago fans had been riding Ruth. He had homered into the right field stands in the first inning with two aboard.

Chicago rooters pegged fruit and other missiles at the Babe as he patrolled his outfield post. He, in turn, tossed a few choice observations about Chicagoans in general and Cub fans in particular. He guffawed heartily at his tormentors during the exchanges of insults. This infuriated them all the more.

Cub players lined the dugout steps and speculated loudly and unfavorably as to the Babe’s paternity, if any. He contented himself with thumbing has button nose at the Cub bench and saluting them with the raucous “Bronx cheer.”

Ruth flipped a few pennies toward the Cub dugout and shouted, “Split those up among yuh, pikers!”

There was one down in that fateful fifth. The score was tied 4-4. Ruth, with his mincing stride, stepped into the batter’s box. He cocked his big bat menacingly and grinned at Root on the mound.

The smile faced as Root whipped a strike past him. The stands went wild. The Cub bench unleashed a new barrage of insults at the Babe. He held up one finger – pantomiming that it was only one strike.

A ball intervened. Babe didn’t deign to notice.

On the next pitch, Ruth stood motionless as the ball sailed past. The umpire bawled, “Strike two!” The fans howled and the Cub bench jeered.

Babe held up two fingers and waggled them majestically. Then he made the most dramatic and daring gesture seen in a World Series. He pointed his bat at the flagpole in center-right field – an unmistakable declaration that he would hit the next pitch out of the park at that exact spot.

Ruth wrapped his ham-like hands tightly around the bat and dug in. Root had him in the hole and could afford to waste two balls on him.

Bad ball or good, in the grove or low and outside, the Babe had promised his ill wishers he was going to hit the next pitch to kingdom come. The instant Root let fly with the ball, Ruth started to wind up and deliver.

Wham! The ball soared into the blue – straight out of the park where Ruth had indicated. Sportswriters proclaimed the Herculean homer was the longest ever made in the Cub’s park.

The instant Ruth fulfilled his prodigious promise; he stepped out of his role of villain and became the boisterous Babe. He flung down his bat and galloped around the base paths – pausing briefly at each to address a few indecorous remarks to their custodian.

It was the Babe’s finest hour. The yanks held the lead Babe had given them and swept the series the next day.

The Babe was in the twilight of his career when he capped it with that supreme show of one man against nine of his peers.

There is hope for all, even when the odds pile up.

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