The Sultan of Sling, The Colossus of Curve
Last week as I was reviewing my notes from the final game at historic Yankee Stadium (Sunday, September 21, 2008), one notation stood out above all the rest, one line, in bold print stood off the page ten feet high sending me back to the roaring twenties. A time when a man like myself might find comfort in a bottle, satchel or even a cat-house and not be looked at as any less of a man for it.
Monday, October 9th, 1916
World Series, Game 2
Braves Field, Boston, Massachusetts
Boston Red Sox Vs Brooklyn Robins (Dodgers)
George Herman "Babe" Ruth, Jr.
Boston IP H R ER BB SO HR ERA
Babe Ruth 14 6 1 1 3 4 1 0.64
All to often fans of Major League Baseball have been regaled with tales of The Great Bambino’s legendary exploits, his love of red meat, whisky-cigars and even the occasional woman of the night. Once, unanimously the games greatest players, Ruth’s accomplishments have since been overshadowed by the likes of Henry Aaron and the other gentlemen of the grand America pastime. I can still remember when Ruth’s pitching abilities where the trump card to anyone trying to one up the Bambino as head honcho of all thing baseball but that was in my youth before I was aware of just how impressive Ruth the pitcher was, in a time before the Babe was branded a poor role model and unceremoniously faded into history. Strike one.
Ruth’s "poor role model" status, his smoking, drinking and easy living was hardly out of place in the roaring twenties but in today’s politically correct, smoke-free, sponsorship society where regulation rules the day Ruth has been put on the back burner. Imagine Wayne Gretzky hidden in an NHL attic or Michael Jordan shuffled through a deck of NBA infamy, or maybe it’s Tiger Wood’s as an asterisk, an abbreviation, a footnote in the back pages of some musty sports almanac.
In game two of the 1916 World Series, Ruth pitched a 14 inning complete game, unheard-of in the current era of "get me to six, pitchers" who’s only responsibility is to get to the sixth inning where a middle reliever will take over for two innings before giving way to the set-up man (1inning) and eventually the closer (1inning). Pitchers today are babied too say the very least, multi-million dollar contracts, minimal expectation....wait this is starting to sound a lot like a Wall Street banker, where’s the golden parachute? Babe Ruth, the pitcher was a hoss, a big ol’ Clydesdale with no modern day equal (honourable mention – Toronto Blue Jays Roy Halladay) who was only relived of his duties as a Major League gunslinger to utilize his bat, America’s Ex Caliber, as an everyday player. The trick worked, Ruth armed with Ex Caliber and a part-time pitching gig
(13-7) clubbed a League leading 11 home-runs effectively ending his run as a Major League pitcher. The Babe’s pitching career would be left in the dust by both society and the Sultan of Swat himself as the Babe conked a ridiculous, League leading 29 home-runs in 1919, his first season removed from pitching duties before revolutionizing offensive production with a heart-throbbing 54 homers to bring in the roaring twenties. Strike two.
Ruth the youngest player of 1914 lead the League in wins three times 1915, 16 and 17. He lead the League in ERA, games started and shutouts during the 1916 season, complete games and batters faced through 1917 but it’s his World Series record that stands above the rest. Three games pitched, 31 innings, 2 wins, 0 losses, 2 complete games, 19 hits, 10 walks, 8 strikeouts and outstandingly just three earned runs, three earned runs through thirty-one innings of work. Strike three.