Babe Ruth, His Daughter and New Info

As far as I know, most (maybe all) of the info here on Babe Ruth and his daughter has never been in print before. For a long time I didn’t know that Ruth’s second wife, Claire, and slugger Johnny Mize were first cousins. So, between her husband and cousin, she was associated with 1,073 home runs!

MY STORY:  When I was writing the life story of Ruth, simply entitled Babe Ruth: A Biography, the curator of the Babe Ruth Museum in Baltimore told me that Ruth’s daughter Julia was living in a suburb of Phoenix. It turned out she lived not only in the same town as a good friend of mine, but only about two block from him. I immediately decided to try to accomplish two things–paying my friend a visit and get first hand information on Ruth from Julia. When she agreed to speak to me at her house, it was time for a trip from Ohio to Arizona. It turned out to be one of my favorite interviews/experiences as a writer. Julia passed away not very long ago, on March 9, 2019, having lived a long, memorable life—lasting until the age of 102.

INFO FROM THAT VISIT: This next story is actually from Julia’s son Tom Stevens who was visiting her the day I sat down for the interview. This tale shows that much of the legend of Ruth and many of his superhuman feats were true.

One day Tom ran into the then oldest living member of the Hall of Fame, Joe Sewell.  “He was wheelchair-bound, but he played with Babe in the 30’s.  He was a third baseman with the Yankees [1931-33] in the twilight of Babe’s career.

Stevens related, “He had a twinkle in his eye while he was telling [of the time] he was the last one in the locker room and Babe came in, almost stumbling, late for practice, for infield and shagging flies.  The first thing that would come to people’s mind was that he had been out partying or something like that, but he wasn’t— even he couldn’t do that forever, particularly at his age at that time.  He’d long ago given that up anyway. My grandmother wouldn’t have stood for it; in a lot of ways she was one of the best things that happened to him; she brought him up short, so to speak.

“Anyway, he [Sewell] was just about to go on the field, and by this time Babe was getting dressed and he said, ‘Hey, kid, can you give me a hand getting dressed?  There’s something wrong here and I can’t figure it out.’  He had put his pants on backwards.

“What had happened was his knees were so shot by that time in his career he was in continual search for painkillers.  With prescription drugs, some of them don’t necessarily agree with you too well.  Apparently that was what happened in this case.

“So he [Sewell] proceeded to tell the story of how he helped him get dressed and then went out onto the field and Babe followed along afterwards.  In spite of all that, he put two out and went 3-for-5, I think, and had five or six RBI. Not too shabby a day.

“At that point Joe Sewell looked up at me and said, ‘Son, your grandfather was a baseball god.’”

FROM JULIA: Julia feels most proud of being Babe’s daughter not because of what he accomplished on the field, but rather “just for him being the person that he was and for being such a wonderful father.  There aren’t a lot of stepfathers, which, of course, he started out as, who adopt the children that they are a stepfather to.  He treated me as if I had always been his and I never knew another father.   Boy, I’m telling you something, I just thought, and I still do think, that I was the luckiest girl in the world to have him adopt me; he was just so wonderful.”  

She said she didn’t even care that he was a superstar ballplayer.  “Absolutely.  It wouldn’t have changed what he was.”  In fact, Babe “pretty much left it [his accomplishments] on the field.  He really didn’t talk much about [games].  One thing he would say would be if they lost a game.  He’d say, ‘I think we could have won that game if such and such a thing had been done, if they’d removed a pitcher’ or something like that.  Outside of that, he didn’t really bring the game home.”

Even if, say, the Babe had hit three homers in a game, he didn’t discuss it.  As Julia note, “It wasn’t as if he hadn’t done it before.  When he hit the last three in Pittsburgh, Mother was with him.  I wasn’t, but I thought it was great.  To me it was Daddy and that was the kind of thing that Daddy did.

“I, along with Mother, do wish that he had retired after that, but when he made a promise, he kept it no matter what, and he had promised Judge Fuchs that he would finish the particular [road trip] until they got back to Boston— that was when he handed in his retirement.”

If you enjoyed this blog and want more about Ruth and his relatives, add a comment here and I’ll run some additional material.

FINAL ITEMS: A famous story (perpetuated by several movies on the Babe) has him visiting a hospital to see a sick boy named Johnny Slyvester. He promises the boy that he’ll hit a homer for him the next day. Well, two things: 1) part of that story is true, but a whole LOT of it was manufactured/embellished by Hollywood. 2) it was not at all unusual for Ruth to promise young fans that he’d hit a homer for them. One book I read said that, in fact, he “usually” made this promise to sick kids.

He truly was great with kids, but why does Hollywood have to distort things? I am always skeptical when I see “based on true events” associated with movies because I know that means some of the material is embellished for dramatic effect AND I also know that means I have NO idea what is true from the movie and what isn’t. Therefore, I go away skeptical about almost everything in the movie at times.

Quick Stan the Man Info May ’20

We, especially those of us raised in Donora, Pa., know a lot about Stan Musial and his greatness. However, from time to time I stumble across a new fact or stat about him such as:

Did you know he was the only N.L. player from 1930-1996 to post a slugging percentage of .700 or better? OPINION: As far as I’m concerned he’s still the only one to do that from 1930 through today. I say that because the others to top .700 were men I call cheaters, McGwire and Bonds, or Larry Walker. I mention him because I dismiss a lot of the stats and feats of those who had Coor’s Field as their home park. The best a fellow Donora native did in this category was an impressive .674 by Griffey Jr (who once led his league in slugging). Musial, by the way, led the N.L. in slugging six times.

Stan was the first N.L. player to cop three MVP Awards. One source states he was also the first N.L. star to reach the $100,000 plateau for salary. He is still the only man with 400+ HR with fewer than 700 strikeouts–he hit 475 homers and fanned just 696 times. He drew 1,599 walks over his 22 seasons. He averaged just about 30 strikeouts per year–compare THAT to today’s totals for star players. Nowadays who can hit for average like Stan, with a lot of combined double/home run power, yet hardly ever whiff? NOBODY. As a 22-year-old in 1943, he had 700 plate appearances and struck out a career low of 18 times! That’s about 2 1/2 strikeouts per every 100 times he stood in the batter’s box.

P.S. On Walker. Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? I wonder. He was very good, but great? From his first full season, 1990, through 1994 spent as an Expo, he led his league in one statistic one time. His RBI totals in Montreal were 51, 64, 93, 86, and 86 and his highest home run output was 23. Then in his first two full seasons in Colorado, he hit 36 and 49 HR with 101 and 130 RBI. The first year he led the league in slugging he actually had a higher percentage on the road than at home. However, in ’99 when he again led the league, he slugged .879 in the thin air of his home park to a mere .519 away! What a startling disparity!! Leave a comment if you have an opinion on this.

Talking Baseball KDKA Radio

The Larry Richert KDKA program I was supposed to be on a few weeks back is now saying, barring something unforeseen, that I will be his guest this coming Sunday, the 26th, at 2:30 to discuss 1960: When the Pittsburgh Pirates Had Them All the Way and Wits, Flakes, and Clowns on baseball’s funniest, most colorful characters. If you live outside the area KDKA (1020 AM) reaches, you can listen in live by using the app or the website for Radio.com (so I’m told). I think if you type in KDKA radio on a search engine one option you’ll see is “Listen Live” for Radio.com Thanks!

Here are two quick funny sample story from the Wits book:

Kirby Higbe, a player from a long time ago, had a strong fear of flying. On one flight, Brooklyn teammate Pee Wee Reese tried to console him, saying there was no need to fret because when a person’s number is up, it doesn’t matter if you’re in the air or on the ground. Higbe refused to be placated. “Suppose I’m up here with a pilot and my number isn’t up, but his is.”

This one is an oldie, but just in case you never heard it, here goes–

Hack Wilson was a notorious big drinker (and a big slugger–his record 191 RBI in a season still stands Chicago Cubs manager). Wilson once said, “I’ve never played drunk. Hung over, yes, but never drunk.” And Al Drooz wrote, “Hack Wilson batted right-handed and threw right-handed, but he drank equally well from either side.”

Wilson’s manager, Joe McCarthy, was trying to preach to him the folly of drinking whiskey. In order to demonstrate the point that whiskey would damage both Wilson and his career, McCarthy dropped a worm into a glass of water. He then extracted the not too happy, but still alive worm and then dropped it into a glass of whiskey. The worm soon died. McCarthy broke into a smug little smile, and asked Wilson if he had learned something from this experiment. Wilson replied, yes, “It means that if I keep on drinking liquor, I ain’t going to have no worms.”

 

April 2020 Astonishing Tales Part II

Here is the rest of the amazing info on the 26 inning, Boston vs. Brooklyn, 1-1 tie between pitchers Leon Cadore of the Dodgers and Joe Oeschger back on May 1st, almost exactly 100 years ago now. Ten days prior to the marathon duel, Cadore topped Oeschger in an 11-inning, 1-0 shutout. On May Day, the two would toil all 26 innings only to wind up with no decisions.

Cadore pitched to 95 batters, less than four hitters each inning, and Oeschger did even better, facing only 90 men. Cadore set a record by registering 13 assist, more than any pitcher in a single game ever (his opponent racked up 11 assists). Oeschger established a new record by working 21 straight shutout innings in a game, one better than Cadore. One first baseman, Walter Holke was particularly busy with 32 putouts and an assist. Only three Dodgers reached as far as third base–the runner who scored and two men who were wiped out on double play action according to author Norman L. Macht.

Pitch counts were many decades in the future, but Cadore guessed that he threw nearly 300 pitches while Oeschger estimated he fired about 250 pitches! Plus, as mentioned in the last blog, the game ran under four hours at 3:50. Two men throwing that many pitches, two men throwing that many innings, and a game of that length running for that amount of time would be sheer impossibilities in today’s game. In short, this was one remarkable game.

It would not have been so memorable except for an error by Oeschger which allowed the Dodgers only run of the game to score. Take that away and Oeschger wins a 1-0 contest in nine innings and many entries in the record books would never have been written.

Macht wrote in the book The Ol’ Ball Game that when Cadore was being attended to by a doctor in 1958, the physician complained to him that he couldn’t locate a good vein for a needle. He said, “A man your age should have a vein sticking right out, especially in that right arm that pitched those 26 innings.” Cadore smiled and replied, “Doc, I pitched that game with my head.”

Cadore later stated that his arm was so sore he couldn’t even comb his hair for three days. Still, a week later he resumed his turn in the rotation. He also said the he had never before had a sore arm and that he never again came up sore. However, he added that he never again “had the same stuff.” In fact, he ended the season at 15-14 but his win totals over the next few years tapered off to 13, 8, 4, then zero. His career was over at the end of his winless 1924 season. He wound up with 68 wins, 72 losses, and one unforgettable no decision.

Oeschger’s career path was rather similar although after going 15-13 in 1920, he followed that up with a 20-win season. Then, however, he also hit the skids, winning only 6, 5, 4, then in his final season, one while wearing the uniform of the team he had baffled for 26 innings–Brooklyn. Like Cadore, he also wound up with a sub-.500 career mark at 82-116. Still, what he and Cadore did on May 1, 1920, forever remains etched in the record books.

Astounding Baseball Tales

When I was a kid, I occasionally came across a Topps baseball card that stood out to me. For instance, one was a series of cards portraying stages of Babe Ruth’s life and one celebrated Rogers Hornsby’s .424 batting average in ’24.

Incidentally, the Rajah AVERAGED hitting over .400 for a period of four seasons! He had won his first of six consecutive batting titles (and seven overall) in 1920, then flirted with the .400 plateau the next year at .397. Then came his four-year spree. He hit .401 in ’22, had a terrible slump the next year, “only” hitting .384. Next came his .424 season followed by his .403 mark in ’25!

Here are some notes on two other special baseball “thrill cards” from 1961 which I still recall:

Commemorating Harvey Haddix’s perfect game in ’59: I still can’t believe that a baseball commissioner changed the rules on what constitutes a no-hitter and that Haddix, author of the best pitched game in baseball history was stripped of perfect game status.

Here’s more on Haddix and his gem. In 1954, in a game versus Milwaukee, Joe Adcock whistled a wicked line drive back at the box. The ball collided with Haddix’s knee, putting him out of action and, he said, causing him to never again be as effective as he had been prior to the injury. Well, almost never.

On May 26, 1959, again facing the Braves and Adcock, Haddix, complaining of feeling lousy, took to the mound. Shaking off illness, he mowed down the potent Milwaukee lineup, retiring 36 men in a row, being perfect for the equivalent of a game and a third. His Pirates had collected 12 hits but failed to reach Lew Burdette (who also went the distance) for a run, forcing the game into the 13th inning.

In the home half of the inning, perfection ended swiftly as the leadoff batter, Felix Mantilla, reached on a Don Hoak throwing error. Eddie Mathews followed and the slugger uncharacteristically, but justifiably, laid down a bunt, moving the runner into scoring position. That led to an intentional pass being issued to Hank Aaron. Next up was the man who five years earlier had hurt Haddix–Joe Adcock.

On a 1-0 pitch, and with his no-hitter still in place, Haddix threw what he meant to be a low-and-away slider, but he got it up a bit and over the plate. Adcock deposited the ball over the fence in right-center. Aaron thought the ball hit off the fence, so he didn’t bother to run the hit out. Instead, he cut across the mound after touching second and headed to the dugout. Adcock made it to third base before he was ruled out for (technically, but not literally) passing Aaron on the base paths. Therefore, only the run scored by Mantilla counted.

The next special Topps card featured an event which, when I first read the brief info written on the card, I couldn’t believe. It focused on a 26-inning pitchers’ duel in which both men went the distance. The game was witnessed by a mere 4,000 fans, and who knows how many hung around for the entire game. Today’s fans might guess that this marathon game went on for six? seven? eight hours? causing spectators to tire and go home. The truth is the game ran 3 hours and 50 minutes which, and I’m guessing here, is shorter than nearly every Yankees versus Red Sox game of recent years.

The information I came across in the book The Old Ball Game about the 26-inning marathon runs on and on–fitting given the circumstances of the game itself. Therefore, I’ll add more material in my next blog.

April Sports Diversions

With no sports being played now, let’s hope these items will provide fans with a temporary fix. It’s trivia time.

I saw an item that stated on March 8, 1954, the NBA held what remains as the only doubleheader involving the same two teams. The Milwaukee Hawks swept the Baltimore Bullets. I didn’t recall the Hawks of Milwaukee, but I do remember Baltimore’s old nickname.

I’m either real slow on the draw or I simply never heard this story when watching and reading about the NFL back when Jim Otto was playing. Either way, when I first read the explanation of why he wore jersey number “00” it finally hit me. That number can be read as “double zero,” “double ought,” “ought-zero,” OR as “ought-oh,” which is, of course, the same pronunciation as Otto.

I do recall an oddity when Jim Zorn was Seattle’s quarterback. Don’t recall his center’s name, but both Zorn and the center were left-handed. Has that happened at any other time?

Proof that Howard Cosell was often wrong in his assessments of things. He once said, “O.J. Simpson is a kind man, a thoughtful man, and a sensitive man.” I know quite a few people who vehemently disagree.

Praise for one of my old-time favorites, John Mackey: Author Kevin Cook wrote that when Mackey broke in, a tight end was simply considered to be another offensive lineman, there to block. “Mackey was big for his time,” Cook added, “six-two and 224, and faster than another tight end had ever been.” Kinda’ reminds me of another guy I liked to watch, the speedy 6′ 2″, 215 pound Homer Jones of the Giants. Of course, he was listed as both a TE and, more often, as a SE. Explosive, he scored on long TDs of 98, 89, and 84 yards and peaked one year with 13 TDs. Still, Mackey lasted longer and, deservedly, did wind up in the Hall.

If I am remember correctly, Mike Ditka was the first TE voted into the Hall of Fame and he commented that he couldn’t believe Mackey hadn’t already been inducted. at that time.

PLEASE REMEMBER: It would help me out if you become a follower of this site and if you ask friends who love sports to do the same. I may not see the same screen that you do, but I think there’s a place on this website to click “FOLLOW.” Thanks.

’60 Bucs, Baseball Clowns, and More

Here are a few items from my latest two books–first, from Wits, Flakes, and Clowns. For some reason, this book has a whole lot of funny stuff on former Pirates and Indians.

One of the most colorful characters ever was former Rookie of the Year Joe Charboneau. His stories are legendary–take the times he drank beer through a straw he inserted in his nose. In order to save money when he was in the minors– and this is not for the squeamish– he performed an act of amateur dentistry, extracting one of his teeth with pliers, a razor, and finally vise grips. Somebody, I think his manager at the time, said Charboneau’s crazy stuff didn’t bother him, explaining his thinking by saying, “I figure as long as he don’t go pullin’ someone else’s teeth more power to him.” 

Once Joe was stabbed by a mentally disturbed fan—stabbed by a Bic pen of all things. Joe later said, “That’s just the type of crazy stuff that seems to happen to you.” I thought, yeah, if your name is Joe Charboneau, that is.

One time Jerry Reuss and a few teammates dressed up in some grounds crew outfits and, before a game, went onto the diamond and dragged the infield while driving a cart. He kept at it until his manager finally spotted him. Another time he and Ken Brett drove a cart by Cincinnati’s dugout before a game and Reuss shot a moon at the Reds players. Yet another time he was flying in a helicopter over his team’s spring training complex. He then bombarded teammates with a supply of water balloons, laughing as the soaked players scattered.

Some material could fit into the Wits book OR the book available on Amazon entitled 1960: When the Pittsburgh Pirates Had Them All the Way:

Dick Stuart was such a poor defensive player, he told Roy Face to be careful with his effective pickoff move. He warned Face, “Don’t throw over real hard, I might miss it.” That reminded me of a story I love about Joe Pepitone which Jim Bouton disclosed in his book Ball Four. It began when Pepitone botched a throw in the 1963 World Series. He blamed the misplay by saying he had lost sight of the ball against a background of spectators’ white shirts. From then on, wrote Bouton, “He didn’t want to handle the ball anymore than he had to.”

In the 1964 Series Pepitone was holding Lou Brock at first base. Bouton, in an effort to keep the speedy Brock close to the bag, signaled to Pepitone that a pickoff throw would ensue. Amazingly, Bouton peered over to Pepitone who was “standing there shaking his head, tiny shakes because he didn’t want anybody to see. It was the first time I ever saw anybody shake off a pick-off sign.”

Johnny O’Brien had an identical twin, Ed, and both were on the Pirates. One day during spring training, Ed wasn’t scheduled to play so he was permitted to go fishing. Johnny played the early innings and did well. Later in the game manager Bobby Bragan decided to pull a trick—he had Johnny wear his brother’s uniform and pinch hit, reporting in to the ump by telling him that he was Ed.  That night when the brothers ate supper together, Ed asked Johnny how he had done. Johnny replied, “I did pretty good, but you went 0-for-1.”

Here’s a trivia question I struck out on from Baseball Digest. Who is the all-time leader for the Giants franchise in the following categories:  a) homers b) runs c) hits and d) RBI. Now, the first three were easy, and I thought the RBI leader would also be the same answer, but that’s not the case. Scroll down for answer.

Also from Baseball Digest: The 2019 explosion in baseball was crazy. The Twins blasted a record 307 HR. Incredibly, they AVERAGED 34 homers and 101 ribbies for EACH slot in their lineup!

Before ’19, there were just 47 teams ever to swat 226 or more HR over a full season, BUT last year the average amount of homers for each of the 30 MLB teams was 226! Plus, hitting 30 or more homers as a player used to be considered a lot–in 1965 the World Champion Dodgers hit a major league low of 78 HR, a total two teammates could reach nowadays. That season, it took just 32 HR to lead the AL, and from ’65 through ’76, four times a man with exactly 32 HR topped the AL.

Further, in ’65 only 10 men hit 32 or more home runs and only around a dozen reached the 30 HR plateau. However, in 2019, a new record was set for men with 30+ HR– a staggering 58 players did this, nearly five times as many as was the case in 1965. Too much home run derby for me. I miss the frequency of, say, hit and run plays– and the squeeze play is just about extinct.

Quiz Answer: While Mays remains the #1 Giant for homers, runs, and hits, but Mel Ott drove in more runs than the Say Hey Kid with 1,860.  Mays total as a Giant was exactly one less than Ott who spent his entire 22 years in MLB with the New York Giants while Mays, who also lasted for 22 seasons, was with the Mets for part of ’72 and all of ’73, seeing limited at bats (44 RBI).