One hundred years ago he was a 20-year-old kid in his first full season with the Boston Red Sox, a pitcher (18-8, 2.44 ERA, 32 games) and an outfielder (.315, 4 HR, 20 RBI, 42 games). Ruth made his first ever World Series appearance as a pinch-hitter for the Boston Red Sox in the ninth inning of Game 1 at Baker Bowl against the Phillies. He was retired by Grover Cleveland Alexander on a ground ball to first baseman Fred Luderus as the Phillies won their first-ever World Series game. It was his only appearance of the Series.
Eighty years ago and now a member of the Boston Braves, the 40-year-old Ruth played his last game, May 30, 1935, in the first game of a holiday doubleheader against the Phillies at Baker Bowl. He was third in the lineup and played left field. He batted once against Jim Bivin and again grounded out to first, this time to Dolph Camilli.
In the bottom of the first inning, Phillies second baseman Lou Chiozza hit a soft fly ball to left. Ruth, who was in poor physical shape, came in on the ball, missed the catch and Chiozza wound up with a run-scoring triple.
Rich Westcott, in his book, Philadelphia's Old Ballparks, describes what happened after the first inning ended: "As the inning ended, Ruth tucked his glove in his pocket, turned, and ran to the clubhouse in centerfield. The fans, sensing that the end of a glorious career might have arrived, rose and gave Ruth a standing ovation."
Ruth was released by the Red Sox on June 2 and announced his retirement from baseball.
There's one more Ruth-Phillies story.
In March 1948, Ruth paid a visit to the Phillies Spring Training camp at Clearwater's Athletic Field. In Robin Roberts' book, The Whiz Kids and the 1950 Pennant, he wrote: "Babe Ruth visited our training camp one day while I was warming up. The Babe was talking to a sportswriter, Stan Baumgartner, and it occurred to me that my mother would really appreciate an autographed ball from Ruth. So, I got a brand-new ball out of the ball bag and asked to borrow a pen from Baumgartner. I asked Babe to sign the ball and he said, 'Sure, kid' with his raspy voice. Of course Babe's visit was in March and he died that August of throat cancer."
(Thanks to the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum for supplying the photo of Babe in a Braves uniform. Thanks, too, to Bob Warrington, who contributed to this story).
In 1935, Babe Ruth was 40 years old, in poor physical shape, and playing out the string with the Boston Braves. On May 25, 1935, with the team on a road trip and playing at Forbes Field in Pittsburgh, Ruth hammered three home runs and a single, driving in six runs. The last, off pitcher Guy Bush, was the 714th of Ruth's career and the first ball ever to be hit completely over Forbes Field's right-field roof (added to the ballpark in 1925). Maybe Ruth should have called it a career at that point, but perhaps sensing that the old magic was back, he hung around for one more game.
At the plate in his final game, Ruth grounded out softly to Phillies first baseman Dolph Camilli as the Braves went down without scoring any runs in the inning. Ruth took his customary place in the outfield for the bottom half of the inning. Phillies' second baseman Lou Chiozza hit a soft fly to left field. Ruth came in trying to make the catch, but the ball dropped in front of him and rolled past to the wall. A run scored, but Chiozza, trying for an inside-the-park home run, was thrown out at the plate when Braves shortstop Bill Urbanski retrieved the ball and got it back to Braves catcher Al Spohrer in time for the tag out. The Phillies wound up scoring three runs in the inning and would go on to win the game, 11-6.