George Herman “Babe” Ruth Jr. was born 123 years ago this past Tuesday in Baltimore on February 6, 1895. The 6-foot-2, 215-pound Ruth, frequently ranked as history’s premier baseball player, recorded 714 home runs, 2,873 hits and 2,213 RBI over 8,399 trips to the plate as a member of the Boston Red Sox, New York Yankees and Boston Braves. Ruth’s achievements on the diamond were duly recognized and he was elected into the Hall of Fame in 1936 and named to the Major League Baseball All-Century Team in October 1999. Despite all these vast accomplishments, the Bambino is perhaps most celebrated for allegedly calling his shot off Cubs pitcher Charlie Root in Game 3 of the 1932 World Series at Wrigley Field.
Fans of the North Siders relentlessly, and oftentimes cruelly, heckled Ruth throughout the lopsided series. With escalating tensions in the top of the fifth inning, Ruth began jawing with a handful of Cubs’ players. Root, who led the National League in wins with 26 in 1927, got ahead in the count 0-2. Ruth proceeded to point his bat at an unconfirmed person or spot and launch a 440-foot dinger into the temporary seating on Sheffield Avenue. The 12-time American League home run leader rounded the bases and mocked many of his tormentors. The Yankees ultimately swept the Cubs to win their fourth World Series championship.
“Well, the good Lord and good luck must have been with me because I did exactly what I said I was going to do,” claimed a then 37-year-old Ruth.
Ed Sherman, who wrote “Babe Ruth’s Called Shot: The Myth and Mystery of Baseball’s Greatest Home Run,” discussed the iconic sports moment with the Bambino’s 101-year old-daughter, Julia Ruth Stevens. Unsurprisingly, Stevens is convinced that her father successfully guaranteed his round-tripper.
“Daddy certainly did point,” Stevens said. “He always seemed to rise to the occasion. He just wanted to beat the Cubs. If he had missed, he’d have been very, very disappointed, I can tell you. Cardinal Spellman just happened to be at the game. He said there’s no question that he pointed. I’ll take his word and my mother’s.”
Sherman, a former Chicago Tribune sports journalist, believes that Ruth did something remarkable on that first day of October in the Windy City.
“Ruth’s home run was the most dramatic home run in the history of baseball. It was important to Babe Ruth, who was about to go on the way down,” Sherman said.
“It became myth and legend, like Knute Rockne and ‘win one for the Gipper,’ and the Galloping Ghost, and the Four Horsemen of Notre Dame. And I had a lot of fun going through all that to get at this story. Part of the beauty of the whole story is that we’ll never have a definitive answer. But if you look at the video, there’s something there. Was he pointing to center? Did he say, ‘I’m going to hit a home run here and now’? I can tell you one thing: Ruth was challenged, and he responded to the challenge, and the World Series effectively ended right there. It just took the life out of the Cubs. They were done.”
Ruth died in New York City at the age of 53 on August 16, 1948. Fans and scribes will forever debate the validity of Ruth’s feat. Regardless if it’s accurate or inaccurate, Babe Ruth’s most unforgettable moment occurred during the 1932 Fall Classic in Wrigleyville.