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“Don’t ever forget two things I’m going to tell you. One, don’t believe everything that’s written about you. Two, don’t pick up too many checks.”*…

 

Ruth stepped out of the box after strike one, then stepped out again after strike two. Tired of being heckled, he pointed two fingers, which is where the controversy begins. In the legend, he was pointing to the center-field seats, four-hundred-plus feet away, calling his shot in the way of Minnesota Fats saying, “Eight ball, corner pocket.” Root’s third pitch was a curve—the deuce. Off the edge of plate, down, but Ruth swung anyway, sending it into deep afternoon. It landed exactly where he’d pointed, that’s what they said, beside the flagpole in back of the bleachers—490 feet from home. Lou Gehrig followed with another home run. The Yankees won 7 to 5 and went on to sweep the Series.

Ruth’s “Called Shot” is among the most famous plays in baseball history. Drawings show the penultimate moment: Babe, Bambino, the Sultan of Swat, arm outstretched, two fingers raised like the Pope giving a benediction. There’s a statue, movies. But it was disputed from the start. Did Ruth really call his shot, or did it just look that way?

Grantland Rice and Westbrook Pegler, among the most famous sportswriters of the day, had been watching from the press box behind home. Both claimed to have seen Ruth point to center, calling his shot. Franklin Roosevelt, then candidate for president, was at the game—he threw out the first pitch—and he saw it, too. Ditto Chicago Mayor Anton Cermak. Among the last living witnesses is retired Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens, who, then a twelve-year-old Cubs fan, was at the game with his father. The Cubs pitcher “Guy Bush was razzing Ruth,” Stevens told the writer Ed Sherman. “He and Ruth were in some kind of discussion back and forth. I heard years later it was over the Cubs being tightfisted and not giving a full share to Mark Koenig. I do remember Bush came out of the dugout and engaged in a colloquy with him … My interpretation was that he was responding to what Bush was saying. He definitely pointed toward center field. My interpretation always was, ‘I’m going to knock you to the moon.’ ”…

The most iconic event ever to occur in Wrigley Field did not star the Cubs—it unfolded in 1932, and starred the New York Yankees, with the home team serving merely as foil: The story of Babe Ruth’s most famous homer, “The Called Shot.”

* Babe Ruth

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As we beckon to the bleachers, we might recall that it was on this date in 1911 that Ty Cobb was awarded the Chalmers Prize (an automobile), the equivalent of today’s MVP Award.  The “Georgia Peach” had achieved aa 40-game hitting streak and a .420 batting average, the highest in the league and record for the time; he led the league that year in numerous other categories as well, including 248 hits, 147 runs scored, 127 RBI, 83 stolen bases, 47 doubles, 24 triples and a .621 slugging percentage. Cobb hit eight home runs but finished second in that category to Frank Baker, who hit eleven.

Ty Cobb, left, and Joe Jackson, whom he bested for the 1911 batting title

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Written by LW

October 11, 2017 at 1:01 am

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