The historical coincidences surrounding Alex Rodriguez’ 600th homerun have truly been remarkable. However, the most fitting connection to the past was not the date of the homerun, but its landing spot at the base of Babe Ruth’s memorial in Monument Park.
Not only did Alex Rodriguez join the Babe as the only other player to reach the milestone as a Yankee, but he also surpassed him to become the youngest player to belt 600 homeruns. That’s what happens when you spend the first five years of your career as a top flight pitcher!
Although the Babe could definitely relate to the accomplishment, chances are he wouldn’t recognize all of the attention surrounding the moment. After all, when the Babe hit 600, no one else had even reached the 300 plateau. So, it’s not surprising that the moment passed with little fanfare, even during a period when just about everything Ruth did was chronicled to great fervor.
He likes to hit them, of course, as much as any ball player, and perhaps more, because homers in large quantities are the principal reasons for the Babe’s big salary checks. But for a man who holds nearly every known record for hitting homers, one four base hit is not much cause for excitement” – Hugh S. Fullerton, AP Sportswriter writing about Babe Ruth’s 600th homerun
There were headlines, for sure, but no one seemed to place too much importance on the blast, which came in St. Louis’ Sportsman’s Park against the Browns’ George Blaeholder. In fact, more attention was paid to Ruth’s single season homerun battle with teammate Lou Gehrig (the milestone homerun was Ruth’s 35th of the season, and moments after he hit it, Gehrig followed with his 34th), as well as the six-man batting race that saw the Athletics’ Al Simmons just ahead of the Babe.
Major League Leaders, As of August 21, 1931
|Babe Ruth||Yankees||35||Al Simmons||Athletics||0.385|
|Lou Gehrig||Yankees||34||Babe Ruth||Yankees||0.375|
|Chuck Klein||Phillies||29||.||Spud Davis||Phillies||0.354|
|Earl Averill||Indians||27||Ed Morgan||Indians||0.352|
|Mel Ott||Giants||23||Bill Terry||Giants||0.346|
|Jimmie Foxx||Athletics||21||Chuck Klein||Phillies||0.344|
Source: Associated Press, August 22, 1931
Even though the public and media seemed to be preoccupied by the Babe’s other exploits, the moment was not lost on the man himself. In a rare gesture for the time, Ruth reportedly located the youngster who retrieved the ball, which was hit over the bleachers and onto Grand Boulevard, and gave him $10 along with an autographed ball in exchange for the memento. Young Tony Gallico probably never imagined how much that autographed ball would someday be worth, but the $10 (which during the Great Depression was about the average weekly salary of those lucky enough to have a job) probably sure came in handy.
In one final bow to the past, Alex Rodriguez’ 600th home run ball was retrieved by Stadium security guard Frankie Babilonia, who scooped up the trophy from underneath the netting just in front of Babe Ruth’s moment. Despite being required to turn over the souvenir, Babilonia was presented with a bat autographed by Alex Rodriguez. Apparently, the worth of a milestone has gone down. Either that or someone owes Mr. Babilonia ten dollars.
HR Leader Board After 1931 Season