Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Normandie’

On May 30, 1935, the greatest career in the history of major league baseball came to an end.  It was Memorial Day in Philadelphia, but there were no fireworks to bid farewell, just a weak ground ball to Phillies’ first baseman Dolph Camilli and a mournful walk back to the dugout.  The immortal Babe Ruth was finished.

Ruth, pictured here with long-time Yankees’ teammate Lou Gehrig, finished his career as a member of the Boston Braves.

At the time, no one knew they had seen the last of the Bambino. After the Memorial Day loss to the Phillies, Ruth, who had been nursing a sore knee for most of the season, decided that he needed some time to rest. So, during the next series against the Giants, the Babe put on a suit instead of a uniform and watched his Boston Braves’ teammates lose two of the next three. An idle Ruth was of no use to the Braves, however, so a confrontation was inevitable.

Ruth’s return to Boston was precipitated by a disagreement between the legendary slugger and Yankees owner Colonel Jacob Ruppert and chief executive Ed Barrow. Following the 1934 season, the team’s second straight campaign without a pennant, Ruth all but demanded that the Yankees’ brass fire manager Joe McCarthy. Ruppert and Barrow refused, so Ruth angrily declared that he’d never play for them again. It was an unfortunate threat because that suited the Yankees just fine. Instead of having to make what would have been an incredibly unpopular decision, the temperamental Ruth had gone ahead and done it for them.

Nowhere in the land are you more admired than in the territory of New England that has always claimed you as its own and where you started your career to fame.” – Judge Emil Fuchs, Boston Braves owners, February 26, 1935

While Ruth was abroad on a trip around the world, Judge Emil Fuchs approached Colonel Ruppert about having the Bambino return to Boston to play for his Braves. Fuchs desperately needed a gate attraction for his woeful team, and Ruppert was eager to rid himself of the increasingly troublesome slugger. So, the two owners hatched a plan to ensure a smooth transfer. In addition to a 25,000 salary, Fuchs offered Ruth a laundry list of hollow inducements, including an implied opportunity to manage. In response, Ruppert feigned surprise and agreed to not stand in Ruth’s way. Finally, on February 26, 1935, the three men held a press conference to announce that Babe Ruth was now a member of the Boston Braves.

Waived out of the American League after fifteen glamorous seasons with the New York Yankees, the one and only Bambino thrilled 25,000 frozen fans at Braves Field in his first game as a National Leaguer.” – James P. Dawson, New York Times, April 16, 1935

Judge Fuchs hands Ruth a pen so he can sign his new contract with the Braves.

At first, it seemed like the move might revitalize both the aging Ruth and the financially strapped Braves’ franchise. During spring training, the team played to large crowds as it  barnstormed up north, and then on Opening Day, 25,000 people jammed Braves Field to watch the Sultan of Swat take Carl Hubbell deep in a 4-2 victory over the New York Giants. However, that initial euphoria would quickly give way to acrimony as a developing contentious relationship between Ruth and Fuchs came to ahead just after Memorial Day.

After getting off to a hot start in the first five games of the season, Ruth suffered through a nightmarish 17-game stretch in which he hit .068 with only one home run in 57 plate appearances. What’s worse, the hobbled and overweight Ruth could barely field his position, subjecting the once invincible figure to jeers, laughter and, worst of all, pity. In the middle of that horrendous stretch, Ruth finally decided to call it quits, but Fuchs, who was desperate to squeeze as many gates as possible out his sideshow attraction, convinced him to stick around for at least the upcoming road trip, which was to feature a Babe Ruth Day in all five cities on the tour.

As Ruth struggled through sickness, injury and the rapid decline of his skill, he also gradually came to realize that all of Fuchs’ promises were empty. Because the Braves were in such poor economic condition, it soon became apparent that the financial inducements in his contract were worthless. However, what bothered Ruth most was the realization that he would never be given a chance to manage.

(more…)

Read Full Post »