August 17, 2008
KIND OF SILLY TO EVEN DEBATE WHO'S THE GREATEST PLAYER EVER:
Babe Ruth Called His Shot, From the Mound (KEN SCHLAGER, 8/17/08, NY Times)
Nobody ever bothered to tell Babe Ruth about pitch counts, five-man rotations or Joba rules. He would not have listened.Posted by Orrin Judd at August 17, 2008 7:27 AM
Ruth had no such concerns on an early fall day in 1930 when he approached the Yankees’ rookie manager, Bob Shawkey, with the idea of pitching the season’s final game. Ruth figured the stunt would help draw a crowd.
It was a no-brainer for Shawkey. After all, the Babe would be pitching on nine years’ rest.
The game itself was inconsequential. The Yankees were stuck in third place when they traveled to Boston for the season’s final weekend to play the cellar-dwelling Red Sox.
So Shawkey gave Ruth the ball on Sept. 28, 1930, and he pitched a complete game. [...]
The Babe had pitched in exhibition games over the years, but those contests were hardly preparation for his nine innings of masterly work against the Red Sox. Ruth scattered 11 hits and struck out 3, shutting out the Red Sox for the first five innings. Ruth even started two double plays, each time snatching “a smash hot off the bat,” according to The Times’s account. The Yankees won, 9-3.
Ruth batted third that day and contributed two singles, but Gehrig stole the show offensively. Although never as flamboyant as Ruth, Gehrig was capable of a grand gesture. When he learned that the Babe planned to pitch, he offered to take Ruth’s place in left field. Gehrig, a first baseman who was in the sixth year of his Iron Man streak that reached 2,130 games, had not played the outfield since 1925.
Gehrig made two putouts in left and went 3 for 5, pushing his final season average to .379 and nearly snatching the batting crown from Philadelphia outfielder Al Simmons, who sat out the final game at .381. Ruth’s and Gehrig’s efforts were not entirely wasted on Boston fans. Only 12,000 showed up, but they were “visibly and audibly impressed,” according to The Times.
When told of Ruth’s feat, Rick Peterson, the former Mets pitching coach, said, “It’s incredible.”
An expert on pitcher conditioning and mechanics, Peterson said it took six weeks to get a starting pitcher ready. “That’s why spring training is six weeks long,” he said.
Peterson dismissed the possibility of a present-day position player taking the ball for a start.
“It’s not even close,” he said. “You see what happens on occasion when it’s late in a game and you put in a player to finish. They’re always beat up the next day.”