This article was written by Mike Huber
In adding to his legend, Babe Ruth drove a pitch into Yankee Stadium’s right-field bleachers to steal a victory away from the Chicago White Sox. The White Sox had scored three runs in the top of the 10th and believed they had the game in the bag, but Ruth’s walkoff grand slam in the bottom of the inning meant otherwise. This prompted the New York Times man at the game to begin his article with the quip, “Ruth is stranger than fiction.”1
Two American League teams far removed from postseason play were finishing the 1925 season. Eddie Collins’s Chicago team was in fifth place, while the Yankees were even lower, in seventh. This was game number 149 for each club. Red Faber was called on to keep the New Yorkers in check, and he did so until he was injured in the ninth inning. For the home team, manager Miller Huggins called on Ben Shields to start, a lefty who would give the Chicago batters “quite a fight for nine innings.”2
Shields had faced the White Sox two days earlier, after having been called up from the Richmond Colts of the Class B Virginia League. Rookie Hank Johnson had started that game for New York and Shields came on in relief to pitch the ninth, facing six batters, walking three but allowing no runs. In this game, the 22-year-old left-hander was making his first start in the major leagues. Faber was making his 31st start of the season for Chicago.
The game amounted to a pitchers’ duel for the regulation nine innings. The Yankees “helped themselves to a lead in the second”3 when Bob Meusel tripled and scored on Lou Gehrig’s fly ball. In the third New York got another run on a comedy of errors caused by “wild throws by [Ray] Schalk and [Johnny] Mostil.”4 Earle Combs had forced Shields at second. Combs stole second and went to third on a bad throw by catcher Schalk. Center fielder Mostil threw to third baseman Willie Kamm to get Combs, but the “bad fling past Kamm”5 enabled Combs to score.
The White Sox scored in the sixth and seventh innings. Doubles by Roy Elsh and Earl Sheely accounted for the first run, and Kamm’s triple in the seventh led to run number two, when he scored on an out by Ike Davis. When the ninth inning was complete, the score was 2-2.
In the top of the 10th the White Sox “amassed what looked like a comfortable lead of three runs.”6 Shields had labored in the first nine innings, and in the 10th, he lost his control. He walked leadoff batter Schalk, then hit Faber “with such a cruel swat on the left elbow that the red-haired spitballer had to leave the game.”7Dickey Kerr ran for Faber. Mostil singled to center, driving in Schalk. Kerr motored to third on the hit. Elsh then dribbled a grounder to first and beat it out for a single, with Kerr crossing the plate and Mostil advancing to third base. Mostil scored the third White Sox run of the inning when Sheely grounded to short.
In the bottom of the 10th Sarge Connally relieved the ailing Faber. Connally was used by manager Eddie Collins as a long reliever during much of the season. He retired Benny Bengough for the first out. Wally Pipp pinch-hit for Shields and worked a walk. Combs and Mark Koenig singled to left and the bases were loaded. The stage was set for Ruth to be the hero. The first two pitches were balls. Ruth sent the next high and foul into the stands. The next pitch was ball three. Then Connally offered a chest-high fastball and the “ball sailed away to parts remote,”8 landing in the right-field bleachers for a walkoff grand slam. The crowd erupted and stormed the field, crowding the baselines, forcing Ruth to “fight his way through a cheering mob before he touched the plate and won the game.”9 The final score was 6-5 in favor of the Yankees.
Ruth finished the game with a 2-for-5 line and the four runs batted in. This was his sixth career grand slam, the seventh game he had won for the Yankees with a walkoff home run, and the first time he had slammed a walkoff victory.10 Teammate Bob Meusel was 4-for-4 with three singles and a triple. Shields pitched a complete game, earning his first victory as a Yankee.
Because of riotous living and illness, Ruth played in only 98 games in 1925, and all of his offensive numbers were down. Coming into this game, Ruth’s batting average of .283 was 95 points below that of the 1924 season. He had hit only 20 home runs and had just over half as many runs batted in as the previous year. He had played one-third of his games in left field, away from his usual right-field spot. Yet on this day, according to the Chicago Tribune, “Ruth’s star hasn’t set as yet.”11
In addition to the sources mentioned in the notes, the author consulted baseball-reference.com and retrosheet.org.
1 James B. Harrison, “Ruth’s Homer Wins; Clears Bags in 10th,” New York Times, September 25, 1925: 16.
2 Irving Vaughan, “Ruth’s Homer in 10th, with 3 on, Beats Sox, 6 to 5,” Chicago Tribune, September 25, 1925: 21.
10 See http://baseball-reference.com:8080/players/event_hr.cgi?id=ruthba01&t=b for a log of Ruth’s 714 home runs.