This article was written by Al Kermisch
This article was published in the 1973 Baseball Research Journal
On May 7, 1915, a German submarine sank the Cunard Liner Lusitania off the coast of Ireland with a loss of 1198 lives, and this was one of the great news stories of the twentieth century. The day before, a young pitcher with the Boston Red Sox lost a tough 5 to 3 thirteen-inning game to the Yankees at the Polo Grounds in New York. And history was also made that day although it would take a few years before the significance of the event would be realized. For on that afternoon — Thursday, May 6, 1915 — Babe Ruth, the 20-year-old Boston southpaw, hit the first of his record total of 714 regular season major league home runs.
Ruth’s first home run came in the third inning off Jack Warhop, the starting Yankee right-hander. He was the first batter in the inning and he hit Warhop’s first pitch into the second tier of the right-field grandstand.
The ball, a prodigious wallop, landed in Seat 26 of Section 3. Although Ruth had been with the Red Sox for a few games in 1914, his first home run came on only his 18th time at bat in the majors. He went to bat 10 times in 1914 and this was his eighth time up in 1915. It was his fifth major league hit — his other hits up to that time included three doubles and a single.
Among the gathering of 8,000 who witnessed Ruth’s first circuit clout were Ban Johnson, president of the American League, Joseph Lannin, owner of the Red Sox, and two baseball reporters who later hit it big in the literary field after graduating from the sports desk — Damon Runyon and Heywood Broun.
Runyan, who covered the game for the New York American, wrote:
“Fanning this Ruth is not as easy as the name and occupation might indicate. In the third inning Ruth knocked the slant out of one of Jack Warhop’s underhand subterfuges, and put the baseball in the right field stands for a home run. Ruth was discovered by Jack Dunn in a Baltimore school a year ago where he had not attained his left-handed majority, and was adopted and adapted by Jack for use of the Orioles. He is now quite a demon pitcher and demon hitter – when he connects.”
Broun penned the following for the New York Tribune:
“Pitted against Pieh was Babe Ruth, the remarkable young player discovered by Jack Dunn in a reform school last year. Ruth was put in the school at an early age, but seemingly he quit too soon to be completely reformed. He is still flagrantly left-handed. Babe (he was christened George) deserved something better than a defeat. It was his home run into the second tier of the grandstand which gave the Red Sox their first run of the game, and later he singled twice. He missed a chance to strike a telling blow in the eleventh inning for, with a runner on first and third with only one out, he was fanned by Pieh.”
Broun also added this humorous note: “Nobody can take a mark of distinction away from Ruth. He is practically the only left-handed pitcher in the country not called Rube.”
Another famous baseball writer who was on hand for Ruth’s first four-base blow was Fred Leib, a SABR member who now lives in retirement in St. Petersburg, Florida. His story in the New York Press contained the following:
“George Ruth, the sensational kid who set the International League grass on fire last season, went the entire thirteen rounds for the crimson hose and but for his support would have registered a win in regulation rounds. Bill Carrigan failed to hold the Yank runners and they kept on swiping bases on Chet Thomas who succeeded him. Warhop cooled off in the second and then Paul Shannon (reporter for the Boston Post) began to lecture on Babe Ruth’s ability as a smitter. It was an illustrated lecture, as Babe illustrated Paul’s remarks by lifting the pill far up in the upstairs section of the right field stands for a merry-go-round trip.”
Wilmot E. Gif fin, who wrote under the pseudonym of “Right Cross” in the New York Evening Journal, was inspired by Ruth’s first blast thusly:
“This Ruthless Ruth, the stem-winder, is some hurler. A pitcher who is so versatile that he can not only shoot all sorts of deliveries from the port turret, but can besides all this hit a home run, and a couple of incidental singles in one game is some asset, ladies and gentlemen, some asset indeed. When he is not pitching they can use him for an outfielder and pinch hitter. In these days of efficiency he is the ideal player. It was a genuine home run that Ruth swatted the first time up, landing in the upper tier of the south grandstand with a thump. Mr. Warhop of the Yankees looked reproachfully at the opposing pitcher who was so unclubby as to do a thing like that to one of his own trade. But Ruthless Ruth seemed to think that all was fair in the matter of fattening a batting average.”
Ruth’s home run lingered in the mind of “Right Cross” into the next day, when he added a little poetry entitled “A Social Error.”
When a pitcher meets a pitcher,
Should a pitcher clout?
When a pitcher meets a pitcher,
Shouldn’t he fan out?
When a pitcher slams a pitcher
Lifts it from the lot,
You would call the gink unclubby,
Very, would you not?
To this he added the comment that “Pitcher Warhop has not yet recovered from the great mental anguish he suffered when a player in the e line of endeavor took one of his nicest twists and just naturally lifted it out of the lot. Warhop probably will appeal to the other pitchers to ostracize Ruth over the violation of etiquette.”
Just about four weeks later, the Red Sox played a return engagement at the Polo Grounds. On Wednesday, June 2, it was Ruth against Warhop again. And once again on his first time up – in the second inning with two out and Chet Thomas on first – the Babe slammed one of Warhop’s pitches far into the right-field stands. The ball landed on top of seat 31 in Section 3, more than ten feet further than the previous one. This time the mighty Ruth was not denied. He won handily, 7-1, setting the Yanks down on five hits. The Babe was now on his way, gaining respect both as a star moundsman and a dangerous batsman, and in a few years was destined to forsake the pitcher’s box to fulfill his destiny as the greatest slugger of all time.