Cassie: Babe Ruth, a man for all seasons

From Ron Cassie at Baltimore Magazine on December 16, 2019:

Baltimore outfielder Johnny Honig practically sat on the right-field fence at Oriole Park each time the Boston Red Sox’s Babe Ruth came to the plate, according to contemporary accounts. He might as well have been positioned in the front yards along Greenmount Avenue for all the good it did over the two-game exhibition series between the International League O’s and defending champion Red Sox. Just months before, with a display of World Series pitching as great as the game had ever seen, Ruth led Boston to their third title in four years, and his homecoming to Baltimore was trumpeted across the city. Not only had he established himself as baseball’s top left-handed pitcher, the rags-to-riches southpaw had begun playing the outfield between starts and socked 11 home runs the previous season, tying for the most in the Major Leagues.

After walking in his first at bat on the Friday afternoon of April 18, 1919, the 6-foot-2-inch Ruth blasted a white rocket in his second plate appearance—said to have cleared both Greenmount Avenue and a telegraph wire across the street—pleasing the huge Baltimore crowd, which had turned out to catch a glimpse of the local hero and suddenly budding slugger. He repeated the feat with another home run on his next turn. On his third at bat, still swinging from his heels, Ruth unloaded what witnesses believed was the longest home run ever seen at the Waverly ball yard. In the ninth inning, he smashed a fourth dinger for good measure. Later, the Baltimore News American ran a photo graphic illustrating where Ruth’s bombs, three of which traveled more than 500 feet, departed from home plate and returned to Earth in the neighborhood behind the ballpark. “Babe did it so easily that the fence actually appeared to be just about where second base usually is found,”  The Baltimore Sun  reported. “It must be nice to live in the 2000 block of Greenmount Avenue these days,” The Sun added, “for the kiddies will have all the baseballs they need for the season after the Red Sox leave.” The paper was right.

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Originally published: December 16, 2019. Last Updated: April 2, 2020.