A heavier, slower and older Babe Ruth had much more to prove in 1932. And prove he did! Batting .341, driving in 137 runs, slugging 41 homers, the Sultan of Swat pushed the New York Yankees to another pennant. The Cubs of Chicago were the opposition in the World Series.
There was bad recent history between the two teams. Joe McCarthy had been let go as Chicago manager in 1930. He wanted payback. Ruth’s old buddy, Mark Koenig, now a Cub, had helped his new team win the pennant. His Chicago teammates voted Ruth’s old buddy only a half World Series share. The Babe was not happy about that.
On October l in Chicago during batting practice Ruth shouted: “Hey, you damn bum Cubs, you won’t be seeing Yankee Stadium again. This is going to be all over Sunday.” The Babe was referring to the fact that the Yanks had won the first two games in New York. The game got underway before 49,986. Lemons from the stands and curses from the Cubs were heaped upon the Yankees. Chicago fans showered Ruth with fruits and vegetables and other projectiles when he was on defense in the outfield. The Babe smiled, doffed his cap, felt the fire.
When he came to bat in the fifth inning, Ruth had already slugged a three run homer into the bleachers in right centerfield. He had more in store. Right-hander Charlie Root got a strike on Ruth, who as accounts go, raised up one big finger and yelled “strike one!”
Another fast ball strike. Ruth, as the story continues, raised two fingers and bellowed “strike two!”
Then as the story has been handed down, the 38-year-old Yankee legend stepped out of the batter’s box and pointed. Some said he pointed at Root; others said the pointed at the Chicago bench, others said at the centerfield bleachers.
“To tell the truth,” Joe McCarthy said, “I didn’t see him point anywhere at all. But maybe I turned my head for a moment.”
“The Babe pointed out to right field,” said George Pipgras who pitched and won that game, “and that’s where he hit the ball.”
The count was 2-2 when Babe swung from his heels. Johnny Moore, the Chicago centerfielder started back, then stopped. The ball disappeared into the right field bleachers, 436 feet from home plate, the l5th and last World Series home run for Babe Ruth, the longest home run ever hit to that point in time in Wrigley Field.
“As I hit the ball,” Ruth would say later, “every muscle in my system, every sense I had, told me that I had never hit a better one, that as long as I lived nothing would ever feel as good as this one.”
Chicago fans cheered and applauded the Babe as he rounded the bases yelling out a different curse for each Cub infielder. When the “Sultan of Swat” reached third base, he paused. Then he bowed toward the Chicago dugout. Then he came across home plate.
Through the years the debate has continued. Did he or did he not call the home run?
Babe Ruth explained:
“I didn’t exactly point to any spot like the flagpole. I just sorta waved at the whole fence, but that was foolish enough. All I wanted to do was give the thing a ride…outta the park…anywhere. “Every time I went to the bat the Cubs on the bench would yell ‘Oogly googly.’ It’s all part of the game, but this particular inning when I went to bat there was a whole chorus of oogly googlies. The first pitch was a pretty good strike, and I didn’t kick. But the second was outside and turned around to beef about it. As I said, Gabby Hartnett said ‘Oogly googly.’ That kinda burned me and I said ‘All right, you bums, I’m gonna knock this one a mile.’ I guess I pointed, too.”
Harvey Frommer is in his 39th year of writing books. A noted oral historian and sports journalist, the author of 42 sports books including the classics: best-selling “New York City Baseball, 1947-1957″ and best-selling “Shoeless Joe and Ragtime Baseball,” his acclaimed Remembering Yankee Stadium was published in 2008 and best-selling Remembering Fenway Park was published to acclaim in 2011. The prolific Frommer is at work on WHEN IT WAS JUST A GAME, AN ORAL HISTORY OF SUPER BOWL ONE (2015).