Recently, the home movies of a New Hampshire family contained new, never before seen footage of the legendary Babe Ruth.
The footage can be seen here: http://video.nytimes.com/video/2009/10/08/sports/baseball/1247465064285/the-great-bambino-resurfaces.html?th&emc=th
Several amazing factors derive from this new footage. One is that it is new on-field video of the greatest sports figure of all time. While the Bambino was one of the most photographed figures in American History, most of these images were still photos. Very little actual on-field video footage is known.
While the Babe is seen for about 60 seconds, one part reveals the competitive side of Ruth. He is shown striking out in the video, and appears to question the call by the home plate umpire. What is funny to watch is the next batter just wait around while Ruth gets “his two cents in” while the umpire, who does not want to hear anymore, just ambles away. The next batter, however, is not Lou Gehrig but appears to be Bob Meusel, who is taller and thinner. Also, in the video the lefty hitting Gehrig was shown hitting prior to Ruth’s strikeout.
Also, since Ruth made his mark on baseball with his bat, 97 percent of the baseball images of Ruth are swinging a bat, or with offense in mind. Many early images of Ruth are of him pitching while a member of the Boston Red Sox. But, there are very few images of Ruth on the defensive side of the ball, giving this new video great excitement.
While Ruth argued balls and strikes with the umpire in this new video, Ruth’s competitive side was very famous from his pitching days. During a game in 1917, Ruth walked the first batter of the game, argued vehemently with the home plate umpire, purportedly slugged him, and was ejected.
Ruth’s replacement, Ernie Shore, promptly picked off the runner on first base, and retired the next 26 batter, finishing an improbable “perfect game.”
I worked for several years as a writer/researcher for a major sports auction company, and collect old black and white baseball photographs. I have personally seen tens of thousands of original baseball photographs, and only a couple of images of Ruth are known, which depicts him as a defensive player.
And there is no video known showing him playing in the outfield. What is interesting about Ruth and playing right field, is that a right fielder usually has the best throwing arm of all the outfielders. They do have to make the longest throw towards third base to cut runners trying to advance from first to third.
But while Ruth had a pretty good throwing arm, he did not have as good an arm as Bob Meusel, who is thought to have the best outfield throwing arm of all time. But Ruth continued to play right field while Meusel manned left. Why?
Ruth’s vanity issue. Early in his career, Ruth lost a ball in the sun, and never was comfortable playing the sun field. That is why Ruth played right field at Yankee Stadium, which had the notorious sun field in left. Many times, Meusel played right field during away contests to get Ruth out of the sun.
The two video archivists who were seeking to date the video have so far come up with the year 1928. I agree with that assessment.
This corresponds with three things. First, the Yankee uniforms do not have numbers, indicating the video is pre-1929, the first season the Yankees put numbers on their uniforms. Second, the advertisements around the stadium exactly match those in still photographs of the 1928 season. Third, the throng of a full house with “long shadows” indicates it was later in the day, and during hot weather.
Definitely not World Series or Opening Day, as those games were too cold for light colored shirts and jacketless gentlemen. A huge crowd was in Yankee Stadium during Sept. 9, a double header versus the Philadelphia Athletics, with the Yankees a half game out of first place entering the double header.
The opposition has light colored uniforms, similar to the A’s at the time, and according to media reports in 1928, the crowd that day was over 85,000.
Also, only for a two week stretch during their amazing careers did Lou Gehrig hit IN FRONT of Babe Ruth. Those were the games from August 25th (during the second game of a double header) to September 20th, when manager Miller Huggins needed the proverbial “something different.”
But what allows me to believe that this video was shot during this double header is the catching style of the man behind the plate. That style is reminiscent of Gordon Stanley (Mickey) Cochrane, the stalwart receiver of those great Philadelphia A’s teams of the late 20’s-early 30’s. And according to the records, Cochrane caught both games of that double header.
Several factors are wonderful about this new video.
First, it shows Ruth in never before seen imagery during on field action. And while Ruth is well known for being easy going, his temperamental nature of arguing on the field sometimes got the best of him.
I believe the game in the video was the first game of that Sept. 9 DH, as the first game was umpired behind the plate by Bill McGowan, one of the best umpires of the day. McGowan was easy going and ejected very few players in his day. That is likely why the umpire walked away from Ruth in the video.
The home plate umpire during the second contest was Brick Owens, a rougher sort. In fact, he was the same umpire Ruth punched out after one batter in that “perfect game” in 1917. With memories being notoriously long in baseball, I would think if Ruth said one word to Owens, he would be tossed from the game. Or maybe, it was Owens walking away from Ruth, and didn’t want to get socked again by the Bambino!
Second, during this time of the baseball season, it has allowed baseball fans to reflect back upon the greatness of the pennant race, one of the most heart stopping aspects of this great game. Two teams going down to the end of the season, playing a big series against each other with each game a matter of life and death.
Also, the fact that almost 10 Hall of Famers (players and umpires) participated in that Sept. 9th double header lends credence to this magnificent beast we call baseball.
And there was no bigger beast in the game than George Herman Ruth.