I had written a few weeks ago on the similarity between the Aaron Myette ejection that almost lead to a no-hitter and the 1917 Babe Ruth ejection that lead to what was once called a perfect game by Ernie Shore (until MLB changed its criteria). Jon Fifer wrote to me and pointed out that the circumstances surrounding Ruth's ejection were slightly more involved:
On the subject of the game in which Babe Ruth started, walked the first batter, got tossed, and Ernie Shore came in, picked off the man on first, and then set down 26 straight, Ruth wasn't ejected because he simply "argued balls and strikes". He also punched the umpire, knocking him out, and had to
be corralled into the dugout by his entire team.
I was always curious about this game, first seeing it described as Ruth being ejected, then ejected for arguing balls and strikes, then for hitting the ump, finally for knocking the ump out. Robert Cramer kind of glosses over this in his biography, "Babe", but I think I first got the complete story from Bill James, and have seen it since elsewhere.
He was absolutely correct. I was writing extemporaneously-don't try this at home; it's dangerous-and had left out those details. I wanted to investigate further, and then got caught up in other things. That's why I'm just getting to it now-my apologies to Jon and my thanks for his patience.
I found a few sources with similar stories, but since they come from very interesting source and I myself am incredibly verbose, I thought I would let those sources speak for themselves at length.
Next, Here are a number of accounts from the greatest sports biography yet, Robert W. Creamer's Babe: The Legend Comes to Life regarding Shore. Creamer actually has more about the incident than expected. Shore played with Ruth on the minor-league Baltimore Orioles, Boston Red Sox (they were sold there together), and eventually the Yankees. Creamer is a bit of a homer when it comes to Ruth, but a great storyteller. Here is an account of Shore's feelings on Ruth (and allusion to the perfect game-don't worry, there's more later):
[When asked what kind of man Ruth was,] I told him about Ernie Shore and Bob Shawkey, neither of whom had any reason to be particularly fond of Ruth. Shore pitched in the minor leagues with him at Baltimore and was a better pitcher then than the Babe; yet Ruth was adulated far more than Shore. When the two of them were sold together to the Boston Red Sox, newspaper comment of the day said that the transaction could not help but be a good one for the Red Sox because of Ruth. But with Boston it was Shore who moved right in as a starting pitcher, while Ruth faltered and was sent back to the minor leagues again for a time. A year later, after the Red Sox had won the pennant, Shore pitched the opening game of the World Series against Grover Cleveland Alexander and started and won a second game; Ruth did not play at all, except to pinch-hit once. In 1917 Shore pitched a perfect game, one of the rarest feats in baseball. The Babe started that game and was thrown out of it by the plate umpire before getting anyone out. Shore, sent hurriedly to the mound in Ruth's place, did not allow anyone to reach first base in the nine full innings that followed and was credited with a perfect game. Baseball fans are more aware of that game because of Ruth than because of Shore. Even then, on his biggest day in baseball, Shore's solid accomplishment was overshadowed by the Babe's personality. Shore was a college man who later became a sheriff in his native North Carolina; Ruth was a reform school product. They roomed together in Boston, and the story is told that the Babe used Shore's toothbrush to brush his own teeth, and that Shore went to the manager of the ball club and insisted on being given a new roommate. Shore went into the armed forces in 1918 during World War I, but Ruth, who was married by then, did not; Shore was not the same pitcher after the war, and by 1921 his big league career was all over, just as Ruth was moving into the big, big money.
If ever a man had reason to be disenchanted by the Hero Ruth, it would appear to be Ernie Shore. Yet he too chuckled when he was asked about the Babe. He said the unhappy roommate story was not true. It wasn't a toothbrush at all, it was a shaving brush. The Babe didn't wash it out after he had used it, that was all. "Hell, I roomed with him in 1920 when we were both with the Yankees," Shore said. "I was the only one he would listen to." Asked what Ruth was like in those early days in Baltimore and Boston and New York, Shore replied with fervor, if not originality, "He was the best-hearted fellow who ever lived. He'd give you the shirt off his back."
Cremer on their sale to the Red Sox and Ruth's first trip to Boston:
Ruth was now in the major leagues, the world he was made for. He and the others left the train at Back Bay Station in Boston that Saturday morning, walked over to a hotel to check in and then went to Lander's coffee shop for breakfast. The Babe by now was much more his naturally garrulous and gregarious self than he had been through the early months with the Orioles, and with his deep rich voice ringing out he flirted cheerfully with the pretty waitress who served them that first morning. Her name, it turned out, was Helen Woodford. She was from South Boston and was not only pretty but a nice girl too (the oldtimers who knew her stressed that, recalling perhaps some of the other ladies Ruth met from time to time). She was only sixteen, not much more than a child herself, and the youthful Ruth fell in love with her, courting her each morning thereafter over cups of coffee and platters of bacon and eggs.
Later that first day Ruth, Shore and Egan went to Fenway Park and reported to Carrigan, the Red Sox manager. The three sixfooters (Short was six feet four) towered over the five-foot, nineinch manager, but there was no question of which of the four was in control. Carrigan, a powerfully built catcher in his early thirties, had a pleasantly tough face and with it an indisputable aura of command. He was a decent well-mannered man from a quiet middle-class background, but on the ballfield he was hard and aggressive and in the dugout and clubhouse tremendously sure of himself. Among ballplayers he was known as Rough Carrigan, for the way he played. As a manager he was demanding, but he treated his players with affection and respect. He was profane, as most ballplayers are, but unlike John McGraw, the prototype of the harsh, bullying leader, Carrigan never cursed a player or publicly humiliated one. Apparently he did not have to. Shore, who had played briefly for McGraw and despised him, made a particular point of this. Even the undisciplined Ruth was impressed by his quiet authority. In Babe's later years in the major leagues he played under Ed Barrow, Miller Huggins, Joe McCarthy and Bill McKechnie, all of whom were eventually elected to baseball's Hall of Fame, but he always maintained that Carrigan was the best manager he ever played for. Shore went further; he said Carrigan was the best manager who ever lived.
Creamer on the incident and Ruth's inability to control himself leading up to the incident:
...As a married man he would be exempt from military service.
Despite his pleasant situation vis-à-vis the draft, Ruth's disposition grew increasingly cranky. The blissfulness of his marriage was beginning to erode under the pressure of the fun and girls he sought and found in various towns around the league, and in Boston too. He was well aware of his status as the premier lefthander in the league, and he found it difficult to accept the occasional bad luck that besets all players and umpires' decisions that went against him. His second loss of the season, in June, was particularly galling. Guy Morton of Cleveland pitched a one-hit shutout to beat him, 3-0, but Ruth himself had a one-hitter going into the ninth and it was his own single in the eighth that broke up Morton's no-hitter. Most aggravating was the way Cleveland scored its runs. In the fourth inning Ruth walked Ray Chapman, who stole second while Ruth retired the next two batters. Then Babe struck out Bobby Roth, which should have ended the inning, but the third strike got away from the catcher and Roth was safe at first as Chapman moved to third. The two pulled a double steal, and Chapman slid safely home with the first run of the game. A bad throw on the play let Roth go all the way around to third. Then Roth stole home too, for the fourth stolen base of the inning and the second run. In the sixth inning the lone base hit Ruth allowed drove in a third run. He was pretty sore after losing that game.
His bad temper reached a memorable high later in the month, on June 23. He was the starting pitcher against Washington in a game played at home in Boston. He completed his warm-up pitches and faced the first batter, Ray Morgan, the Senators' second baseman. The plate umpire was Brick Owens, not a notably even-tempered man himself. Owens called Ruth's first pitch a ball, and Babe complained. He pitched again. Ball two. Ruth shouted something, and the umpire angrily motioned for him to desist. Babe threw again. Ball three.
"Open your eyes!" Ruth yelled. "Open your eyes!"
"It's too early for you to kick," the umpire yelled back. "Get in there and pitch!"
Ruth stomped around the mound angrily, wound up and threw again.
"Ball four!" Owens snapped.
Ruth ran in toward the plate. "Why don't you open your goddamned eyes ?" he screamed.
"Get back out there and pitch," Owens shouted, "or I'll run you out of the game.
"You run me out of the game, and I'll bust you one on the nose." Owens stepped across the plate and waved his arm. "Get the hell out of here!" he cried. "You're through."
Ruth rushed him. Chester Thomas, the catcher, got between the angry pitcher and the umpire, but Ruth swung anyway, over the catcher's shoulder. He missed with a right, but a left caught Owens on the back of the neck. Ruth was in a frenzy, and Thomas and Jack Barry, who came running to the plate, had to pull him away from the umpire. A policeman came down from the stands and led the still fuming Ruth off the field.
When things settled down, Barry turned to the bench and waved Ernie Shore into the game. The new pitcher was allowed exactly eight warm-up pitches, the legal limit, and then the game resumed. As Shore threw his first pitch, Morgan, the base runner Ruth had walked, broke for second in a surprise attempt to steal, but Thomas, who had a superb arm, cut him down. One out. Shore got the next two men and went on to retire twenty-six batters in a row, every man he faced in the game. It was a perfect no-hit, no-run game for Shore, the fourth ever to be pitched in the majors. It was so entered in the record books, although purists still quibble about it. If a Washington runner reached first base, they argue, it~ was not a perfect game; and if it was not a perfect game, how can the pitcher be credited with one? Never mind. As far as Ernie Shoee was concerned, it was perfect.
Ruth was in uniform the next day and worked out, but during the game he sat in the stands in civilian clothes because Ban Johnson had suspended him indefinitely. A heavy fine and a long suspension were predicted, but Frazee hurried to smooth-talk Johnson. The league president listened, and after ten days ended the suspension and let Ruth return to action. Johnson explained that he had lifted the suspension because of the closeness of the pennant race. As for the anticipated heavy fine, it was set at $100, the amount Ruth owed to a man named Charley Deal, with whom he was having a dispute over the purchase of an automobile. Frazee sent a check for $100 to Garry Herrmann of the National Commission, but Ruth in the meantime settled the Deal affair himself, and Herrmann returned Frazee's check.
Creamer on an incident involving Shore and Ruth on the Yankees:
In Jacksonville, whose chamber of commerce had advertised Ruth and the Yankees throughout Florida like a circus, he played golf with Bob Shawkey and Del Pratt and on one hole mis-hit the ball so badly he broke the head off his club. In early practice sessions at the ballpark he worked out at third base and surprised the other players with his lefthanded agility. His winter of golf and baseball in California had left him in pretty good shape. His weight was just about 200. He quickly became an accepted member of the team and enjoyed himself hugely clowning about in practice. One day when the chunky five-foot, eight-inch, 195-pound Bodie cut in front of him to take a grounder away, Ruth yelled in mock anger, grabbed Bodie, turned him upside down, dropped him on the grass and sat on him. He and Bodie got along well. They were roommates and often ate together. Bodie had been considered the biggest eater on the club before Ruth came along, but now he admitted defeat. "Anybody who eats three pounds of steak and a bottle of chili sauce for a starter has got me," he said. Not everything was jovial. Ruth got fed up with the biting jibes of a spectator one afternoon and went into the stands after him. The man stood his ground and pulled a knife. Ernie Shore, then with the Yankees, pulled Ruth away, and the fan left quietly.
I love that stuff.
Next, we check out Marshal Smelser's The Life that Ruth Built: A Biography. This is on Ruth's promotion to the majors:
He has come up really fast for a kid. Kept his confidence. Didn't get beat too often when he first came up. You got to have that early success in order to develop fast in this league.
-Jim Brosnan, Pennant Race
Babe Ruth became an Oriole while wearing faded denim bib-overalls in the yard of St. Mary's Industrial School in Baltimore on February 14, 1914. On July 11, 147 days later, he was scuffing the clay in front of the pitching rubber in Fenway Park, Boston, getting ready to pitch to Jack Graney, the first batter in the Cleveland lineup. The nineteen-year-old left-hander with the swelling shoulders pitched well against the Cleveland Naps that day, though he had ridden a train all the previous night, and "the night before" is a nervous night for most rookie pitchers. Jack Graney later said of the game, "I remember it well. I was the lead-off man . . . and the first man to face Ruth in his debut with the Red Sox. . . . I had two hits that day." Graneyl- singled to open the game, but did not shake Ruth, who threw him out in a double play as he later tried to score.
RUTH LEADS RED SOX TO VICTORY
Southpaw Displays High Class In Game Against Cleveland
-Boston Globe, July 12, 1914
Other tones of voices in other news rooms:
Ruth Batted Out By The Naps
-New York Times, July 12, 1914
Ruth held Cleveland to five scattered hits and one run in the first six innings, while the Red Sox scored three times. In the seventh, Cleveland hit three singles which brought in two runs to tie the score. Duffy Lewis batted for Ruth in the seventh, which meant, of course, that Ruth left the game. Luckily for him, Tris Speaker drove in Everett Scott with the lead run in the last of the seventh. Dutch Leonard finished the game, saving the victory for Ruth, score 4-3. Tim Murnane, an able writer for the Globe-former player, former manager, former minor-league president-predicted a good future for the new left-hander, "a natural ball player" who "went through his act like a veteran" and who "will undoubtedly be a fine pitcher
Thus, on July 11, 1914, Babe Ruth pitched and won the first big-league game he ever saw. The events of the previous weeks explain how he found himself pitching for the home club at Fenway Park.
Jack Dunn, the owner-manager of the near-bankrupt Baltimore Orioles, offered pitchers Babe Ruth and Ernie Shore and catcher Ben Egan to Connie Mack in June 1914. The great Athletics were in the process of losing $65,000 that year. Mack was planning to sell, not to buy. Joseph Lannin, owner of the Red Sox, had joined with Mack in helping Dunn to meet his spring payroll. Feeling obligated to deal with Mack and Lannin first (although John McGraw was also interested), Dunn offered Ruth and Shore to the Red Sox for twenty-five thousand dollars. Lannin countered with the figure of fifteen thousand. Dunn added Egan to the list and suggested nineteen thousand plus cancelation of Dunn's debt of thirty-five hundred to Lannin, and another loan from Lannin, the amount unknown. (This bargaining was done by telephone, a method novel enough to intrigue people in 1914.) Dunn's package was acceptable to Lannin, if the players suited his manager, Bill Carrigan.
On July 3 Dunn went to see Lannin and Carrigan in Washington. Freddie Parent, a retired shortstop who played for the Red Sox in Carrigan's first year, now worked for Dunn; Dunn took him along as a witness Carrigan would trust. Carrigan listened to Dunn's offer and asked Parent what he thought. Parent said Shore was surely ready for the major leagues now, and though Ruth lacked finish, 'he can't miss with a little more experience." We know that Carrigan had great pitching in 1914, but no manager is likely to turn down good pitchers his owner will buy for cash. And because of the Federal League troubles there was no player limit that summer; in this Oriole deal Carrigan could not hurt the Red Sox. Dunn's offer, Lannin's money, Parent's advice, Carrigan's acceptance-and the deal was closed. Nothing remained but for Dunn, Ruth, and Lannin to pose for the standard photograph of player signing contract, an American conventional art form which has been well received for decades.
3 MORE ORIOLES SOLD
Ruth, Shore and Egan Purchased
By The Boston Red Sox
THEY LEAVE THE NEST TONIGHT
More Than $25000 Said To Be Involved-Players Should Be Big Help To Carrigan's Club
-Baltimore Sun, July 10, 1914
Of the three players in the deal, Shore was most wanted by Boston, Ruth next, and Egan not at all. The Red Sox dealt Egan, Ruth's first professional tutor, to Cleveland almost as soon as he got off at South Station in Boston. Ruth was not a necessary part of a deal for Shore; the Red Sox would have been glad to get Shore alone. Shore was a very good pitcher, but his career ended before he was thirty.
Smelser on the incident:
Aggression thus may lead to success in sports, a successful business career, a one-way trip to San Quentin, or frequent trips to a psychiatrist.
-Arnold R. Beisser
Umpires are most vigorous when defending their miscalls.
The summer of 1917 saw the only outright unseemly act Ruth had yet committed on a baseball field. It brought him his second New York headline: SLUGS UMPIRE, INDEFINITELY SUSPENDED. What Ruth did was also the overture to a pitching performance now listed in the most respected group of entries in the record book.
Clarence B. Owen, a Chicago florist, better remembered as Brick Owen, the American League umpire, was behind the plate in the first game of a double-header between the Red Sox and Senators at Boston On June 23. Ruth started for Boston and walked the first batter on four pitches, three of which he thought should have been called strikes. After the fourth ball the Baltimore waterfront slob took over from Xaverian Brother George and loudly advised Owen to sleep more at night in order to be awake during the day. Owen recommended silence, or he (Owen) would put him (Ruth) out of the game. Ruth said that if Owen put him out, he'd slug him. Owen then ordered Ruth off the field and half turned away so that Ruth's fist, aimed for the jaw, caught him behind the ear. Barry and other players swarmed over Ruth and led him off the field. Ban Johnson, president of the American League, fined Ruth a hundred dollars and suspended him for ten days.
A typical pitcher believes four out of five good pitches should lead to outs. Here, in Ruth's opinion, were three good pitches called balls.
Umpire-phobia is worse in the early innings of a game because a bad call then can divert the whole course of events disastrously. On the other hand, as Clyde King said when he was pitching coach of the Reds, "The worst thing a pitcher can do is to get mad, at himself or anything else. It ruins his concentration." Nevertheless, pitchers (and other players, of course) often do explode. They can't help being what is called temperamental. No soprano ever had to work under the conditions facing a visiting pitcher who loads the bases in the bottom of the ninth, nor do crowds often shout for the failure of the pianist in a concert hail. All things considered, ballplayers discipline themselves pretty well. Before the First World War a single run seemed more valuable than it does now; a single ruling leading to a single run might well decide a game. We still see umpire baiting with ten-run leads, but that is cultural lag.
The umpire, to be sure, takes a different view. Several are said to be the author of the remark that the job requires the umpire to be perfect on the first day and to improve thereafter. And the plate umpire has a very tiring job, being liable for over two hundred quick judgments in nine innings (but Brick Owen had only to make four calls to shake down the thunder).
A few years before Ruth's outburst a player had been fined and suspended for the remainder of the season after striking an umpire. Just two weeks earlier John McGraw struck umpire Bill (Lord) Byron while leaving the field after a game. John K. Tener, president of the National League, fined McGraw five hundred dollars and suspended him for sixteen days. McGraw added oral aggravation and Tener, after another hearing, added another thousand to the fine. In two later cases, players who struck umpires received one-year suspensions. Ruth got off lightly.
For the Red Sox, and for Ernie Shore in particular, Ruth's flare-up ended happily. Shore replaced Ruth. The runner on first was thrown out trying to steal, and Shore allowed no one else to reach first base, thus forever enshrining himself in the list of eleven pitchers who have pitched perfect games, from Lee Richmond in 1880 to Catfish Hunter in 1968.
After his brief suspension Ruth's sharpness was still there. On July 11. he pitched a one-hitter against Detroit, winning 1-0 and putting Boston into first place; he also had two hits in three times at bat, one a triple. He walked four and struck out eight, getting five of the strikeouts when runners were in scoring position on second base.
By this time Ruth was such a confident pitcher that he did not care to go down the list of opposing batters before a game to sketch his proposed tactics. Instead he would give random answers with a solemn face until the inquirer realized it was a put-on.
Boston fell short of the pennant in 1917, finishing second, nine games behind the White Sox. The Red Sox again led the league in fielding and of all teams allowed their opponents the fewest runs. The pitching was great, with Ruth 24-13 and Mays 22-9 but the White Sox pitchers were greater. Ruth was first in complete games, second in games won, third in innings pitched and in fewest hits per nine innings. An entirely creditable record it was, and well worth his five-thousand-dollar salary.
There was no systematic selection of the outstanding players at the time, but the secretary of the Giants, who was also custodian of the official records, annually chose an all-star team. For 1917 he picked Eddie Cicotte as American League pitcher, because of his earned-run average of 1.53. (Ruth ranked ninth with 2.01.)