Waite Hoyt (237-182) pitched many years with the Yankees, ending with his home-town Dodgers. He was pitching in the bullpen, when he felt a twinge in his arm, and legendary fan Hilda Chester hollered to manager Burleigh Grimes: Heh, Boily, Hert’s hoit!”
For many years Hoyt broadcast Cincinnati games, where his stories became legendary. This is one of them.
THE TRUTH ABOUT RUTH
Courtesy of The Toronto Star and Clay Marston.
“Ruth was not fat. He had a big chest and a very small fanny, and he was not big around the waist.
“And he was not a drunk, by no chance. He drank, and I guess at times he was drunk, but never, never did he miss a game or have a bad day because of it. Never. Never. Never.”
He’d go out “carousing” all night, “visiting his girlfriends,” then come home to a “very respectable family, and they would pat him on his head as if to say, ‘What a nice dog Rover is.'”
One game Hoyt was pitching, and a fly ball was hit to Ruth. Hoyt says it looked like Babe “short-legged” it, meaning he didn’t take long strides, and the ball fell for a hit. Hoyt stood on the mound, shaking his head, hands on his hips, glaring. Ruth stormed into the dugout: “Don’t you ever show me up again!”
After the game “I was sitting in front of my locker without any clothes on” and Ruth called him names and said, “I’ll punch you in the nose.”
“He took a kick at me, with his spikes on.” Teammates tried to pull them apart. Tiny manager Miller Huggins, five foot-six and 140 pounds, climbed between them, suffering a few blows himself.
“After that, he and I didn’t speak for a couple of years.”
In St. Louis, when the Yankees left town, Ruth would arrange to have the women’s restroom on their Pullman car converted into a kind of saloon. “There would be some home brew, plus about 15 or 20 racks of spare ribs. He’d charge 50 cents for all the beer you could drink and all the ribs you could eat.”
Hoyt always passed it up. “Ah, come on,” Ruth said. “Let’s forget this [feud]. This is ridiculous.” And they made peace over beer and ribs on the rattling train.
Other times Ruth filled his bathtub with ice and beer and hosted after-game parties in a red robe with a velvet collar and in red Moroccan slippers.
When Ruth was dying Hoyt recalled visiting him in his hotel. “Babe was on the sofa, slumped low with his head almost below his knees. He had a glass of beer on the table,” one of the only things he could keep down. Babe was so sick “he could hardly talk.”
As they rose to go, Ruth struggled to lift himself out of the sofa. He said, “Hey, wait a minute, Doll” to Mrs. Hoyt. “He went into the kitchen and opened the refrigerator door, and there were two orchids in there. He gave them to Mrs. Hoyt and said, “Do me a favor. Don’t forget the old Babe, will ya?'”
“If there is a Judgment Day,” Waite said, “I believe that Ruth will receive more pluses than minuses.”
Cobb in 2016
I wrote a few weeks back that Ty Cobb could not compete with today’s bigger, better coached players. Here’s a thought to ponder:
The history of the world record for the mile shows:
1911, Cobb’s heyday, 4:15.2
1923, Ruth’s heyday 4:10.4.
2016, Trout’s heyday 3:43.13 (men)
Today’s gals would leave the fastest man in Cobb’s day more than two seconds behind! That’s about 15 yards, or half-way to first base. You can do the same thing with the high jump, shot put etc. Does that mean that today’s best women ball players could beat Cobb, Johnson, and Ruth if they were reincarnated today?
A century from now, will our great great grand daughters be running faster than the fastest man can run now? Will we have to move the mound back ten feet? Or move the fences out 30 feet deeper? Today we are watching the best baseball ever played. What will your grand kids be watching half a century from now?
Did Hank Juice?
Stimulants have been known in sports since the ancient Greek Olympics.
1954 Russian weight lifters accused of using PEDs
1958 The U.S. FDA approved anabolic steroids for sale
1968 Drug tests first used in Mexico City Olympics
1972 Full-scale testing in Munich Olympics
Barry Bonds, A-Rod, and Roger Clemens, have been barred from the baseball Hall of Fame for using steroids. All are unpopular es-oh-bees, and it’s easy to believe they were cheating and therefore do not deserve to be in the Hall.
But, we reported last year, several heroes already in Cooperstown also produced very suspicious numbers late in their careers. They include Nolan Ryan, Randy Johnson, and Tony Gwynn. Letter writers sprang to their defense. But you can look their records up for yourselves – the data leap off the page unmistakably.
However, the name that received the most ardent defenders was Hank Aaron. He is Mr. Super Nice Guy; nobody wants to believe that he would cheat. Also, his numbers don’t show up on the usual batting statistics, which show only raw home runs. You have to look beneath them to the average home runs per at bat.
Aaron averaged 31 homers per 550 at bats in Milwaukee, ages 22-31. In his first year in Atlanta, 1966, he soared to 42/550. Several letter writers argued that that explains his late-career fountain of youth. But Hank’s big leap upward came five years later, in 1971. That’s the jump that makes me suspicious. Let’s concentrate on his Atlanta years:
Year Age HR/550
1966 32 42
1967 33 36
1968 34 26 first Olympic drug testing
1969 35 44
1970 36 41
1971 37 52 up 25% to a personal best
1972 38 42 first full-scale Olympic testing
1973 39 56 up 33%, personal best; tied Ruth at season end
1974 40 32 passed the Babe in April
1975 41 14
1976 42 20
The change in parks does not explain why Hank leaped so dramatically at ages 37 and 39.
I love you, Hank. But I think you cheated the Babe, and you cheated us. I understand why you did it. I might have done it myself, because I’m human too.
My colleague, Gabriel Shechter, wrote this defense of Hank:
The main reason why Hank Aaron hit more HR per at-bat from 1971-1973 is quite simple: He was trying to! The closer he got to Ruth’s 714 record, the more he focused on hitting the ball over the fence instead of taking two bounces to hit the wall. From 1966-1970, Aaron, after moving to “The Launching Pad” in Atlanta, averaged 39 HR per season. In 1971, he took full advantage of the friendly Atlanta stadium, smacking 31 of his 47 home runs at home. Similarly, in 1973 he hit 24 of his 40 home runs at home.
Instead of looking only at HR totals, look at the extra-base hit totals. Until 1971 Aaron never hit more than twice as many home runs as doubles. Starting in 1971, he did it three years in a row – during the most intense part of his pursuit of Ruth’s record. The totals in those three seasons were 121 home runs and just 44 doubles.
The conclusion is obvious – instead of shooting for the gaps, Aaron went for the fences, turning a dozen doubles per season into home runs. There was nothing diabolical about it. At home in 1973, Aaron hit 24 home runs – and a paltry three doubles. That was no accident.
It’s clear that we read the same data and come up with different opinions, and we hold those opinions strongly.
1) If Hank’s homers in Atlanta went up, his homers on the road should have gone up apace.
2) Those former doubles were now carrying 20 feet further and flying over the fences.
3) If hitting more doubles and less homers was the best way to win games, then Aaron should have continued to hit more doubles. If more homers would have won more games, he should have been doing that throughout his career.
Did he or didn’t he? A year ago readers broke about evenly on the issue. If you’d like to give your interpretations, we welcome them.
What should we do?
Leaving Aaron aside, should we forgive Nolan, Randy, and Tony? If so, should we should also forgive Barry, Roger, Mark, and Alex and open the Hall of Fame to them, too.
I do not advocate this.
The cheaters didn’t simply cheat the Babe. They also cheated the other teams. Shoeless Joe Jackson is in disgrace though there is no evidence that he threw a game. The PED users did what Jackson never did – they cheated to win games. No one – not the fans, not the umps, not the other teams – suspected that those 395-foot homers should really have been 385-foot outs, or that those un-hittable 98-mph fastballs should really have been 89-mph.
It’s not just numbers in a record book. Steroids affected the integrity of every game and every pennant race. Were the Giants really the world champs? The Mets? The Astros? The Red Sox?
The solution lies in the hands of the baseball writers and the Singer Sewing Machine family, which owns the Hall of Fame. They control who may and who may not be allowed in. The writers have rejected Bonds, Clemens, McGwire, and Sosa. The Hall has rejected Pete Rose.
The Hall owns the bricks and the building and can therefore make money selling tickets and souvenirs. But do they own the concept of the Hall?
It seems to me that that belongs to the fans.
Cooperstown is sort of a medieval Church of Baseball, which displays relics of the saints, such as Ty Cobb’s spikes or Christy Mathewson’s glove. It’s a bucolic little town 200 miles from anywhere, and 3,000 miles from California. And it has nothing to do with baseball history.
I suggest several Halls.
Hoboken, a 20-minute ferry ride from Manhattan past the Statue of Liberty. It’s the home of the Elysian Fields, site of the first game and the birthplace of Frank Sinatra. Perfect for a joint baseball/popular music Hall.
Baltimore, Babe was born a ten-minute stroll from Camden Yards, about one hour from Philadelphia and an hour from Washington. The original plan was an Avenue of Bats from Babe’s home to the park. I’d make it an Avenue of Immortals, with statues of the greats guiding the way to the present statue of Ruth at the entrance to the park. His birthplace could be the entrance to a Hall of Fame taking up the whole block.
Cincinnati, home of the Red Stockings of 1869, the first professional team, and closer to the nation’s center.
Royston, Georgia, home of Ty Cobb.
San Diego, where Teddy Ballgame hit his first home runs.
Texas – I’m sure you Texans can think of a good place.
Each can elect its own Hall of Famers. I believe they should be elected by the fans. Not because we’re wiser and would make better choices. But because, darn it all, they’re our Halls of Fame.