Saturday, October 25, 2008

Babe Ruth's Called Shot

In The 10 Commandments of Baseball: Am Affectionate Look at Joe McCarthy's Principles for Success in Baseball (and Life), our author, J.D. Thorne writes about Babe Ruth's famous "Called shot" during the 1932 World Series against the Chicago Cubs. J.D. contends in the book that Ruth did call the shot and that it had, in fact, been witnessed by the author's dad who was a young man at the time. If we look back at the scene, we know that the Cubs' dugout was badgering Ruth during the at bat and accounts suggest that Ruth was giving it right back to them. When Ruth had two strikes, he apparently held up two fingers to the Cubs dugout to suggest that two strikes was not three and that he had at least another swing. According to many sources,after flashing the two strikes sign to the Cubs, Ruth pointed toward center field as if to say and now boys the ball is going there. Then, bam! Ruth followed with a home run ...and the rest is history. Or is it?

Some baseball writers suggest that the newspapers made up the "called shot" and that Ruth was just waving his bat as countless other hitters have done on countless at bats. They suggest in fact that after the story of the "called shot" was published in the papers, Ruth said it was true just because it was too good a story to deny. Some suggest that the Babe was not adverse to exaggeration if it would increase the public sense of his importance. But what did Ruth himself actually say? Well there are probably many newspaper stories that quote Ruth on the legend, which can be found if one digs hard enough. There is also a book edited by John Carmichael of the old Chicago Daily News that discusses the "shot."

The book is called My Greatest Day in Baseball and it includes stories from 44 ball players as told to various writers. There are at least three editions of the book, the latest was published by the University of Nebraska which has a wonderful line of sports books.


In this book, Ruth states that he did call the shot, but not exactly the way the press reported it. According to Ruth, he took two strikes and he did hold up his fingers after each called strike. According to Ruth, after he held up his second finger on strike two: "Then's when I waved to the fence. No I didn't point to any spot, but as long as I called the first two strikes on myself, I hadda go through with it."

So according to the Babe, the legend is true. Babe goes on to suggest that it wasn't the smartest thing he had done in his life, but he was lucky that day as he had been many times throughout his career.

The 10 Commandments of Baseball is available from Sporting Chance Press.

Image is Babe Ruth from Library of Congress.