May 20

“Arise Babe Ruth!”

The headline about the 7 May 1918 game between the Red Sox and Nationals at Griffith Stadium says it all, “Arise Babe Ruth!”

The highflying Red Sox lost to the 7-10 Washington squad with Walter Johnson getting the best of Dutch Leonard. But the day belonged to Babe Ruth. Here is what one paper recorded, “Arise, babe Ruth! You now belong to the exclusive circle of right field wall climbers in the Capital. And, Babe, it was a beaut! Lo and behold, here are the members of your club Babe: Harry Hooper, Harry Lord, Joe Jackson and Elmer Smith. Hooper is a club mate in two ways, belonging to the Red Sox with you and to the wall climbers as well. Furthermore, he is entitled to chief honors, for he poled the pill twice over that new garden wall. Babe has the habit. Last Saturday the big pitcher whaled Allan Russell for a homer at the Polo Grounds. Monday he picked on George Mogridge to the extent of one more. Yesterday he caught one of Walter Johnson’s fast shoots, with Amos Strunk perched on first base, and over the wall she went. Good sight.”

The next day his batting practice swats made the paper, “Babe Ruth crashed out two great whacks during the Red Sox’s batting practice. Ruth’s first smash knocked the number nine all the way out of the scoreboard in right field, while his second offering hit on the roof of the Brown house back of the garden wall foul line.”

Those who attended the game no doubt went home in awe at the Babe’s prowess. But they were witnessing history. Ruth was no longer a good hitting pitcher; he was the best power hitter in the game.

The previous day Ruth had replaced Dick Hoblitzeil, the Adonis like first-sacker in the line-up for the Red Sox. Hoblitzeil had a wounded finger so Ed Barrow, the manager, had Ruth play first base against the Yankees at the Polo Grounds. Funny how even non-baseball fans remember poor Wally Pipp but for the injury to the well respected Hoblitzeil the placement of Ruth into the line-up would have been delayed.

With Ruth in the line-up fans quickly took notice. Here is one press clipping from the game, “Ruth played first base. He played a bang-up game too, though he had nothing really difficult to do. But he did look like a first baseman, that’s what I mean, not a pitcher playing first base.”

Ruth would continue to pitch but was now a regular fixture in the line-up, he was too good not too. He was 13-7 in the box and batted .300 while leading the league with 11 home runs, with many more to follow.