(Excerpt from Five O'Clock Lighting: Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, and the 1927 New York Yankees, The Greatest Baseball Team Ever)
This 1927 spring was a different spring, a different Babe Ruth, one more circumspect and more caring about taking care of his body. Actually, after the 1925 season, during which he weighed more than 250 pounds and played abysmally, the Sultan of Swat for the first time started to watch (somewhat) what he ate and drank.
His first appearance in spring training 1927 was filled with hype, hullabaloo and hoopla as befitted the King of clout. Reporters swarmed about, crowded around him. They looked him over. All the stories about the terrific shape he was in seemed true. The great Ruth announced in that deep voice of his that had just a hint of a Southern accent: "I never felt better in my life. I weigh 223 pounds and will lose only 3 pounds while here."
Showing off his expanded 47 inch chest, he bragged about the hardened belly. "Hit me," he smiled. Hit me as hard as you can." One of the more intrepid scribes, James R. Harrison of The Times, went for the suggestion. Ruth took the poke, feigned some pain, kept on smiling.
“Twenty four gaping rookies stood at attention as he sauntered through the lobby of the hotel,” Ford C. Frick, wrote in the New York Evening Journal, “and flocks of femininity dogged his footsteps to the very portals of the elevator where a flunkey in uniform barred the way.. . .The Babe was friendly to all, smiling, bowing, yelling in a hoarse voice to teammates.”
That morning he played golf, a round of 92, violating the training rule set by Miller Huggins that banned participation in the sport by players except on Sundays. “Special permission,” Huggins explained to reporters was given to Ruth.
“The Big Bam,” the New York Evening World’s Arthur Mann wrote: “shags flies to begin the day's work, fields bunts, and then warms up with a catcher. By this time he is ready to go into the box, and there he remains, pitching for about 25 minutes. His batting practice consists of about 12 good wallops."
Billy Sunday made a visit to the Yankee training camp. Ex-major leaguer, ex-drunk, celebrated revivalist, umpire and scribe, he hit some balls – one was a shot he got good wood on that according to one scribe "was still smoking."
Smoking, characterized the way many Yankees reacted to a Billy Sunday comment: “Of all the ball clubs I have looked at this spring the Athletics are by far the most impressive. The club doesn't appear to have a single weakness."
But Sunday was not the only one with the pro-Philly point of view. The New York Betting Commission had installed the Philadelphia Athletics favorites to win the pennant because of their addition of veterans like Ty Cobb, Eddie Collins and Zach Wheat. Only 9 of 42 writers polled gave the Yanks any chance to repeat as pennant winners. American League President Ban Johnson predicted a historic-five team pennant race. An AP poll of 100 players and "baseball experts" tabbed the Athletics to win it all.
Grantland Rice writing in the New York Herald-Tribune said: "From present indications, the American League race figures as follows: Philadelphia, New York, Washington, Cleveland, Detroit, Chicago, St. Louis, Boston." Professional odds makers set the Athletics at 2-1, the Yankees at 3-1, the Senators at 7-2.
Harvey Frommer is his 34th consecutive year of writing sports books. The author of 40 of them including the classics: "New York City Baseball,1947-1957" and "Shoeless Joe and Ragtime Baseball," his REMEMBERING YANKEE STADIUM, an oral/narrative history (Abrams, Stewart, Tabori and Chang) was published in 2008 as well as a reprint version of his "Shoeless Joe and Ragtime Baseball.".
Frommer sports books are available direct from the author - discounted and autographed. FROMMER SPORTSNET (syndicated) reaches a readership in excess of one million and appears on Internet search engines for extended periods of time.
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About the Author:
Harvey Frommer is his 33rd consecutive year of writing sports books. The author of 40 of them including the classics: "New York City Baseball,1947-1957" and "Shoeless Joe and Ragtime Baseball," his REMEMBERING YANKEE STADIUM, an oral/narrative history (Abrams, Stewart, Tabori and Chang) was published September 1, 2008 as well as a reprint version of his "Shoeless Joe and Ragtime Baseball.". Frommer sports books are available direct from the author - discounted and autographed. FROMMER SPORTSNET (syndicated) reaches a readership in excess of one million and appears on Internet search engines for extended periods of time.
Harvey Frommer along with his wife, Myrna Katz Frommer are the authors of five critically acclaimed oral/cultural histories, professors at Dartmouth College, and travel writers who specialize in cultural history, food, wine, and Jewish history and heritage in the United States, Europe, and the Caribbean.
This Article is Copyright © 1995 - 2008 by Harvey Frommer. All rights reserved worldwide.