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Did Ruth call his shot? I say no.

OCTOBER 1, 1932 | CHICAGO, ILLINOIS – What did or didn’t happen in Wrigley Field on this date is debated to this day. Some believe Babe Ruth called his shot while batting in game-3 of the World Series between the Chicago Cubs and the New York Yankees – that is, pointed toward the bleachers, indicating he was going to hit a home run there, and then hitting one there. So did Ruth call his shot? I say no.

Ruth definitely gestured, as film from that day shows, but was he calling his shot? [I don’t have the rights to show a still frame from that film, but you can see it by Google-ing “called shot copyright Kirk Kandle”.]

The Yankees were up 2 games to none against the Cubs in the ’32 series. New York took an early lead in game three on a home run by Ruth, only to be tied by the Cubs.

It was the 5th inning and Ruth came to bat again. He and the Cubs were jawing back and forth at each other. It’s obvious from the film that Ruth was gesturing with the count 2-balls and 2-strikes. On the next pitch, he hit a mammoth home run about 450 feet.

Did Ruth call his shot? Sportswriter Joe Williams of Scripps-Howard newspapers started it with this headline in the next day’s paper:

“Ruth calls shot as he puts home run no. 2 in side pocket”

Cubs pitcher Charlie Root, who gave up the home run, insisted Ruth did not call his shot. “If he had made a gesture like that I’d have put one in his ear and knocked him on his (backside).” Ruth did not initially acknowledge that he called his shot, but embraced the story more and more as time went on.

What may be most definitive is the typed play-by-play from Retrosheet, data gathered by the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR) for virtually every MLB game ever played.

Below is how Ruth’s 5th inning at-bat appears, including the bold type:

YANKEES 5TH: Sewell grounded out (shortstop to first); the Cubs bench players were riding Babe Ruth mercilessly and Ruth yelled and gestured back; Ruth homered;

Whoever wrote that does not believe he called his shot. And if you look at Ruth’s gesture it appears to be straight ahead. When a left-handed batter stands in the box straight ahead is toward the 3rd base dugout, which is the Cubs dugout. My belief is Ruth was gesturing toward the Cubs, not center-field. Did Ruth call his shot? I say no.

Contributing sources:
October 1, 1932 Box score/play-by-play
Charlie Root quote, USATODAY, September 27, 2007
Sports Illustrated Greatest Teams, by Tim Crothers, 1998

First pitcher to throw 5 no-hitters

SEPTEMBER 26, 1981 | HOUSTON, TEXAS – Nolan Ryan became the first pitcher to throw 5 no-hitters on this date in 1981. Ryan shut down the Los Angeles Dodgers 5-0 while pitching for the Houston Astros in the Astrodome.

Nolan Ryan is in a class by himself when it comes to career no-hitters. He ended up with 7Sandy Koufax, with 4, is the only other pitcher to throw more than 3 (although indicative of Koufax’s short-lived dominance, he threw his no-hitters in a span of 4 seasons. Ryan’s no-no’s were thrown over a 19-year span – a testament to his enduring dominance.

I didn’t know thatPl

Ready for another “I didn’t know that” stat? Nolan Ryan had a no-hitter broken up after the 7th inning 24 times. Second on the list is Randy Johnson with less than half that number (11).

Back to September 26, 1981…
Ryan came close to losing his shutout in the 2nd when he walked Steve Garvey to lead off. The Dodger first baseman stole second and went to third on a wild pitch – still with nobody out. Ryan struck out Pedro Guerrero and Mike Scioscia (the current Angels manager) and got Ron Roenicke to fly out.

Ryan finished the day striking out 11, walking 3 and giving up no hits.

Contributing sources: 
September 26, 1981 box score/play-by-play (Baseball-Reference)

No-hitters statistics (Baseball-Almanac)
Nolan Ryan career stats (Baseball-Reference)

A Million Fans Can’t Be Wrong

AUGUST 25, 1983 | LOUISVILLE, KENTUCKY • A million fans can’t be wrong. The Louisville Redbirds became the first minor league baseball team to draw more than a million fans in a season on this date in 1983. Not long before that, a million was considered good for a major league team.

Louisville, the St. Louis Cardinals’ triple-A team, reached 1,006,103 in attendance with a crowd of more than 31,000. The Redbirds outdrew three major league teams that year – the Cleveland Indians (768,941), Seattle Mariners (813,537) and Minnesota Twins (858,939).

Minor league baseball experienced an attendance renaissance at the end of the 20th Century and beginning of the 21st. According, the official website of minor league baseball, minor league baseball draws more fans than the NBA or the NFL. By drawing 39.8 million in 2004 it broke the total attendance record of 39.6 million fans set in 1949.  Minor League attendance peaked in 2008 at 43.2 million.

While attendance has dropped in the last decade or so, it remains above 40 million each year.

[Minor league baseball does not include numerous independent leagues around the country that are not associated with major league teams.]

Contributing Sources:
Minor League attendance 2016
Minor League Baseball history
Major League Baseball attendance 

The Fall and Rise of Rick Ankiel

AUGUST 9, 2007 | ST. LOUIS, MISSOURIRick Ankiel of the St. Louis Cardinals hit a dramatic 3-run home run on this date in 2007. It was the culmination of the fall and rise of Rick Ankiel. He had gone through an agonizing public collapse as a pitcher seven years earlier. It got so bad he gave up pitching, but he didn’t give up baseball.

Rick Ankiel was drafted out of high school by the Cardinals in 1997. He received a big signing bonus and progressed through the minor leagues fairly quickly. There was no hint of the trouble ahead. He was Minor League Player of the Year in 1999. Ankiel went 11-7 in 2000, his first full season with the Cardinals, striking out an average of 10 hitters every 9 innings.

The problems surfaced in the playoffs. Though only 20-years old when the season started Ankiel got the start in game one of the National League Division Series. That’s where the trouble started. He gave up a hit and two walks in the first, but got through unscathed, no problems in the second, but mysterious wildness that would eventually drive him from the mound started in the third.

Here’s how it went:

• Greg Maddux walks
• Rafael Furcal pops out
• Wild pitch
• Wild pitch
• Walks Andruw Jones
• Wild pitch
• Strikes out Chipper Jones
• Walks Andres Galarraga
• Brian Jordan singles
• Wild pitch
• Walks Reggie Sanders
• Walt Weiss singles
• (Ankiel relieved)

The Cardinals won the game, swept the series and Ankiel shrugged off his wildness, but he didn’t make it through the first inning of game two of the National League Championship Series against the New York Mets. Five of the first 20 pitches he threw went back to the screen, but only two were counted as wild pitches because no one was on base… yet. He was lifted after three walks and a double to drive in two.

Ankiel’s pitching troubles continued. He was sent down to the minors in 2001 and his wildness got worse. He finally gave up pitching in 2005. He became an outfielder, eventually making it back to the Cardinals and a tremendous reception on August 9, 2007. He drew a prolonged standing ovation in his first at-bat on this date. He popped out in his first at bat, struck out in his second and hit the 3-run homer in his 3rd plate appearance.

Rick Ankiel ended up playing 11 years in the majors, 7 of those were after the fall and rise of Rick Ankiel.

Cardinals-Padres, August 9, 2007
2000 NLDS Cardinals-Braves, Game 1, October 3, 2000
2000 NLCS Cardinals-Mets, Game 2, October 12, 2000

Dodgers score 12 runs after 2 outs

AUGUST 8, 1954 | BROOKLYN, NEW YORK – There are rallies and there are rallies. How about one the Brooklyn Dodgers had on this date in 1954? The Dodgers scored 12 runs after two outs in the eighth inning. They scored 13 total. They went on to pound the Cincinnati Reds 20-7 at Ebbets Field in Brooklyn.

Here’s a good indication why the official scoring for earned runs should be changed. Amazingly, only one of the 13 runs given up in the eighth was earned, despite four Reds pitchers giving up seven hits and seven walks. Neither Cincinnati pitchers Jackie Collum nor Frank Smith got anybody out, but their ERAs did not go down a lick (there’s something not right about that type of scoring) because twelve of the runs scored after an error by Reds third baseman Chuck Harmon long before Collum or Smith got in the game.

Here’s another example of what’s wrong with ERA scoring; a relief pitcher can be called into a game because the starter is showing some weakness. He could give up a bases clearing triple. None of those runs are charged to him. I get that. But here’s what’s crazy. Despite giving up a bases clearing triple, if he gets the next batter out his ERA goes down.

Contributing Source:
August 8, 1954 box score