The Big Bambino Swung His Familiar Bat Needed a Different Glove Exactly 90 Years Ago
Sad Sam Jones must have been smiling when he took the mound that day, at least when he first glanced in right field. Missing from that particular position was the most feared slugger in baseball history, Babe Ruth of the New York Yankees.
Before Sad Sam got too elated with the idea of not having to face the Sultan of Swat, Sam once again became Sad. The Babe was in the lineup after all, but he was for just the second time in his career playing first base.
Lest anyone think that Sad Sam should have still been happy, since Ruth's presence there meant that another future Hall of Famer was not in the lineup, check out right field once again. Stationed out there in Ruth's usual place was none other than the Iron Horse, cleanup hitter Lou Gehrig.
Ruth had last played first base five years before, a season when he made exactly two appearances there. In spite of the lack of experience, manager Joe McCarthy hoped the move would save wear and tear on Ruth's body.
As it turned out Ruth managed fine at first base, but still he was moved back to right field the very next game. He in fact Ruth would actually play first just one more time in his career, a one game stint for the 1933 Yankees.
The reason he did not remain at the cold corner afterwards was his Hall of Fame teammate, who made a costly gaffe in right field on that May 4 game. It came in the sixth, when Lefty Gomez and the Yanks were up 3-2.
Sam West of the Senators lined a one out double and scored on the ensuing single by Joe Kuhel, knotting the game at three. Jackie Hayes then singled to right, where Gehrig botched the play and allowed Kuhel to race home with the go-ahead run.
Washington would go on to win 7-3 and leapfrogging New York into second place, just a game and a half behind Cleveland. The Yankees would eventually regain second place and finish with 94 wins, yet miss the division championship by a whopping 14 and a half games.
It was neither Cleveland nor Washington who took the pennant that year, but a team that had been buried in last place the day Ruth played first. The Philadelphia Athletics rose from the basement to finish with 107 wins, propelled by Hall of Famers like Mickey Cochrane and Jimmie Foxx, only to lose a seven game World Series to the St. Louis Cardinals.
The Yankees would return to the top of the American League many times after that season, but the Babe would return to first base just once more. As for Gehrig, he never again took a turn in right field.