Ruth shuts out Cubs in Game 1 of 1918 Series
Babe Ruth’s three home run games in the 1926 and 1928 World Series are well-known. But before he was the Sultan of Swat, Ruth shined in the World Series with his efforts as a pitcher.
On Sept. 5, 1918, with World War I on the minds virtually every American, Ruth threw a complete game shutout in Game 1 of the World Series.
The 1918 World Series was pushed up to the beginning of September due to World War I, the earliest World Series start in baseball history. During that time, the players on the Cubs and Red Sox were given a special contingency with the War Department, not having to comply with the “work or fight” order until Sept. 15.
Rain surrounded the series, pushing Game 1 back a day, and there was worry that the series would not finish before the Sept. 15 deadline due to bad weather. The series was also moved to Comiskey Park from Wrigley Field because Comiskey could hold a larger number of fans.
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The weather finally allowed the series to start – and though the Game 1 attendance of 19,274 was well short of the 32,000 and 36,117 in 1917 and 1916, respectively, Ruth brought his best to the mound.
Ruth, 23, had put together another nice season, going 13-7 with a 2.22 ERA in 20 games on the mound. He also showed off his potent bat during the 1918 season. In 317 at bats, he batted .300 and swatted a league-leading 11 home runs.
The Cubs finished the shortened season 84-45, while the Sox compiled a 75-51 record. Ruth was opposed by Hippo Vaughn on the mound in Game 1. Opposing Vaughn was no easy task as the southpaw led the National League with 22 wins, a 1.74 ERA, 33 starts, eight shutouts and 290.1 innings pitched.
Ruth was off to a quick inning in the first, retiring the first two hitters, before he surrendered back-to-back singles and a walk to load the bases with two outs. He would induce a Charlie Pick flyout to end the inning – and then settle in and made quick work of the Cubs in the second and third.
Vaughn seemed comfortable navigating through Boston’s lineup the first time through, allowing just three hits and no runs. In the fourth, the Red Sox scored the first and only run of the game on a Stuffy McInnis single to left field that scored Dave Shean.
Although the home crowd had little to cheer about, the fans stood together as “The Star Spangled Banner” was played, marking one of the first times it was played during a game in big league history.
Ruth continued to shut down the Cubs. His final line score was nine innings, six hits, no runs, one walk and four strikeouts to lead the Red Sox to a 1-0 victory. After nearly matching Ruth with nine innings of five-hit, one-run baseball, Vaughn took the loss.
The nine shutout innings ran Ruth’s consecutive scoreless innings streak in World Series play to 22.1. Boston tagged Ruth to start Game 4, and he pitched eight innings. Though he gave up seven hits and six walks, he picked up the win and went 1-for-2 with a two-RBI triple in Boston’s 3-2 win. When the Cubs finally scored off Ruth in the eighth inning, Ruth had totaled 29.2 straight scoreless frames, a record he would hold until Whitey Ford broke the mark in 1961.
The Red Sox won Game 6 on Sept. 11, 1918, to win the series 4-2, marking their fourth World Series title since 1912. The War ended just two months later on Nov. 11, 1918.
Ruth spent one more season with the Red Sox before being sold to the Yankees on Dec 26, 1919. He stopped pitching on a regular basis after the 1919 season and moved to the outfield after the Yankees saw his potential with the bat. “The Bambino” retired after the 1935 season as the all-time leader in home runs with 714. Over a 22-year career, Ruth won seven World Series titles.
He was elected to the Hall of Fame in the Class of 1936.
Steven Walters was the 2018 public relations intern in the Hall of Fame’s Frank and Peggy Steele Internship Program for Youth Leadership Development