Scorecard from Babe Ruth’s debut preserved at Museum
Thanks to some inspired research, a program/scorecard from that afternoon’s historic moment has recently been discovered in the collection of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.
On Saturday, July 11, 1914, the Cleveland Naps visited Boston’s Fenway Park – in only its third season as the home ballpark to the Red Sox – to start a four-game series.
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Ultimately, Shieber, through more in-depth research, was able to determine that the scorecard was in fact from Ruth’s debut game by eliminating dates via the printed rosters and lineups listed inside.
In particular, the fact that Guy Cooper is listed as a member of the Red Sox means the scorecard was printed after May 27, the date the Yankees sold him to Boston, while Fritz Coumbe and Rankin Johnson being listed as members of the Red Sox means the scorecard was printed before July 28, the date Boston sold the pair to Cleveland for Vean Gregg.
Despite the fact that there were still obvious questions with the program/scorecard, with Ruth not listed anywhere and the printed Red Sox lineup differs from the actual lineup used on July 11, they are explainable.
As a cost savings measure as well as practical reasons, the Red Sox would print up all their program/scorecards for each game of a homestand before the start of each homestand. The homestand in question started July 8, but Ruth was not sold to the team until July 9, while an earlier injury to star outfielder Harry Hooper affected the assumed lineup that day.
“All signs point to this being the from the game that Babe Ruth debuts,” Shieber said. “From a storytelling standpoint, it’s helpful when you can tell a story from page one of chapter one. It’s a great entree to being able to tell the story of Babe Ruth from his very first major league game.
“And it’s pretty difficult to get a bigger name than Babe Ruth. Here’s a guy whose name is still meaningful today. We’re three-quarters of a century after he’s passed away and he’s still a recognized name by eight year olds.”
In fact, 1914 is noteworthy for many reasons in Ruth’s life, as his fortunes changed for the better in an amazing rapid succession of events – going from a reform school to the minors to the majors in a matter of months.
The remarkable turning point in George Herman Ruth’s life came in 1914 when he signed his first professional baseball contract. Before that, though, he was sent to Baltimore’s St. Mary’s Industrial School for Boys by his parents at the age of seven because he was considered incorrigible – an event would change the course of his life and prove to be his salvation because it exposed him to baseball.
Word of Ruth’s success on the diamond for St. Mary’s ultimately reached Jack Dunn, the owner of the local Baltimore Orioles of the International League.
Though the hard-charging Orioles were off to a great start in 1914, a Baltimore franchise in the short-lived Federal League soon siphoned off enough fans that Dunn had no choice but to sell off some of his best players.
“The Red Sox introduced Mr. Ruth, one of the Baltimore recruits, yesterday to the crowd at Fenway Park,” wrote Tim Murnane, a 1978 recipient of the BBWAA Career Excellence Award, in the July 12, 1914 edition of the Globe.
“All eyes were turned on Ruth, the fast lefthander, who proved a natural ballplayer and went through his act like a veteran of many wars. He has a natural delivery, fine control and a curveball that bothers the batsmen, but has room for improvement and will, undoubtedly, become a fine pitcher under the care of Manager Carrigan.”
Ruth could hardly believe that he made a big league club in his first year as a professional.
“Only five months since I had been a schoolboy, sliding on a pond in a Baltimore industrial school,” Ruth said. “And the salary was less believable – $2,500 a year.”
Ruth’s whirlwind year of 1914 came to a conclusion with his marriage to the former Helen Woodford, a Boston waitress, on Oct. 17 outside Baltimore.
The highs and lows of 1914, both professionally and personally, would be only a prelude to what was to come. Ruth retired in 1935, ending a remarkable 22-year big league career with 714 home runs. The “Sultan of Swat” would ultimately lead the Red Sox to three World Series crowns as a pitcher and the New York Yankees to four Fall Classic titles as a right fielder before becoming one of the five inductees in the Baseball Hall of Fame’s inaugural election in 1936.
Bill Francis is the senior research and writing specialist at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum