Ruth a ‘Giant’ among Yankees

Written by: Dylan Drolette

In 1914, New York Giants manager John McGraw tried to acquire the contract of a kid he had seen pitch against the Newark Indians of the International League. McGraw contacted the owner of the International League Baltimore Orioles, offering $5,000 for the lefty’s services. But Orioles’ owner Jack Dunn said no, instead waiting to sell the young Babe Ruth’s contract on to the Boston Red Sox later that year.

If McGraw had got his way, this photograph might be one of thousands of Babe Ruth in a Giants uniform. Instead, it's a historical oddity representing a one-time appearance.

This image comes from a game that the New York Giants played against the Baltimore Orioles of the International League at the Polo Grounds on Oct. 3, 1923. Scheduled on an off day, the game was played to raise money for former Giants’ owner John B. Day and former Giants’ manager Jim Mutrie, both of whom had fallen on hard times. Ruth was penciled into the lineup due to his burgeoning stardom and his connection to the Orioles. Perhaps more importantly, the game gave both Ruth and the Giants the opportunity to stay fresh before the upcoming World Series.

John McGraw's New York Giants, pictured above in 1922, won back-to-back World Series championships in 1921 and 1922. (National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum)

While both the New York Yankees and the New York Giants had a few more regular-season games to play after the Oct. 3 off day, both teams had already clinched their league’s pennant. For the third straight year, the World Series would be an intra-city affair. McGraw and the Giants had triumphed in both 1921 and 1922, and the Yankees had yet to win a World Series championship. If the lineup that McGraw drew up for this exhibition game is anything to go by, he fully intended to claim a third straight title. Aside from Ruth, the Giants starting lineup featured all of its regulars except for catcher Frank Snyder and outfielder Ross Youngs. The defending World Series champions defeated the Orioles 9-3, an accomplishment made less surprising by the fact the Giants fielded several future Hall of Famers and were managed by future Hall of Famer McGraw.

The New York Yankees won their first World Championship in 1923 under Hall of Fame manager Miller Huggins. They would win 26 more over the next 93 years. (National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum)

Ruth dutifully played his part as a star entertainer. Despite an ankle injury suffered earlier in the season and a borrowed uniform, Ruth stroked a long home run in the fifth inning that reportedly cleared the roof. The Ruthian feat caused one Yankees fan in attendance to comment cheekily, “And he’ll hit a few there next week too! Just getting the range, that’s all.” Ruth would go on to prove the fan right, hitting three home runs and .368 in what would be the Yankees’ first World Series victory.

All told, 10 future Hall of Famers were involved in that benefit game. In addition to the eight Hall of Famers on the Giants side, one of the umpires was future Hall of Famer Bill Klem and the Orioles’ starting pitcher was a very young Lefty Grove.

Dylan Drolette was the photo archives assistant at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum

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