Gehrig, Ruth round up funds for NYC hospital

Written by: Jamie Brinkman

Fresh off a 4-0 sweep of the St. Louis Cardinals, Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig decided they weren’t quite done with the “World Series.”

A reported 22,000 fans gathered at Dexter Park in Brooklyn on Oct. 12, 1928, to watch Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig kick off their barnstorming tour with a game against the Bushwick All-Stars, a semi-professional team. To the crowds surprise (and probably delight), the pair appeared on the field prior to the game in cowboy outfits. But Ruth did better than just donning the outfit. He came onto the field and after mounting a police officer’s horse, proceeded to race “it around the field like a Buffalo Bill.”

After returning the horse, Ruth sat astride the hood of a car fitted with long steer horns, twirling a lasso and waving to the crowd until it became too warm. Standing alongside him was his trusty partner Lou Gehrig, smiling for the crowd. The pair were photographed between second and third base tipping their hats to the fans, as players, press, and children dressed in rodeo attire converged on them.

Ruth’s pre-game antics continued on the field, where he carried a pen on his hip. The Bambino not only signed the baseballs being continually thrown on the field, but even autographed one while protesting an umpire’s call. One fan even had Ruth sign a towel he was using to wipe perspiration off his face. While it is evident that Ruth and Gehrig didn’t mind hamming it up for the camera (for example, an image of Gehrig plugging his ears while Ruth plays the saxophone), there was a worthy cause behind the two’s decision to put on a show.

If you look below the horns in a photo from the day, there’s a small advertisement for the “World Series Rodeo,” an event to be held at Madison Square Garden from Oct. 23 to Nov. 1 of that year. Captions on the back of similar photographs indicate that the money raised by the World Series Rodeo benefitted the Broad Street Hospital, known today as New York Presbyterian Hospital/Lower Manhattan Hospital. The annual rodeo supported the hospital’s charity work in the crowded tenements of the East Side.

Babe Ruth sits on a car and waves his cowboy hat to the crowd while Lou Gehrig stands beside the car and smiles during an advertising stunt for the World Series Rodeo.

While it is unknown how much was raised during the event or the effect Gehrig and Ruth’s advertising stunt, supporting a good cause likely softened the blow of losing their “barnstorming opener”. The Bushwick All-Stars may have defeated Ruth’s All-Stars 9-6 that day, but as one newspaper described it, it was “strictly a Ruthian show from the time the boys started practicing until both the Bambino and Buster batted out of turn to please the folks in the ninth.”

While Ruth wowed the crowd with numerous long fouls, Gehrig was the one who hit a homer that day, socking a ball that “ricocheted off one the houses” behind the right field fence. It was the first and only game of the tour – which ran until the end of November – where the pair would play on the same team.

Whether they lost or won, Ruth and Gehrig always knew how to put on a good show.

Jamie Brinkman was the Digital Asset Specialist at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum

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