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Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Baseball Researcher: Babe Ruth: Some Very Fortunate Footage

A few months ago, I learned of the stunning archival holdings at the University of South Carolina’s Moving Image Research Collections. Thanks to the invaluable help of Production Manager Ben Singleton, I had the chance to review some amazing baseball footage, part of the Fox Movietone News outtakes that were donated to USC back in the early 1980s.

When you think about it, this collection of footage is doubly rare. Certainly, very few people have seen the film today. But, since this footage didn’t make the cut for the original Movietone News reels shot in the 1920s and ‘30s, it is likely that few beyond a handful of editors actually saw this footage back in the day.

Given my interest in baseball history, I was entranced by most every frame I viewed, but I was especially fascinated by some footage marked A7378 to A7382. The date associated with the footage was noted as June 1, 1925, but my experience researching some other footage in the collection taught me that these dates did not necessarily correspond with the date the film was shot. For example, different footage (A4510) marked “November 7, 1924” clearly showed Babe Ruth at Washington Park in Los Angeles. But Ruth’s appearance there was on October 27, not November 7, 1924.

There’s no question about the identity of the man with the bat. His powerful upper body, his grip at the very end of the bat (unusual for the time), his distinctive stance and swing. It’s clearly Babe Ruth. The Babe is wearing Yankee pinstripes, so going on the tentative assumption that action is from June 1, 1925, this would imply the game took place at Yankee Stadium.

...That afternoon, just two innings after the Ruth ground out captured on film, Gehrig was sent to pinch-hit for shortstop Pee Wee Wanninger. Lou flied out to Goose Goslin in left field.  But more importantly, it was the first game in which he had participated in four days. The next day, Gehrig started at first base, went 3-for-5 at the plate, and didn’t take another day off until May 2, 1939.

In short, not only does the footage capture Ruth’s return to the Yanks in 1925, but it also gives us a glimpse of Lou Gehrig on the very day he began his famous streak of 2,130 straight games played, a mark that remained unbroken for well over half a century. In hindsight, some very fortunate footage shot by a very lucky Fox Movietone cameraman.

Thanks to Marv.

Repoz Posted: March 26, 2014 at 05:48 AM | 39 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: history

Reader Comments and Retorts

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   1. AndrewJ Posted: March 26, 2014 at 06:57 AM (#4677107)
Very, very cool find.
   2. Shooty Survived the Shutdown of '14! Posted: March 26, 2014 at 07:06 AM (#4677108)
The Babe did not cheat himself when swinging the bat.
   3. Jolly Old St. Nick Still Gags in October Posted: March 26, 2014 at 07:19 AM (#4677109)
Great footage, but I don't ever want to hear anyone bellyache anymore about how Robbie Cano doesn't hustle to first after seeing Ruth stop running about three steps after he grounds out to second. (smile)
   4. You Know Nothing JT Snow (YR) Posted: March 26, 2014 at 07:22 AM (#4677110)
How come Gehrig was allowed to use his cell phone in the dugout?
   5. The Duke Posted: March 26, 2014 at 07:38 AM (#4677112)
What a great shot of Gehrig in a movie star pose on the bench.
   6. Hit by Pitch Posted: March 26, 2014 at 08:56 AM (#4677130)
I am not sure if it's the camera angle but it appears that the catcher has a less crouched stance when receiving the ball than what I see from catchers today. It's almost like each pitch is a pitchout.
   7. Hal Chase School of Professionalism Posted: March 26, 2014 at 09:00 AM (#4677133)
Even though I'm constantly telling people when Babe Ruth comes up in conversation that he wasn't fat (at least until later in his career, where a lot of the photos we see of him come from), seeing this footage really emphasizes just what a huge sonofabitch he really was compared to other players of his time.

   8. Tim Wallach was my Hero Posted: March 26, 2014 at 09:08 AM (#4677135)
How come Gehrig was allowed to use his cell phone in the dugout?

I had the very same thought.
   9. Yoenis Cespedes, Baseball Savant Posted: March 26, 2014 at 09:08 AM (#4677136)
Saw this on Keith Olbermann's show last night. Say what you will about him, but tell me another non-MLB Network program that would have covered this.
   10. Knock on any Iorg Posted: March 26, 2014 at 09:10 AM (#4677137)
I am not sure if it's the camera angle but it appears that the catcher has a less crouched stance when receiving the ball than what I see from catchers today.

They called the high strike back then?
   11. Shooty Survived the Shutdown of '14! Posted: March 26, 2014 at 09:16 AM (#4677141)
They called the high strike back then?

People were an average height of 3 1/2 feet tall back then and they survived on beet root and salted buffalo.
   12. jacksone (AKA It's OK...) Posted: March 26, 2014 at 09:40 AM (#4677158)
I am not sure if it's the camera angle but it appears that the catcher has a less crouched stance when receiving the ball than what I see from catchers today.


Appears? He is clearly almost standing as he catches it. And it does look like everyone knew the runner was going to try and steal 2nd. Looks like the catcher fakes a throw to 1st twice before the actual caught stealing.

I don't know about that Ruth guy at the plate, if he doesn't get his lazy ass down the line faster he is not going to make it...
   13. Johnny Sycophant-Laden Fora Posted: March 26, 2014 at 10:05 AM (#4677178)
I am not sure if it's the camera angle but it appears that the catcher has a less crouched stance when receiving the ball than what I see from catchers today.


He's definitely not crouching, not sure if this is a typical at bat or not...

Prior to the 1920 the runners were literally always moving, either trying to steal, hit and run or run and hit. So I could see catchers not getting into the deep crouch we see all the time, that probably developed when catchers no longer had to worry about baserunners as much.
   14. Yeaarrgghhhh Posted: March 26, 2014 at 10:24 AM (#4677190)
The catcher also appeared to be positioned a lot farther from the plate than today's catchers.
   15. Cuban X Senators Posted: March 26, 2014 at 10:31 AM (#4677198)
Right, Yeaarrgghhhh, and all of this is probably one photo in the evolution of catchers moving closer as equipment got more protective and the ability to cut down on the running game became more tolerable.

Also note that many more 3rd strikes bounced to the catcher in early baseball than today, necessitating a throw to first (or allowing a batter to reach base) far more commonly.
   16. PreservedFish Posted: March 26, 2014 at 10:47 AM (#4677211)
The Babe did not cheat himself when swinging the bat.


Wow, no kidding. I expect that any prospect that swung a heavy bat in that manner would be written off by modern scouts.
   17. jingoist Posted: March 26, 2014 at 10:48 AM (#4677212)
From the film you can clearly see that due to the minimal crouching from the Senators catcher he had to be positioned that far behind home plate so as not to get hit by Ruth's bat swing.

The Babe sure didn't get cheated on any of his swings did he?
As I recall Ruth was injured and missed a number of games in 1925.
Does anyone know the nature of his injury/illness?

Hard to believe that was almost 90 years ago.

ps not many fans in the stands that day either
   18. Good cripple hitter Posted: March 26, 2014 at 11:01 AM (#4677217)
As I recall Ruth was injured and missed a number of games in 1925.
Does anyone know the nature of his injury/illness?


That was the year that he suffered from "The Bellyache Heard 'Round the World", which caused him to faint and convulse a few times. It was either from the flu, too many hot dogs and sodas, or an STD depending on who you believe.
   19. Bourbon Samurai in Asia Posted: March 26, 2014 at 11:02 AM (#4677218)
This is great
   20. Yeaarrgghhhh Posted: March 26, 2014 at 11:27 AM (#4677228)
He almost looks like a slow pitch softball player. Not his body shape, but the way he totally commits to the swing and moves his entire body forward.
   21. Hang down your head, Tom Foley Posted: March 26, 2014 at 11:45 AM (#4677236)
That was Ruth's first game back from the bellyache. Pretty big day for the Yankees.
   22. jacksone (AKA It's OK...) Posted: March 26, 2014 at 12:08 PM (#4677244)
He almost looks like a slow pitch softball player. Not his body shape, but the way he totally commits to the swing and moves his entire body forward.


Ehh, his body shape matches up with slow pitch softball pretty well in that vid.
   23. Sean Forman Posted: March 26, 2014 at 12:24 PM (#4677257)
Some people believe Babe was ill from injecting sheep testicle extract. I'm being 100% serious when I post this.

As the sporting industry exploded in the 1920s, athletic trainers and their charges immediately saw the possibilities of using his research. Even the Big Bambino himself, Babe Ruth, injected himself with extract from a sheep's testicles, hoping for increased power at the plate (and in the bedroom). He attempted this only once, and it made him incredibly ill; the Yankees covered the story by telling the press that the Babe just had one of his famous bellyaches. Even though the Yankees tend to celebrate all things Babe Ruth, they have never, to my knowledge, had "Sheep Testicles Day" at the stadium.


Source is Dave Zirin.
http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=12030653
   24. Jolly Old St. Nick Still Gags in October Posted: March 26, 2014 at 12:27 PM (#4677259)
The Times story on the game gives the "washday crowd" attendance at "not much above 10,000", and the time of game as 2:10. It also noted that "Ruth's cruising radius in right field was only a scant few yards", and that when he tried to score from first on Bob Meusel's double over Sam Rice's head, he "dived for the platter and landed with a thud, flat on his waistline----out by a foot on a drive that would have scored him standing up in the good old days."
   25. Jolly Old St. Nick Still Gags in October Posted: March 26, 2014 at 12:28 PM (#4677260)
Some people believe Babe was ill from injecting sheep testicle extract. I'm being 100% serious when I post this.

Sean, that story has been mentioned in about 5,000 steroids threads here over the past 10 years.
   26. ellsbury my heart at wounded knee Posted: March 26, 2014 at 12:31 PM (#4677262)
A player would probably be removed from the game for running out a groundball like that today, right? At the very least the internet would make a big deal about it and call the guy a douche or something.

EDIT: Actually, watching it again it's maybe not quite that egregious, but there is a marked lack of hustle.
   27. Morty Causa Posted: March 26, 2014 at 12:33 PM (#4677264)
Unless he wasn't yet wholly recovered?
   28. Squash Posted: March 26, 2014 at 12:36 PM (#4677266)
I wish we could see Johnson pitch. Among other things, it would be interesting to gauge his speed.
   29. You Know Nothing JT Snow (YR) Posted: March 26, 2014 at 12:39 PM (#4677271)
Some people believe Babe was ill from injecting sheep testicle extract. I'm being 100% serious when I post this.

Sean, that story has been mentioned in about 5,000 steroids threads here over the past 10 years.


It's why Barry Bonds should be excused for emulating Ivan Drago's pharmacopia for a decade.
   30. Jolly Old St. Nick Still Gags in October Posted: March 26, 2014 at 12:44 PM (#4677274)
A player would probably be removed from the game for running out a groundball like that today, right? At the very least the internet would make a big deal about it and call the guy a douche or something.

That was one of the major blessings of the pre-internet age.
   31. Hang down your head, Tom Foley Posted: March 26, 2014 at 12:48 PM (#4677278)
Numbers 2, 3, and 4 on the career home run list all homered that day, moving them within 106, 130, and 148 of Ruth's record.
   32. Yeaarrgghhhh Posted: March 26, 2014 at 12:56 PM (#4677286)
Ehh, his body shape matches up with slow pitch softball pretty well in that vid.

True. Should have said "not just his body shape"...
   33. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: March 26, 2014 at 02:26 PM (#4677360)
That was the year that he suffered from "The Bellyache Heard 'Round the World", which caused him to faint and convulse a few times.


Perhaps it also gave him, er, intestinal distress - that would explain both the catcher keeping his distance and the guy in the dugout fanning a towel behind the Babe at the end.
   34. Gonfalon B. Posted: March 26, 2014 at 02:40 PM (#4677370)
After all that extract, the Lambino was probably making noises like the old Carnac the Magnificent joke: "Sis boom baaa."
   35. KT's Pot Arb Posted: March 26, 2014 at 02:43 PM (#4677373)
He attempted this only once, and it made him incredibly ill


Direct from his congressional testimony.

seeing this footage really emphasizes just what a huge sonofabitch he really was compared to other players of his time.


You think that makes him look big and impressive, just wait till his long suppressed home sex kinetoscopes are finally released!
   36. vortex of dissipation Posted: March 26, 2014 at 02:48 PM (#4677382)
Unless he wasn't yet wholly recovered?


Exactly. If this was his first time in a game situation after major surgery, it's entirely possible that the team told him to be careful, and not take unneeded risks until he was sure he was healthy.
   37. Zach Posted: March 26, 2014 at 04:35 PM (#4677484)
How cool is it to stumble across footage of Lou Gehrig on the day of his first consecutive game?
   38. boteman is not here 'til October Posted: March 26, 2014 at 05:55 PM (#4677540)
How cool is it to stumble across footage of Lou Gehrig on the day of his first consecutive game?

Well, we've got footage of Cal Ripken, Jr. from his first consecutive game. Big deal.

...when he tried to score from first on Bob Meusel's double over Sam Rice's head, he "dived for the platter and landed with a thud, flat on his waistline----out by a foot on a drive that would have scored him standing up in the good old days.

He stole that bellyflop act from Rick Dempsey, everybody knows that!
   39. Hang down your head, Tom Foley Posted: March 26, 2014 at 06:15 PM (#4677551)
Ichiro could have played in one consecutive game if he wanted to.

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