WHAT LEGENDARY HOME RUN KING STARTED
HIS CAREER IN BOSTON & RETURNED TO
PLAY FOR THE BOSTON BRAVES IN 1935?
050 Courtesy of the Boston Public Library, Leslie Jones Collection
At 5:40 p.m. on February 28, 1935, Babe Ruth stepped off the train at Back Bay Station to play baseball in Boston once again, this time for the Boston Braves. He had begun his career in Beantown twenty-three years earlier with the Red Sox.
“No king, potentate or conquering hero was ever given as enthusiastic a welcome than was accorded Babe Ruth, home run king extraordinary, upon his arrival,” The Boston Globe reported that day. A crowd of thousands mobbed Ruth and his wife as they made their way from the train to the banquet room at the Fairmont Copley Plaza where state, city, and baseball fans gathered to celebrate.
Babe & Claire Ruth at the Copley Square Hotel
051 Courtesy of the Boston Public Library, Leslie Jones
With his best playing days behind him, Ruth made the move because he wanted to manage a team. The Braves had offered him vice president and assistant manager titles, carrots that were merely symbolic.
Ruth had respectable numbers in his last two years in New York. In 1933, “the Babe” played in 137 out of the scheduled 154 contests, connecting for thirty-four home runs while leading the Major Leagues with 114 bases on balls. His season batting average was .301.
His figures dipped in the 1934 season. He played in 125 games, and his batting average fell below .300 (.288) for only the second time in the last eighteen years. He was selected for the All-Star team for the second straight year. The Ruths toured the world after the 1934 campaign and Babe returned overweight and out of shape.
Two things became evident upon Ruth’s arrival in Boston. His legs were about gone, but his popularity with the fans was as strong as ever. Kids flocked to the Braves’ practices and games to get the Babe’s autograph, and he always generously obliged.
Before an opening-day crowd of over 25,000, including five of New England's six current state governors, Ruth accounted for all the Braves' runs in a 4–2 win over the New York Giants, hitting a two-run home run, singling to drive in a third run and later in the inning scoring the fourth. Although age and weight had slowed him, he made a running catch in left field that sportswriters deemed the game’s defensive highlight.
052 Courtesy of the Boston Public Library, Leslie Jones
“Naturally, I was greatly thrilled at his first game in the National League,” Mrs. Ruth gushed after the contest. “And especially here in Boston, the city he has always loved. The applause was wonderful, and he loved it.”
On May 25, 1935, The Babe added one more tale to his playing legend. Ruth went 4-for-4, including three home runs, though the Braves lost the game 11–7. The last two shots were off Ruth's old Cubs’ nemesis, Guy Bush. The “Sultan of Swat” final home run of his career sailed out of the park over the right-field upper deck–the first time anyone had hit a fair ball completely out of Forbes Field.
The forty-year-old home run king was urged to make this his last game, but he had given his word to Fuchs and played in Cincinnati and Philadelphia. Instead of leaving the diamond in a blaze of glory after his three-home-run day, Ruth played in five more games per his agreement with Fuchs, going hitless in his last thirteen Major League at-bats. Ruth officially retired from baseball on June 1, 1935.
Ruth was inducted into the inaugural class of Baseball’s Hall of Fame the following year. Of the five members selected in 1936 (Ty Cobb, Honus Wagner, Christy Mathewson, Walter Johnson, and Ruth himself), only Ruth wasn’t offered the opportunity to manage a Major League baseball team.
Thousands of New Yorkers, including many children, stood vigil outside of Memorial Hospital during Ruth's final days. On August 16, 1948, at 8:01 p.m., He died in his sleep at the age of fifty-three. His open casket was placed on display in the rotunda of Yankee Stadium, where it remained for two days; 77,000 people filed past to pay tribute. His funeral Mass took place at St. Patrick's Cathedral; a crowd estimated at 75,000 packed the street outside.
Ruth watches his opening day home run sail into the stands.