Barnstorming Around America with the 1927 New York
When Colonel Ruppert's “Rough Riders,” as some called
them, were not going head to head against their American League
competition, they were playing exhibition games in Buffalo, Omaha,
Rochester, Columbus, Dayton, Indianapolis . . . .
Everyone in the little cities and small towns wanted
to catch a glimpse of the Babe and Lou and the others. Wherever the
Yankees went, there were always packed ball parks and playing fields.
The team was a magnet, a syncopated jazz band playing a baseball song
with the Babe leading, striking up the band with his home run baton, his
bat. Whole towns came out early and they stayed late studying the moves
of "the Colossus of baseball," how he walked, how he ran, how he swung a
bat, how he caught and threw a baseball, how he joked and wrestled with
kids in the fields of play, how many different kinds of home runs he
hit. Demand for the Yankees came from all over. Murderers Row even
played exhibition games in Pittsburgh and Cincinnati, National League
In Omaha, Nebraska, the King of Clouts, Ruth, and his
protégé the “Prince of Pounders” Gehrig seemed genuinely happy to make
the acquaintance of one “Lady Amco” who was known as the “Babe Ruth of
chickens.” She was a world champ at laying eggs. The morning the Babe
and the Buster met her she produced on cue, laying an egg for the 171st
In Indianapolis, the Sultan of Swat failed to homer or
even swat the ball out of the infield in his first three times at bats.
Each time the smattering of boos and heckling became louder, all good
natured, of course. According to reports, Ruth in his fourth at bat
tagged the ball, and it leaped over the fence in right field into the
street bouncing into box cars in a nearby freight yard. That was the
And its punch line: “I guess I did show those people
something, make fun of me, will they,” the Big Bam boomed going into the
In a dilapidated park in Ft. Wayne, Indiana before
35,000 against the Lincoln Lifes, a semi-pro team, the scene was all too
familiar. Hundreds of kids screamed, ached to ogle, to get an autograph
or just to be close to George Herman Ruth, their idol.
The Bambino, to save his legs, played first base, as
was his custom many times during those exhibition games. Gehrig played
right field. Going into the tenth inning, the score was tied, 3-3. Mike
Gazella was on first base when Ruth stepped into the batter’s box.
Always the showman, signaling to the crowd that they might as well start
going home, the Big Bam poked the ball over the right field fence giving
the Yankees a 5-3 win. Hundreds of boys who had been relatively
controlled and contained mobbed their idol as he crossed home plate. It
took quite a while before Ruth and the Yankees could clear out of the
Wherever the exhibition games were staged, overflow
crowds sat in the outfield watching the action. Attendance records were
broken. Mobs cheered. They roared and howled and jumped to their feet
marveling at the power and magic of the mighty Yankees and especially
George Herman Ruth.
"God, we liked that big son of a bitch. He was a
constant source of joy, Waite Hoyt said. "I've seen them kids, men,
women, worshippers all, hoping to get his name on a torn, dirty piece of
paper, or hoping for a grunt of recognition when they said, 'Hi-ya,
Babe.' He never let them down; not once. He was the greatest crowd
pleaser of them all."
In a game played at Sing-Sing, New York against the
prison team, Ruth slugged a batting practice home run over the right
field wall and then another over the centerfield wall. "I'd love to be
riding out of here on those balls," one of the prisoners joked.
During the game the Sultan of Swat turned to the crowd
of cons in the stands and bellowed in that big booming baritone voice of
"What time is it?"
Many of the cons shouted back the answer.
difference does it make?” the showman Ruth yelled. “You guys ain't
going anyplace, any time soon."
You can reach
Harvey Frommer at:
About the Author:
Harvey Frommer is in his 38th year of writing books.
A noted oral historian and sports journalist, the author of 42 sports
books including the classics: "New York City Baseball,1947-1957" and
"Shoeless Joe and Ragtime Baseball," his acclaimed REMEMBERING YANKEE
STADIUM was published in 2008 and his REMEMBERING FENWAY PARK: AN ORAL
AND NARRATIVE HISTORY OF THE HOME OF RED SOX NATION was published to
acclaim in 2011. The prolific Frommer is at work on When It Was
Just a Game, An Oral History on Super Bowel One.
His work has appeared in the New York Times, Los Angeles Times,
Washington Post, New York Daily News, Newsday, USA Today, Men's Heath,
The Sporting News, among other publications.
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Frommer along with his wife, Myrna Katz Frommer are the authors of
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