The New York Times had dubbed the Ruth-Gehrig
race the "Great American Home Run Derby." Like two mighty boxers
they slugged home runs trying to out-do each other and everyone
else in 1927.
"There has never been anything like it," Paul Gallico wrote in
the New York Daily News. " Even as these lines are batted out on
the office typewriter, youths dash out of the AP and UP ticker
room every two or three minutes shouting, 'Ruth hit one! Gehrig
just hit another one!'"
Christy Walsh, born in Los Angeles in 1891, Ruth's business
manager, coined the phrase: "The Babe and the Buster" for the
pair. Hillerich and Bradley, manufacturer of Louisville
Sluggers, supplied their dealers with posters that had places
for fans to mark off the homers hit by Ruth and Gehrig and keep
track of their progress.
It was the reserved, young and muscular, the dimpled and
handsome college educated Gehrig versus the flamboyant older,
moon faced, in and out of trouble Behemoth of Swing, Ruth
"There will never be another guy like the Babe," Gehrig said.
" I get more kick from seeing him hit one than I do from hitting
In Waite Hoyt's view Gehrig was "A smooth faced Atlas, an
All-American type, typical first-boy-in the seat in Sunday
The Babe had that wink - he'd wink at fans in the stands, people
on the street, at the opposing pitcher, at fielders on the
opposition as he circled the bases totting out a home run. The
winking Babe said: "This is easy. This is a lot of fun."
Babe hated authority. Lou accepted it. Babe loved people. Lou
was a loner, shy, suspicious. Babe left a ten-dollar tip for a
five cents cup of coffee - sometimes a fifty dollar tip if he
were in the mood to do so - where fifty cents would have been
generous. Lou left dimes.
The good guy and the bad guy. You paid your money and you made
Crowds like never before were everywhere the Yankees went - the
home run race between Ruth and Gehrig, the powerhouse that was
the 1927 team, the mystique of New York in the roaring twenties.
The Yankees were New York and New York was the Yankees. It all
was a package.
Richards Vidmer, a sportswriter who wrote with
style and grace for The New York Times, a former minor league
baseball player, he was a sophisticate and an adventurer. It
was Vidmer who came up with the term for the Ruth-Gehrig battle
- "The Great American Home Run Handicap."
And great it was. It was the first time Babe Ruth ever had any
real competition in a home run race. And the competition was the
man who batted behind him in the potent Yankee order, who
watched him from up close from the on deck batting circle, who
shook the Bambino's hand when he crossed home plate finishing
the home run trot.
It was also Gehrig who was getting the publicity, who was
becoming a fan favorite and a media darling, who was a total
opposite in personality to the Big Bam.
"Holy shit, holy crap, holy moley, it was like two Babe Ruths,"
were the lines going around the American League. "One was bad
enough but Gehrig too."
"Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig," noted Bill Werber, a Duke sophomore
and a fly on the wall for a month of that season at the Stadium
"were entirely different disposition-wise, but they both had an
intense desire to win. And you'd better have the same
disposition if you were on that ball club, or they were on your
ass. Eating or drinking during the course of the game, you'd
better not do that."