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Babe Ruth & Lou Gehrig:  "Great American Home Run Derby"

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 one myself."

In Waite Hoyt's view Gehrig was "A smooth faced Atlas, an All-American type, typical first-boy-in the seat in Sunday school."

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 your choice.

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."

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You can reach Harvey Frommer at:   

Email:  harvey.frommer@Dartmouth.EDU 

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.

FROMMER SPORTSNET (syndicated) reaches a readership in the millions and is housed on Internet search engines for extended periods of time.
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*Autographed copies of Frommer books are available .
 

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Harvey Frommer along with his wife, Myrna Katz  Frommer are the authors of five critically acclaimed oral/cultural histories, professors at Dartmouth  College, and travel writers who specialize in cultural history, food, wine, and Jewish history and heritage in the United States, Europe, and the Caribbean. 

This Article is Copyright 1995 - 2014 by Harvey Frommer.  All rights reserved worldwide.

 

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