(Excerpt from Five O'Clock
Lighting: Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, and the 1927 New York
Yankees, The Greatest Baseball Team Ever)
The pieces were falling into place for the
1927 Yankees. But the biggest piece, Babe Ruth, had not yet
signed a new contract and seemed not likely to do so anytime
soon. Hands down, he had rejected the $52,000 salary he
earned in 1926. That was out of the question.
In early February, Jake Ruppert sent another in what would
be a series of contract offers to Ruth. This one was for
$55,000. The offer annoyed the hell out of the competitive
Babe who said he had it on good authority that Ty Cobb, now
with the Philadelphia Athletics, was slated to get
The peripatetic Yankee outfielder moved on to "Hooray for
Hollywood" time. He was now a star on the East Coast and the
West Coast, now making his first movie, "The Babe Comes
Home" for First National pictures.
In a break during shooting he said: "Reading, like picture
shows is almost taboo, I've got to watch the old optics
closer than anything else."
Under strict orders from his trainer Artie McGovern, the
Bambino, also got his beauty sleep. He was early to bed by 9
P.M. (it wasn't clear whether he was there alone or had
company), and early to rise he was on there on the movie set
no later than six A.M.
On Hollywood Boulevard, running three to five miles a day,
George Herman winked and smiled at folks all along the way,
truly a sight for all kinds of eyes. After the up and
downing on the streets, Ruth was rewarded back at his
Hollywood Plaza Hotel with a comforting and stimulating rub
down by McGovern who had taken leave of his New York City
gymnasium on 42nd Street and Madison Avenue to press the
flesh of his most illustrious client still unsigned to a
Yankee contract for the 1927 season. McGovern, in a comment
praising himself and the wondrous work he was accomplishing
remarked about his beginnings with Ruth: "He was as near to
being a total loss as anyone I ever had under my care."
On February 22, six days before the first Yankees were
scheduled to arrive in St. Petersburg for spring training,
Babe Ruth mailed to Colonel Ruppert from Hollywood an
outline of what he thought he should be paid for 1927, just
another salvo in their continuing out in the public eye
contract wrangling. The Babe was adamant as he spoke to
reporters. He pressed the point that he would retire from
baseball and organize a string of gymnasiums with Artie
McGovern if his salary needs were not met.
On February 25, the day before the big man left California
for New York, his salary demands were published in the New
York Daily News. Two days later a letter he wrote to Colonel
Ruppert appeared in The New York Times. The letter's tone
was conciliatory. It was also forceful.
"You will find enclosed contract for 1927 which I am
returning unsigned because of the $52,000 salary figure. I
am leaving Los Angeles February 26 to see you in New York
and will be prepared to report at St. Petersburg but only on
the basis of $100,000 a year for two years, plus $7,700 held
out of my salary in the past.. . .
"In fine physical condition today I hope to play as good as
last year or better. I have exercised all winter and for the
past twelve weeks have been working out of doors. At my own
expense I have brought Arthur McGovern from New York to
"The New York club has profited from five of the best years
of my baseball life. During that period my earning power to
the club has greatly increased while my salary has remained
unchanged. . ..
"During the winter season I booked my own exhibition games
and without support from other players I have received more
in three weeks than the New York club pays me in three
"I have refused to discuss my new contract or salary during
the Winter but now that I have returned my contract unsigned
an explanation will be expected, and I wish you would show
this letter to any newspaper writer who wishes to see it
"With best personal wishes, I am
Yours truly, BABE RUTH"
After the long trip from California, Babe Ruth arrived on
the second day of March at Grand Central Station in
Manhattan at 9:40 A.M. on the first section of the Twentieth
Century Limited. Half a dozen gate tenders, a squad of
private police and railroad security were powerless to hold
back more than a hundred of the more ardent and adoring fans
who had broken through and gained access to the train
platform. They roared at their idol, easy to spot in his
brown cap and tan overcoat, as he got off the train.
Outside the entrance to the train, more than two
thousand more fans waited, excited, cheering as their hero
came through, a wide smile on his big face.
Harvey Frommer is his 34th consecutive year of writing
sports books. The author of 40 of them including the
classics: "New York City Baseball,1947-1957" and "Shoeless
Joe and Ragtime Baseball," his REMEMBERING YANKEE STADIUM,
an oral/narrative history (Abrams, Stewart, Tabori and
Chang) was published in 2008 as well as a reprint version
of his "Shoeless Joe and Ragtime Baseball.".