Babe Ruth’s Called Shot

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Picking out the most outstanding moment from Babe Ruth’s phenomenal career is a tough task because you would have to choose from dozens of stellar plays. One of the most if not out rightly the best moment of his career occurred during game 3 of the 1932 world Series 1932 World Series between his New York Yankees side and the Chicago Cubs.

In front of a hostile crowd of nearly 50,000 Chicago fans at Wrigley Field, Ruth hit a Charlie Root pitch into the center field bleachers for a three-point home run. Before that famous home run, Ruth made a pointing gesture, which many commentators interpreted as a declaration that he would hit a home run to center field. The Called Shot as it came to be known is one of the greatest home runs in the history of baseball.

Buildup to the Called Shot

Coming into the game, there was no love lost between the two clubs. Tensions had flared further before the series began when Babe Ruth made disparaging comments about the Cubs’ treatment of Ruth’s former teammate Mark Koenig who had joined the Cubs earlier in the season. Ruth then in a moment of characteristic bravado said, ““Sure, I’m on ’em; I hope we beat ’em four straight.’’

With the Yankees winning the first two games, they were on course for the clean sweep Ruth wished for, when they arrived in Chicago for game three. Angry Cubs fans met the Yankees at the train station, directing all kinds of vitriol at the team and more so at Ruth, including spitting on his wife.

Understandably, Ruth was incensed with this treatment and was determined to make the Cubs pay. Come game day, Ruth met with more Cubs wrath, including having rotten fruit thrown at home during batting practice. The game began and in the first inning, Ruth hit a three-run home which was followed by a third inning single by Lou Gehrig. The Cubs battled back to tie the game 4-4 by the fourth inning.

Babe Calls and Hits the Famous Home run

In the 5th inning, with the Yankees batting and one out against them, the Babe stepped up to the plate with Chicago pitcher Charlie Root pitching. Abuse towards Babe from the Chicago dugout and stands continued unabated. After the first strike, Ruth held up his hands, appearing to be pointing at either Root or the Cubs bench.

After the second strike, he repeated the gesture. On the next pitch, Root delivered a low curve ball, Ruth went down and smacked a powerful ball towards center field near the pole. According to some reports the ball traveled 490 feet.

As Ruth rounded first base, he continued making gestures towards the Cubs bench and then broke into a full celebration when he reached home plate. The Yankees would go on to win the game 7-5, before completing the sweep the next day with a 13-6 victory in game 4.

Aftermath of the Called Shot

It was not immediately clear what the Bambino’s gesture before his home run meant or at who it was directed but reporting of the shot after the game led to the development of the legend of the Called Shot. Scripps-Howard sports editor ran a headline the following day which suggested Ruth’s gesture was a declaration that his next hit would be a homerun. Other news outlets picked up the story with the theme of Ruth calling the shot.

Players and eyewitnesses were split on the accuracy of this angle. Babe did not deny the veracity of the story and in later years even embellished it by claiming he had dreamt about it the day before the game. with the game having come in the days before live TV feed, using video to ascertain the Called Shot was impossible. That was until the 1970s when a video clip taken by a fan named Matt Miller Kandle surfaced.

In the 1990s, another video of the shot taken by Harold Warp came to light, helping put more objectivity into the debate. However the angles from which the films were shot, the first from behind home plate and the second one from slightly off third base, it was still hard to figure out if he was pointing at center field.

The only thing that can be verified definitively from the films is that the gestures took place. Whatever the truth is, the Called continues to be a subject of baseball folklore more than 80 years after it happened.