Friday, April 24, 2009

Why is Roger Snell Trying to Erase Babe Ruth's "Called Shot"?

Snell's book "Root for the Cubs: Charlie Root & the 1929 Cubs" focuses on Root's early life and the 1929 season, when a sore-armed Root lifted the Cubs on his back and took them to the 1929 World Series. One they lost in 5 games to Connie Mack's Philadelphia Athletics.

According to Snell, Charlie Root pitched 3,198 innings in the 1920s and 1930s, almost all of them for the Chicago Cubs. This was enough to make him the all-time leader of the Cubs in games pitched (605), games won (201) and batters faced (13,266). Enough to throw 166 complete games; and enough to help take the Cubs to the World Series four (4) times in the space of ten years.

But, as Snell puts it, Charlie Root is remembered mostly for one pitch.

Charlie Root threw the pitch from the mound at Wrigley Field on October 1, 1932, in Game 3 of the World Series. It was sent skyward and over the fence by larger-than-life Babe Ruth.

Now Snell says there is no authoritative account that Ruth ever pointed that he would hit the next pitch from Root out of the park. Out of the many sports writers at the game, only Joe Williams of the New York World-Telegram reported that Ruth had pointed to center field, indicating that he was going to hit a homer for the sickly kid in bed. (Uh, excuse me, that was the Lou Gehrig story.) Snell says that report has since been ascribed to hyperbole.

Let's check the definition of hyperbole, shall we. (1) obvious and intentional exaggeration. (2) an extravagant statement or figure of speech not intended to be taken literally, as "to wait an eternity." So Joe Williams was a prankster? A guy known for his bullstink? Snell does not elaborate on this so I'm like the guy on the ground after a shooting when Dirty Harry walks up to him and gives him the line about how many bullets he shot only to have Harry aim and point at him, after he begged, 'I gots to know!' so Harry pulls the trigger only to hear a click from his gun, proving he had no more bullets. I too 'gots to know' more about Joe Williams.

Before you destroy this fantastic story, Senor Snell, I want to believe IT DID HAPPEN.

William Nack's piece in SI's Baseball Preview issue (dated 4/6/09) is how I like to think of Babe Ruth.

In the midst of these storms, the apolitical Babe minced happily around the bases. Everything he did in those days, from smoking cigars to smoking fastballs, smacked of hyperbole. He ate too much. He drank too much. He womanized to a fare-thee-well. And when he hit yet another of his titanic shots, the reporters covering his games wrote the prose of excess. In journalism this was the age of alliteration. The Babe's homers were described variously as "the wicked wallop" and "soaring socks." Even Ruth caught the alliterative fever. He had three favorite bats in 1927: Black Betsy, the titian-colored Beautiful bella and the ash-blonde Big Bertha.

Sorry Roger Snell (no relation to Pirate lefty Ian Snell) I need more proof. Call me Judge Ito, I'm not convinced. It ain't happening for me, probably because I don't want to believe anything else could be true. I just need more proof.

(thanks to, Roger Snell and SI for the information used in these thoughts)

Kevin Marquez