Boston loved the Babe — possibly more than New York did.
At that last game at Fenway in 1934, the fans cheered everything he did. When he grounded out in his last at-bat, they gave him a thunderous ovation.
“Do you know that some of them cried when I left the field?” Ruth said afterwards. “And if you wanna know the truth, I cried too.”
Little did they know he would return the next spring as a Boston Brave.
Ruth began his baseball career in 1914 as a dominant left-handed pitcher for the Boston Red Sox – until that long-lamented day five years later when he was traded to the New York Yankees. After 20 years in baseball, he had seven World Series rings, a batting title, twice won 20 games as a pitcher and set every home run record in the book.
But after two decades, it was clear to all that the Babe’s skills were deteriorating. Yankees owner Jacob Ruppert made a secret deal with the Boston Braves’ owner, Emil Fuchs, to unload Babe Ruth.
The Babe desperately wanted to manage a team, so Fuchs offered him a contract that gave him two titles: ‘assistant manager’ and ‘vice president.’ But Fuchs had no intention of letting Ruth manage. The Braves were struggling, both financially and on the field, and Fuchs wanted Ruth to boost the gate receipts.
On Feb. 26, 1935, Yankee Babe Ruth was handed a piece of paper. It said,
You are hereby notified as follows: 1. That you are unconditionally released.
Babe Ruth got off to a great start as a Brave. He crushed a home run off Giants’ ace Carl Hubbell before an opening day crowd of 25,000 fans, including five of the six New England governors.
Ruth went seriously downhill after that. He still hit the ball occasionally, but he could barely get around the bases and his defense was so poor pitches threatened not to pitch if he were in the lineup. He gradually realized he was not going to manage the Braves.
Worse, the Braves that year were a terrible team — the worst in baseball history. They finished the season with a 38–115 record.
After a month, the Babe desperately wanted to retire.
“All ballplayers should quit when it starts to feel as if all the baselines run uphill,” he said.
The Braves were about to go on a long road trip, and opposing teams had plans to honor the Babe Ruth. He was persuaded to play until Memorial Day.
In a game against Pittsburgh on May 25, Babe Ruth hit three home runs, including his 714th, driving the ball out of Forbes Field. It was the longest home run ever hit at Forbes Field. “I swing big, with everything I’ve got,” he said. “I hit big or I miss big. I like to live as big as I can.” On May 30, 1935, he played his last game against the Philadelphia Phillies. In his last at-bat during the first inning, he grounded out softly to the first basemen. Then in left field he misplayed a fly ball. Then he went back to the dugout for the last time.
The day after he retired, Emil Fuchs put the Braves up for sale.
He never got the manager’s job he coveted. In retirement, he fished, played golf and made personal appearances. He died of cancer on Aug. 16, 1948, 53 years old.
After his death, sportswriter Tommy Holmes said he gave up talking about him.
I realized that those who had never seen him didn’t believe me.