Greetings from Portland Oregon. We are in the final stages of our odyssey; we will be in Portland for the next day or so and then board a train in Portland bound for Chicago and then on to Washington DC. Where did the time go…?
In the past week or so, I have gotten e-mail commentary from “Mike G.” who is a sports historian with knowledge beyond mine. His commentaries involve my contention that the trading/selling of Babe Ruth from the Red Sox to the Yankees was the single worst baseball trade ever and my compilation of the worst college football programs over the long haul. Here is his note to me regarding the Babe Ruth trade:
In defense of Harry Frazee, ESPN once had a well-done “Five Reasons You Can’t Blame” episode on Frazee and the Babe Ruth “trade”, which was actually a sale.
5. WWI: With rosters depleted by about 20% because of the war, Ruth saw action as both a pitcher and outfielder, making him a HR hitter. After the players returned from the war, Babe became bigger than the Sox because his HRs were the talk of baseball and he no longer wanted to pitch.
4. Ban Johnson: The AL president limited Frazee to the Yanks and Chisox, as the only teams with whom Frazee could make deals with by pressuring the other five teams not to make any trades with Frazee.
3. Babe’s antics: He was an alcoholic, often drunk only hours before games. He also jumped the Bosox several times, including the last game of the 1919 season, which was the final straw.
2. Ed Barrow: Frazee’s right-hand man was GM and field manager. Barrow knew how much of a troublemaker Babe was. When Frazee wanted to send Ruth to the Yankees, Barrow said the Yanks didn’t have any players he wanted. Ironically, Barrow left the Bosox after the 1920 season to become GM of the Yanks and built them to 1923 World Champs by acquiring 7 players from the Sox (four of which were on the 1918 World Champ Bosox).
1. Babe’s holdout: Ruth forced Frazee’s hand by holding out after the 1919 season, asking for $20,000, which was twice as much as he had been making during 1919. During the holdout, Babe planned other ventures, such as getting into boxing and acting. Frazee was pissed over the holdout because he had given Ruth relatively generous bonuses after both the 1918 and 1919 seasons. Finally, with Ruth’s demands so high and after several occasions in which Ruth had already jumped the team, Frazee felt he had no choice but to dump “The Babe”.
My response to these points goes as follows:
If Babe Ruth did not want to pitch, he still did so for the Yankees who figured out that playing him at a position most of the time was a smart move. The Red Sox could have accommodated that “desire” since they clearly did not have anyone on the squad who could hit nearly as well as Babe Ruth.
Ruth’s alcoholism and erratic behavior continued unabated with the Yankees who found ways to deal with him for most of the time. Indeed, the Yankees had to suspend Ruth a few times when he was outrageously outrageous.
Ed Barow was probably right; there was not an abundance of talent on the 1919 Yankees for the Red Sox to acquire in a trade.
The Yankees found ways to accommodate Ruth’s off-field endeavors – including acting and film making. It seemed to work for them.
As to the idea that Ruth’s contract demands were too steep for Frazee, I guess they were if he was also hell-bent to fund that Broadway production that would suck wind and drive him to a financial point where he had to sell the Sox. I think ESPN needed to come up with reasons to exonerate Harry Frazee in order for them to complete their feature; I continue to believe it was the most unbalanced exchange of assets in the history of baseball.
As a post-script to that message, “Mike G.” added this note:
“Originally, the plan was to trade Babe to the Chisox for “Shoeless” Joe, but when rumors of the Black Sox scandal came out after the 1919 WS, that trade was put on hold and then thrown out when Joe’s name was mentioned as one of the possible conspirators. That was an honorable mention reason not to blame Frazee.”
I have to agree here. Had Frazee traded Babe Ruth for a guy who would be forever banned from baseball, that would have been worse than selling him to the Yankees…
With regard to my recitation of the worst college football programs over the long haul, here is the note I received:
“You need to include K-State on your worst football program list. Sure, they’ve been very good in the Bill Snyder years, but if you go back to “1934” through 1990, you will see that they only had five winning seasons, 29 seasons in which they won two games or less, and had only one bowl invitation over that 56-season period.”
Indeed that sounds like a justification to put K-State on the “bad football program list” and so I went and did some checking to make sure it was as bad as “Mike G” made it out to be. It was. Consider:
For the decade of the 1950s, the cumulative record for K-State football teams was 30-66-3.
For the decade of the 1960s, the cumulative record for K-State football teams was 14-80-1. In there, you will find 3 winless seasons and two seasons with a single victory. YOWZA!
For the decade of the 1970s, the cumulative record for K-State football teams was 36-74-0.
For the decade of the 1980s, the cumulative record for K-State football teams was 21-87-3. That decade contained two consecutive winless seasons followed by a one-win season. YOWZA!
The evidence shows that “Mike G” is right on with this one. I should have a added K-State to that list of football futility.
Finally, only Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times would dig up this obscure sporting item and turn it into a brilliant play on words:
“An American Legion baseball game in Juneau, Alaska, was briefly interrupted because a bear was roaming along the outfield fence.
“It nearly became the first game called on account of game.”
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………