BOSTON (CBS) — Wednesday night at Fenway Park marked the beginning of a major youth movement on the Boston Red Sox. As it turns out, 100 years ago to the day, a similar movement was afoot, as a rookie by the name of George Herman Ruth stepped onto the field for the first time as a member of the Red Sox.
It was just the seventh season as the “Red Sox” for Boston’s baseball organization, which operated as the Boston Americans from 1901-1907. Fenway Park was a shiny new stadium, in just its third year of existence.
It was on July 9, 1914, that the Red Sox purchased Ruth, Ernie Shore and Ben Egan from Baltimore. The 19-year-old Ruth was a promising young player for Baltimore, and he would make his debut just two days later.
In that game, Ruth was the starting pitcher against the Cleveland Naps, who would become the Indians the following year. Ruth got the win, allowing three runs — two earned — on eight hits over seven innings. He struck out one batter and walked none.
Offensively, Ruth batted in the nine hole, going 0-for-2 with a strikeout — an inauspicious start to what would turn out to be one of the most legendary baseball careers in the history of the game.
The nine-inning game, a 4-3 Boston victory, took one hour and 33 minutes to complete.
On Friday, The Boston Globe shared its front page from July 10, 1914, the day after Ruth was purchased:
The Globe also shared its cartoon from the day after Ruth’s debut, which 100 years later is an interesting way to see how fans used to get their baseball news:
In case you didn’t catch that, the cartoon says, “The play of the game was a very much round about affair as herewith described. [Baseball player singing] This is th’ life – This is th’ life … [A wounded baseball, sitting in front of the fence, saying] Scoundrel! … Mr. Gardner just walked home on air, so light and gay felt he.”
Got all that?
It’s not exactly comparable to the endless number of highlight videos we have available at our fingertips on MLB.com these days.
Also in the cartoon: “Mr. [Hal] Janvrin’s catch of Mr. [Steve] O’Neill’s foul was a terpsichorean feat of note. … [A fan yelling] Remember that step Jan and sell it to the tango fiends.”
Specifically about Ruth, the cartoon said, “Mr. Ruth looks very like Mr. Leonard, also like ‘some’ pitcher.”
After that debut, Ruth was not used much by the Red Sox, as he played in just five total games that season. He went 2-for-10 with one double, zero walks and four strikeouts at the plate, and he went 2-1 with a 3.91 ERA in 23 innings pitched, striking out three and walking seven. Ruth played a much more prominent role in 1915, when he went 18-8 with a 2.44 ERA in 28 starts on the mound while batting .315 with four home runs, 10 doubles and a triple for the World Series-winning Red Sox.The Sox won the World Series again in 1916, with Ruth pitching all 14 innings of a 2-1 Boston victory over the Brooklyn Dodgers to give the Sox a 2-0 lead in the series, which they’d win in five games. In 1918, another championship season for the Sox, Ruth went 2-0 with a 1.06 ERA in the postseason, including a complete game shutout against the Cubs in Game 1 of the World Series and an eight-inning outing in Game 4. Ruth allowed two runs in that one before being replaced by “Bullet” Joe Bush. (They just don’t make nicknames like they used to.)
It wasn’t until the 1918 season that Ruth started to harness his trademark power at the plate, as he belted 11 homers in 1918 and then hit 29 dingers in 1919.
In December of 1919, Harry Frazee sold Ruth’s contract to the New York Yankees, and the rest is history — a whole lot of history. But it all began exactly 100 years ago today.
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