Most Reds fans know the Reds have a previous history with the Yankees; some point to 1976 and the Reds sweep during the crowning glory of the Big Red Machine. Others point to 50 years ago this summer, when the Reds surprised the baseball world and ended up in the World Series, staring down the M & M boys and their huge home run totals. Of course many others remember that 1939 was the year the Yankees ate the Reds lunch in the World Series.

Few however remember the first time the Yankees came to town, nor do they recall the celebration it created with that visit.

From 1910-1919, 25% of home runs in the National League were inside-the-park home runs (22% in the American League).  To many, a home run was an accident rather than an accomplishment; a random chance rather than skill.  But by 1920, the home run was becoming a more regular feature of the ball games in both leagues.  A new era was dawning. As the 1921 season arrived, the baseball world was talking about the increase in “hard-hitting,” the record-beating performances of Babe Ruth, and the pending trial of the Black Sox players.  Babe Ruth had set a new HR record in 1920 with 54 and he promised 60 for 1921.

“How do I hit ‘em? Wait a minute. You’re No. 21,877 that’s asked me. Why, I’m just a big fellow, with a big bat, and so I hit ‘em a little farther than the other boys. Oh, forget this stuff about golf and ‘follow through’ and ‘scientific explanations.’ I just hit ‘em, and I’m big, and my bat is awful heavy. That is all.”

W. A. Phelon, Times-Star, July 26, 1921

July 25, 1921 was an open date in both the American and National Leagues. This allowed Babe Ruth and the Yankees to try and pick up some extra dough and visit Cincinnati, the last city on either circuit to host the young slugging sensation. In 1920, he had visited Forbes Field in Pittsburgh and had cleared the wall there by sending one over the right field fence on a fly for the first time in that park’s history. Could he do the same in Redland Field? Sure, Beckwith and Duncan had shown it was possible, but their shots had cleared the left field wall. The left-handed Ruth’s drives were usually to right field, local papers said. Could he do it? Surely he was capable. The question was, would he, with only 4, maybe 5 opportunities in one exhibition game?

Ruth’s much anticipated visit was almost daily news during the week prior to his visit. A letter from Ruth appeared in the Cincinnati Post on July 22 announcing Ruth’s intention to face a local amateur pitcher just prior to the game. The two week strikeout total was the measure, and after the first week, Robert Collins and Howard Wiggers were tied for the lead.

“The bugs hereabouts have waited a long time to see Babe Ruth aiming for the fences at Redland Field. The fact that his team, led by popular little Hug, is going to be leading the league or close to it when Babe makes his first appearance here since he became a home run hitter only adds to the lure that will make business a dull subject Monday afternoon and Redland Field the Mecca for thousands.”

–Tom Swope, The Post, July 21, 1921

“Ever meet a huge, overgrown school kid, who wanted to be your friend, but didn’t know just how to say the word? That’s plenty. That tells it all in little – for it is the worded picture of Babe Ruth.” And that’s how Cincinnati sports writer W. A. Phelon described the Babe on the day he arrived.

“WENT TO BED UPON REACHING CINCINNATI”

Ruth didn’t like Pullmans, so he took a rest after arriving in the Queen City Monday morning. “The king of swat, the ruler in the realm of hits, the terror of twirlers,” Phelon called him, announced he would have breakfast, than get some rest before the contest that afternoon. There were 16,367 residents who attended the game, easily the largest crowd of the season.

Howard Wiggers of the Mt. Lookouts was the amateur with the honor of pitching to Ruth before the game. Wiggers, with the Reds regulars behind him, threw one pitch, and Ruth drove it deep to center field where Edd Roush made the catch just in front of the wall.

Ruth had a sprained ankle, so Huggins played him at first base. The Enquirer suggested that Ruth would eventually play first on a regular basis.

The Reds jumped out to a 7-run lead by the second inning, and they held the Yankees scoreless until the fifth inning. Ruth came to the plate in the fifth with the bases loaded and one run in. He drove the first pitch over the centerfield wall and out onto Western Avenue, In the 7th inning, Ruth drove a liner into the right field bleachers, putting the Yankees on top 8-7. Sammy Bohne tied the game in the bottom half with a four-bagger if his own, but his stayed inside the park. Then Roush tripled and Duncan doubled in the eighth giving the Reds the lead for good.

Final score: 9-8, Reds!

Ruth quickly caught a train towards the east side of town and spent the evening drinking and fishing along the banks of the Little Miami River in Loveland, fully content he had given the crowd what they had come to see.

The town buzzed for days over the visit, only to have it recede into memory through the years as the Yankees became the premier organization in the game. Today many Yankee fans will take their seats in today’s current version of Redland Field, unaware of the electricity a ball hit over the fence created then.

One Response

  1. pinson343

    It’s hard to overstate – or even fathom – Ruth’s impact on “outside the park” HRs. When he hit 54 in 1920, he broke his own record of 29 in a season. He’d hit 29 as a pitcher and part-time OFer for the Red Sox in 1919.

    He hit 59 in 1921. And in both 1920 and 1921, he drew about 150 walks, an astronomical total back then.