I am a few days too late to claim it as “This Date in Baseball History” but still okay for this week. I also know very well that I am not the only one who has made this type of post. In fact, many have this week and in years past. Nevertheless….
On December 26, 1919, Boston Red Sox owner Harry Frazee sold the contract of George Herman “Babe” Ruth to the New York Yankees for a sum of $25,000, an extremely large amount of money in that time.
— MLB Fan Cave (@MLBFanCave) December 26, 2013
Babe Ruth made $10,000 in salary that year, far more than most players would make for a very long time. According to Baseball Reference (see Babe’s player page), Ruth’s 1919 contract is in the Hall of Fame.
Popular legend has it that Frazee sold Ruth to raise money to finance Broadway productions. However, CBS Sports.com’s Eye on Baseball has a different story: Frazee simply grew tired of Ruth’s cockiness and behavior off the field.
Whichever story is true, the sale is legendary, and it is one of the most famous transactions in ALL of sports history, not just MLB. Red Sox fans — even of today — still wonder how many World Series Boston could have won if not for the “curse of the Bambino” that lasted from 1919-2004. Boston won three World Series (1915, 1916, 1918) with Ruth, and the Yankees won four with him (1923, 1927, 1928, 1932) and played in three more (1921, 1922, 1926). Those four wins are the first four of 27 the Yankees have won since the sale.
With Boston, Ruth was mainly a pitcher. He had a record of 89-46, 2.19 ERA, 1.142 WHIP and 3.5 WAR working every five days. He won all three of his World Series starts with a 0.87 ERA. Because he could hit so well, though, the Red Sox made him outfielder in 1919; he responded with 29 home runs, then the single-season record. In fact, he hit 49 home runs with the Red Sox, 20 of them in 136 at bats as a pitcher.
Many experts believe that Ruth could have made the eventual Hall of Fame as a pitcher. Even some contemporaries questioned the switch to the outfield. Hall-of-Fame teammate Tris Speaker had this to say about Ruth’s switch:
“Ruth made a grave mistake when he gave up pitching. Working once a week, he might have lasted a long time and become a great star.” (Credit: baberuth.com)
I think we can all agree that Ruth became quite the star.