Ruth Makes Biggest Hit of the Day Without Swinging the Bat

June 13, 1948

After 25 years of Yankee Stadium, “The House that Ruth Built” stands taller and prouder than it ever has. However, the name which the building bears is now much more frail. The Yankees celebrated Ruth and the stadium prior to today’s Indians and Yankees game.

On Babe Ruth Day, a day orchestrated to celebrate the silver anniversary of the ballpark and honor the greatest slugger ever, Ruth could not take a swing in the old-timers game assembled. Several of his former teammates and younger Yankees played a two-inning exhibition while the former great sat quietly in the home dugout.

Instead of wowing the crowd with a final swing, Ruth needed a bat to lean on to keep himself stable during the pregame festivities. Before the old-timers exhibition, the Yankees and former general manager Ed Barrow honored the all-time home run hitter. Ruth and Barrow each were presented watches by Dan Topping, current president of the Yankee organization.

Ruth final appearance AP

Without a swing, Ruth received the loudest cheers of the day from the 49,641 fans in attendance, when Mel Allen – the master of ceremonies – called his name. After Ruth used his small, frail legs to shuffle to the plate, he hugged Barrow, Topping and Allen and asked to say a few words. His voice was quiet and muffled, stemming from a throat operation a year and a half ago.

“Ladies and gentlemen, I just want to say one thing. I am proud I hit the first home run here against Boston in 1923,” Ruth whispered. “It is marvelous to see these 13 or 14 players who were my teammates going back 25 years. I’m telling you it makes me proud and happy to be here. Thank you.”

Will Harridge, president of the American League, presented Ruth’s uniform to the Baseball Hall of Fame.

“As president of the American League, I declare Ruth’s uniform officially retired,” Harridge said. “It never again will be worn by a Yankee player either at the stadium or on the road. It is worn today by the Babe for the last time.

“Babe is one of baseball’s immortals. His contribution to the game cannot be measured. It is with deep appreciation for what he has done for baseball that I hereby present his uniform to the Hall of Fame.”

New York honored their current stars and the world champion team of 1923. They also place wreaths at the center field monuments of Lou Gehrig and Miller Huggins.

After Ruth’s ceremony, the 1923 Yankees beat the latter-day Yanks, 2-0. At 53 years old and in failing health, Ruth was far too frail to play in the game. His thin legs and round waist were still apparent, but his frame is much thinner and weak.

His public appearances have become fewer and farther between and today might have not just been a chance to honor him and the stadium his name bares, but for a chance for teammates to say goodbye.

Main Photo: Harry Harris/Associated Press

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