Babe Ruth hit 12 walk-off home runs. I like the first one the best.
It came in the final home date of the season for the 1919 Red Sox, who failed to defend their World Series title. They were playing the White Sox, the team that was about to dethrone them as AL champs (and the team that would later deliberately lose the World Series to the Reds). The White Sox needed only one win in these two games to clinch the pennant.
But while there would be a celebration in Fenway Park that day, it would not be one for the visiting team.
The Red Sox took an early 3-0 lead in a game that Ruth started on the mound. He couldn’t hold it. He moved to left field with the score 3-3 in the sixth inning. The score stood that way until the home ninth when Ruth faced Lefty Williams (one of the “8 Men Out”). Ruth’s opposite-field home run, over the high fence in left field ended the game. The ball was said to have gone through a window in a building across Landsdowne Street.
Wrote James O’Leary of the <em>Boston Globe:</em>
“…the efforts of the Roman populace were only murmurs compared with the vocal explosion with which upward of 31,000 baseball fans expressed their feelings at Fenway Park yesterday afternoon when Babe Ruth made his 27th home run of the season. Nothing like this demonstration was ever heard in Rome or anywhere.”
The home run being the 27th was notable in this regard. It tied the single-season record for home runs set by Ned Williamson of the Chicago White Stockings in 1884 (that was a fluke record – Williamson never hit more than nine home runs in any other season in his 13-year career).
In-between games, Ruth was honored by the Knights of Columbus for his remarkable season (little did they know, he’d be headed elsewhere in the offseason). Both teams participated in the ceremony (which I find fascinating). Ruth also donated the bat with which he hit the homer to the Liberty Loan Newsboys’ Association where it was to be auctioned for a memorial fund for a newsboy killed in World War I.
The second game didn’t feature a walk-off, but the <em>Globe</em> tells a story that I deem worth repeating. Ruth thought he had the record-breaking home run in that game, but umpire Bill Evans said the ball landed in play, then bounced a short fence in the outfield, behind which a few thousand people were crowding in. The paper describes an argument that took place later between the umpire and “a sergeant of the military guard” who brought with him a written statement from a fan saying that call should have been a home run.
“It would be well for you to attend to your police duties and leave the umpiring to me,” Evans said.
Ruth hit the record-breaking home run at the Polo Grounds a few days later against the Yankees. This one was a game-tying home run in the ninth inning. This too was a mammoth shot, described by W.O. McGeehan of the <em>New York Tribune</em> as both the first ball to clear the right field roof of the Polo Grounds and the longest home run ever hit (!)
The 1919 White Sox clinched the AL pennant that same day. They would be bonded by their shared celebrity for the moment, but there was much more ahead for the Bambino and the Black Sox. That story had not yet been written.
-Babe Ruth hit 5 of his 12 walk-off home runs against the White Sox. That included two in a three-day stretch in 1922 and a grand slam when down by three runs in 1925.
Ruth broke his home run record again in 1920. After finishing 1919 with 29 home runs, he walloped 54 in his first season with the Yankees. That time he tied the record with a walk-off home run against the St. Louis Browns and broke the mark with a home run against … the White Sox.
Note: If any of this was covered in Jane Leavy’s or Leigh Montville’s biographies of Ruth … I don’t have either book. This was just something I noticed that I thought was cool