Wednesday, February 1, 2012

1932 World Series: Called Shot

The Teams
American League: New York Yankees (107-47) - Seventh World Series (Won in 1923, 1927, 1928)
National League: Chicago Cubs (90-64) - Seventh World Series (Won in 1907, 1908)

What Happened
Virtually every player on every team made fun of Babe Ruth. Such was the height of his fame - and of his opponents' jealousy. Ever the showman, Ruth thrived on it, often shouting insults right back at his taunters, laughing as he rounded the bases after another moon shot of a home run.

Sometimes, though, things got downright vicious. In the 1932 World Series, the Chicago Cubs were especially ruthless to Ruth. He gladly took his insults and gave them right back, often calling the Cubs cheapskates for giving former Yankee Mark Koenig only a half-share of the World Series money.

Things took a turn in Game 3, though. Despite two relatively easy Yankee wins in the first two games of the series, the Cubs didn't stop with the bench jockeying. They called Ruth fat. They called him a gorilla. They made fun of his wife. Somewhere along the line, Ruth stopped taking it lightheartedly and started taking it personally. His shouts toward the Cubs bench were joined by gestures and finger pointing. The fans were getting into it. Things were getting ugly.

It was the top of the fifth. Ruth had already hit a three-run home run in the first inning, but the Cubs had come back to tie the game at 4. With one out, Ruth came to the plate, with the Cubs' taunting as loud as it had been all series. Cubs pitcher Charlie Root threw a first-pitch strike. The fans howled. Ruth pointed toward the Cubs dugout and held up one finger. After two balls out of the zone, Root threw another strike. Again, Ruth pointed toward the dugout, holding up two fingers.

Here is where fiction blurs into reality, where legend grows into fact. At this point in the at bat, Ruth pointed in the general direction of Root. A film of the at bat shows this indisputably. But what isn't known is exactly where Ruth was pointing. Was he pointing at Root? At the deep center field bleachers? Or just at the Cubs dugout?

The legend, of course, says that Ruth was pointing to center field, telling the Cubs exactly where the next pitch was going to end up. He was supposedly calling his shot. Naturally, he hit the next pitch exactly where he was pointing, the longest home run ever hit at Wrigley Field. The crowd was silenced, Ruth ran around the bases laughing and pointing at the Cubs. And a legendary career had its iconic moment.

Ruth himself was inconsistent in saying whether he called his shot or not. At first he was non-committal, but later, perhaps realizing what a good story it made, he went along with the legend. And why not? At this point, it's impossible to disprove. For all intents and purposes, Ruth called his shot. Who's going to say otherwise?

Ruth's shot essentially clinched the series. The Cubs were silenced, their spirit broken. The Yankees, already up 2 games to 0, would go on to sweep, their third straight World Series sweep. Ruth entered into immortality, and went out on a high note. His "called shot" was the last World Series home run of his career.

Lou Gehrig (unofficially). Seriously. This series was a microcosm of Gehrig's career. Ruth got all the attention, what with his called shot and all, but Gehrig was quietly much, much better. Ruth hit two home runs in the series, but Gehrig hit three, including one on the next pitch after Ruth's called shot. Ruth batted .333, but Gehrig batted .529. He was, by far, the best player on the field. Not that anybody noticed.

(Home team in Bold)

Chicago 6 2 5 6
New York 12 5 7 13

The List
I'm ranking all the World Series, from worst to best. Here are the ones I've done so far:

94. 1932 - New York (A) def. Chicago (N) 4-0
95. 1908 - Chicago (N) def. Detroit (A) 4-1
96. 1999 - New York (A) def. Atlanta (N) 4-0
97. 1963 - Los Angeles (N) def. New York (A) 4-0
98. 2010 - San Francisco (N) def. Texas (A) 4-1
99. 1937 - New York (A) def. New York (N) 4-1
Numbers 100-107

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