A team is where a boy can prove his courage on his own. A gang is where a coward goes to hide.
Dr. Gene Budig held a lot of titles over the course of his lifetime. He was a university president at Illinois State University, West Virginia University, and the University of Kansas (one building at KU, Budig Hall, is named in his honor). He was a newspaper executive, an author, a major general in the Air National Guard, and a senior presidential adviser for the College Board.
Gene Budig was also the last President of the American League in the MLB. He served in that role for six seasons, before the position was officially eliminated. In addition, for the last fourteen years, Budig was part-owner of Minor League Baseball’s Charleston RiverDogs, an affiliate of the New York Yankees.
Dr. Budig passed away earlier today, September 8, 2020.
Rest in peace.
I recently finished making my way through Jane Leavy’s biography on the Great Bambino himself, entitled The Big Fella. Like anyone else, I have heard most of the stories, I’m aware of the ballplayer’s legendary status, and as a kid, I memorized the list of nicknames spouted off by the kids of The Sandlot. However, this is the first actual Babe Ruth biography I have ever read.
Fair warning: this biography is quite the tome. It’s not quite War and Peace, but sitting at over 600 pages, it’s not exactly Animal Farm, either. In my opinion, though, the journey through this volume is worth the time. Using the barnstorming tour Babe Ruth took with Lou Gehrig after the 1927 World Series as the framework for the book, Leavy injects details about Ruth’s life and analysis about his personality and character to paint a broad and detailed portrait of the man and the ballplayer.
My favorite feature of this book lies in how human it portrays the Babe. Ruth often gets depicted as this happy-go-lucky, larger-than-life figure who transcends not only baseball, but American culture itself. Not that Leavy ignores this facet of Ruth’s character. In fact, she goes into great detail about how this perception of the Babe pervaded American thought even during his lifetime. Ruth certainly lived large, and the public loved him so much, the press even willingly kept many of his indiscretions quite. When some of those indiscretions did leak out, fans were more than willing to overlook them, finding these to be a part of the ballplayer’s charm.
Leavy’s biography doesn’t focus just on this, however. Ruth’s life, especially as a youth, was not an easy one. The author includes stories about his birth, early youth, his life at St. Mary’s, and his introduction to professional baseball. She also talks about Ruth’s drinking and womanizing, and while she doesn’t forgive the Babe for these, Leavy does juxtapose that side of Ruth with his affinity for playing with and helping kids.
The book also delves deeply into Ruth’s relationship with his manager, Christy Walsh. We get an overview of Ruth’s personal finances, and Leavy demonstrates how much the Babe profited from Christy Walsh’s management. She conveys the impact Ruth and Walsh had on popular culture, foreshadowing the celebrity-obsessed society that followed them and continues to pervade our world today.
Leavy also does a good job giving us a glimpse into the Babe’s shortcomings as a family man and the impact this had on his daughters. There is also a great exploration of Ruth’s life after baseball, including the disappointments he faced as he continuously got turned down for management roles. Leavy goes into detail about his final days, as well, discussing his illness and, ultimately, his death.
Overall, I was impressed. I did, at times, wish that the structure of the book followed a more linear path, rather than bouncing around Ruth’s life the way that it does, but given the amount of research and detail included in these pages, it’s a shortcoming I’m willing to overlook.
I am honestly surprised that I haven’t posted this classic tune yet. Apparently, Joe DiMaggio was actually annoyed by the inclusion of his name in this song, until Paul Simon explained the meaning to him.
“I happened to be in a restaurant and there he was,” recalls Simon in the interview. “I gathered up my nerve to go over and introduce myself and say, ‘Hi, I’m the guy that wrote “Mrs. Robinson,” ’ and he said ‘Yeah, sit down . . . why’d you say that? I’m here, everyone knows I’m here.’ I said, ‘I don’t mean it that way — I mean, where are these great heroes now?’ He was flattered once he understood that it was meant to be flattering.”
The 1939 All-Star Game was held on July 11th at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx, where the American League defeated the National League, 3-1. Two of the three AL runs were driven in by Yankees players (the third was an unearned run scored on an error), including a DiMaggio home run. Indians pitcher Bob Feller, only twenty years old at the time, threw 3.2 scoreless innings to earn the save.
The box score for the game can be found here.
On June 11, 1988, New York Yankees manager Billy Martin decided to use starting pitcher Rick Rhoden as the Yankees’ starting designated hitter. Rhoden went 0–1 with an RBI on a sacrifice fly in his lone plate appearance, batting seventh in the lineup. He was the first pitcher to start a game at DH since the American League’s adoption of the DH rule in 1973. José Cruz would later pinch hit for Rhoden as the Yankees went on to an 8–6 victory over the Baltimore Orioles.
If you weren’t around in those times, I don’t think you could appreciate what a figure the Babe was. He was bigger than the President.
The ball started climbing from the moment it left the plate. It was a pop fly with a brand new gland and, though it flew high, it also flew far.
When last seen the ball was crossing the roof of the stand in deep right field at an altitude of 315 feet. We wonder whether new baseballs conversing in the original package ever remark: “Join Ruth and see the world.”
For the first time in history, on May 13, 1929, a major league game featured both teams wearing numbers on the backs of their jerseys. The Indians played host to the Yankees at League Park in Cleveland, winning by a score of 4-3. The digits would become a permanent fixture on each club’s ensemble.
If I didn’t make it in baseball, I won’t have made it workin’. I didn’t like to work.