The Day the Babe Hit Number 60
NEW YORK (AP) _ Only 10,000 people were there to see it, but the whole world heard about it and baseball will never forget it. It was the day Babe Ruth bested himself and clouted his 60th home run of the 1927 season.
″Sixty 3/8 Count ’em, sixty 3/8,″ Ruth shouted in the clubhouse after the game, ″Let’s see some other son of a gun match that.″
In sixty years since, no one has in 154 games.
Ruth’s accomplishment Sept. 30 was front-page news the next day, alongside the Communist International expelling Leon Trotsky from its executive committee and a tornado killing 90 and injuring 1,500 in St. Louis.
Even for Ruth the feat was almost unthinkable.
The Babe alone had made the home run into a major threat when the lively ball was introduced, but his 59 home runs in 1921 were viewed as an abnormality. He hadn’t hit more than 47 since and no other player had hit more than 42.
He hit 43 in the first five months of the 1927 season, and then hit 16 in the first 26 games of September, tying his record with two homers on Sept. 29. In the eighth inning the next day against the Washington Senators in Yankee Stadium, Ruth pulled a 1-1 pitch from Tom Zachary down the right-field line. It was fair by inches when it hooked into the bleachers.
″Babe Ruth scaled the hitherto unattained heights yesterday,″ The New York Times wrote. ″Home run 60, a terrific smash off the southpaw pitching of Zachary, nestled in Babe’s favorite spot in the right field bleachers, and before the roar had ceased it was found that this drive had made not only home run history but also was the winning margin in a 4 to 2 victory over the Senators.″
In 1919, Ruth hit 29 homers to break record of 27 set by Edward Williamson of the Chicago Cubs in 1884. The next highest total in 1919 was 12 by Gavvy Cravath of the Philadelphia Phillies.
Ruth hit 54 the next season as the lively ball was introduced. George Sisler of the St. Louis Browns was second with 19.
Going into the 1927 season, Ruth had hit twice as many home runs as any other AL player four times in the previous eight years. But sixty was something that was thought to be impossible.
″It is doubtful if anyone in that crowd will ever live to see another baseball player hit his sixtieth home run in a 154-game season,″ Fred Lieb wrote in the next day’s New York Post. ″I saw Ruth hit his fifty-ninth in 1921 and never thought I would score the game in which that record would be broken.″
Indeed, it took a 162-game season for Roger Maris to hit 61 homers in 1961.
About 10,000 fans were in Yankee Stadium that Friday afternoon when the Babe made history. Joe Forner caught the ball and brought it to Ruth in the clubhouse. Both the ball and the bat are now in the Hall of Fame.
″Nobody ever got a livlier reception per capita than Ruth as he paced around,″ Bill Hanna wrote in the New York Herald Tribune. ″(Coach Art) Fletcher’s cap went up in the air, then (Coach Charley) O’Leary’s - and O’Leary hates to expose his bald head - and the other players rushed to congratulate the Babe. All of the fans, grandstand, bleachers and boxes, stood and cheered and waved their hankerchiefs. The crowd was small, the ovation deafening.
″When the Babe crossed the plate he lifted his cap high and with the other hand waved a saulte. Held he his hand in midair (as if to say): ’Well, folks, here we are. How about it, folks?‴
Game 154 was the next-to-last of the season (the Yankees had played one tie) and they had clinched first place over two weeks earlier. Ruth’s quest for 60 was the last remaining interest for Yankees fans.
″Ruth had been pecking away at Zachary throughout the game,″ Lieb wrote in the Post. ″Tom walked him on four straight balls in the first, and the crowd, eager for a new Ruthian record, hooted and hissed. They wanted to see the Babe get his chance. The big fellow singled in the fourth and sixth and scored both of New York’s early runs.″
″In the eighth,″ Hanna wrote in the Herald Tribune, ″Zachary sought to outwit Ruth with a screw ball, ‘a slow screw ball,’ as Ruth described it. The ball broke in to Ruth as a left-hander’s screw ball would to a left-handed batter. ... The idea was to break it in and down past the Babe. This one broke over the plate and was a screw ball until it met the Babe’s unruly bat.″
″Zachary was one of the most interested spectators of the home run flight,″ the Times wrote. ″He tossed his glove to the ground, muttered to himself, turned to his mates for consolation and got everything but that.″
″It didn’t go high and it didn’t go on a line,″ wrote Hanna. ″Bill Dinneen, the umpire, crouched on the foul line and peered carefully into the distance to see whether it was fair or foul. It buried itself in the bleachers fifteen rows from the top and was fair by not more than six inches. Still it was fair and the record was broken.″