K OF C HELPED RUTH-GEHRIG BARNSTORMING SUCCESS IN 1920’S
Most of today’s major league baseball players are millionaires and really don’t have to take an off-season job to make ends meet. And everybody today knows who the stars of most teams are thanks to television and the internet.
But that was not the case back in the 1920’s when newspapers and radios with more static than anything else were the only means of keeping up with the major league scene if you didn’t live near a city with a franchise.
The 1927 World Champion New York Yankees team was arguably Major League Baseball’s greatest team with their fabled Murderer’s Row that featured the most famous baseball player in the United States, Babe Ruth, and his great teammate Lou Gehrig.
But the big problem in 1927 was that only seven states plus Washington D.C. had major league teams.
If you lived west of the Mississippi River and couldn’t get to St. Louis, Chicago or farther east, your option of getting to see Ruth or Gehrig or any ball player was to hope they came to you.
Thanks to the Knights of Columbus—of which Ruth was a member—they helped popularize baseball with Ruth and Gehrig’s barnstorming tours after the 1927 World Series ended.
This Dynamic Duo toured 21 cities from Providence, R.I. to Los Angeles in a three-week barnstorming tour where fans were treated to watching long home runs by these two left-handed swingers and then an exhibition game between Ruth’s “Bustin’ Babes” and Gehrig’s “Larrupin Lous”.
These games were sponsored by the local Knights of Columbus, who had banquets for Ruth and other guests.
Ruth’s agent Christy Walsh, also a member of the K of C Order, organized the tours. By sponsoring exhibition games, hosting traveling stars and organizing other events during Babe’s tours, the Knights of Columbus played a role in popularizing professional baseball.
Walsh’s scrapbooks, preserved at the National Baseball Hall of Fame, chronicle how Ruth embarked on post-season tours through the 1920’s, appearing with vaudeville acts and playing exhibition games, according to this month’s issue of Columbian, the K of C magazine loaned to me by local Deacon Larry David.
“The Knights underwrote a game in Los Angeles on Oct. 27, 1924, raising money for their charitable fund,” the article pointed out. “In addition to Ruth, the game featured Yankee teammates Eddie Meusel, Earl McNeely and others, attracting 7,000 fans.
“Babe Ruth wasn’t the only baseball legend who was a member of the Knights of Columbus. Philadelphia Athletics manager Connie Mack and New York Giants manager John McGraw, both Knights, led their respective teams to multiple World Series championships.
“Other Hall of Fame Knights include Johnny Evers, Hughie Jenkins, Ed Walsh and Jim O’Rourke. But the Great Bambino was the biggest star of them all and the popularity of his postseason barnstorming reached its peak in 1927, when he was joined by Lou Gehrig for the 21-city tour.
“They were fresh off their now-legendary season in which the Yankees won 110 games and swept the Pittsburgh Pirates in the World Series. Ruth had hit 60 home runs, a single-season record that would stand until 1961. Gehrig was the league’s most valuable player, leading in doubles (52) and RBIs (173),” the article concluded.
The West Coast would not get a major league team until 1958 when the Brooklyn Dodgers and New York Giants relocated to Los Angeles and San Francisco, respectively. Many of the most ardent fans remembered how, when they were still youngsters, Babe Ruth’s barnstorming tours helped to grow the national pastime.
KWICKIES…Former Baylor head football coach Art Briles has finally landed another head coaching job in Texas, this time at Class 3A Mount Vernon High School, three years after being fired by Baylor when sexual violence was discovered to have taken place at the Baptist school between 2011 and 2016.
The Kirbyville Wildcats are the last Southeast Texas high school baseball team still alive in the state tournament. After defeating Clifton 3-1 last weekend in the crucial third game in the Class 3A regional semifinals, Kirbyville will take on Central Pollok this week, the team that ended Orangefield’s state tournament run. Kirbyville finished 13-1 in District 22-3A, one game ahead of Orangefield.
The big baseball news around the Houston area was that Cavan Biggio, oldest son of Astros’ Hall of Famer Craig Biggio, joined the Toronto Blue Jays last weekend. Cavan got his first major league base hit on Sunday, rapped another hit and then topped off his grand day with a towering home run in his third major league game. His dad, Craig who saw the blast, took 33 games before getting his first major league homer.
Former Green Bay Packers’ Hall of Fame quarterback Bart Starr died Sunday at age 85. Starr, who led the Packers to six division titles and five NFL championships, was a huge thorn in the side of the Dallas Cowboys, especially when he dissed Head Coach Vince Lombardi’s play selection and ran a quarterback sneak for the winning touchdown in the famous Ice Bowl of 1967.
Sunday’s sellout crowd at Minute Maid Park saw the Houston Astros revert back to their days of 100-plus losses by committing two errors and two wild pitches which handed the Boston Red Sox a 4-1 victory and kept the Astros from a weekend sweep of the three-game series. But the ‘Stroes got back to their winning ways Monday afternoon by sneaking past the Chicago Cubbies 6-5 as Gerrit Cole bested Cole Hamels, despite the two ninth inning earned runs reliever Roberto Osuna gave up for the second straight time.
Got a phone call from my grandson Logan Smith at West Point Monday to inform me his Army team is playing at Lubbock in the NCAA Regionals this weekend against the hosting Texas Tech Red Raiders, Florida, who is in the regionals for the 42nd time and Dallas Baptist University. The double elimination tourney will be played Friday, Saturday and Sunday if necessary.
JUST BETWEEN US…It’s very rare when playing a round of golf with your regular crew that one of them has the best round of his life. But that’s exactly what happened Sunday when 84-year-old Bob Hoepner had a round nine strokes UNDER his age, a 75, at Sunset Grove Country Club that included a phenomenal FIVE birdies. He was playing with Craig Couvillion and yours truly.