Recently my wife Tara and I took a short trip to visit our two granddaughters in Naples, FL. On the plane I was already thinking about my next post about the upcoming WS. As fate would have it my next post found me. On Thursday evening, we went to downtown Naples. We stopped at a store called “The Best of Everything” and as usual I sat outside with two men while my wife shopped. Not knowing either man, I broke into their conversation. When the topic turned to baseball, of course I shamelessly promoted my book Sandlot Stats. One man then said his wife had a famous relative in baseball. He volunteered the name Charlie Root. Honestly, the name did not mean anything to me. He then said Charlie Root was his wife’s father’s uncle and threw the home run ball to Babe Ruth in the fifth inning of the third game of the 1932 World Series.
What was so special about that particular Ruth home run? Legend has it that Ruth called this home run before Charlie Root delivered the pitch. The time was the fifth inning of Game 3 of the 1932 World Series at Wrigley Field in Chicago. During the at bat, Ruth made a pointing gesture, which two existing films confirm, but the exact nature of his gesture remains ambiguous. The story goes that Ruth pointed to the centerfield stands during the at bat. It was allegedly a declaration that he would hit a home run to this part of the park. On the next pitch, Ruth hit a home run to centerfield.
The at bat went as follows. Root’s first pitch to Ruth was a called strike. Ruth then looked over at the Cubs’ dugout and raised his right hand, and extended one of his fingers. The next two pitches were balls and then came strike two. The crowd cheered loudly. Ruth then waved back at the Cubs dugout and held up two fingers. He began to shout at Root, and it is at this point Ruth definitely made a pointing gesture in the direction of Root, centerfield, or the Cubs’ bench. Root’s next pitch was a curveball that Ruth hit at least 440 feet over the wall.
A reporter named Joe Williams ran the story and wrote the headline “Ruth Calls Shot as he puts Home Run in Sidepocket.” Williams summarized the story by saying, “In the fifth, with the Cubs riding him unmercifully from the bench, Ruth pointed to centerfield and punched a screaming liner to a spot where no ball had been hit before.”
At the time, Ruth did not clarify the matter, initially stating that he was merely pointing towards the Cubs dugout to tell them he still had one more strike As time went on Ruth, enjoying the attention he was receiving, began to go along with the story. In his 1947 autobiography, Ruth gave another enhanced version by stating “he was upset about the Cubs’ insults during the series and was determined to fix things and deliberately pointed to centerfield with two strikes.”
The question remains to this day: Was Ruth pointing at Root, the centerfield seats, or the Cubs’ dugout? Eyewitness accounts are inconclusive. Hall of fame catcher Bill Dickey believed Ruth was angry because Root quick-pitched him and pointed to Root. Associate Supreme Court Justice John Stevens, who was seated behind third base, believed Ruth pointed to the centerfield stands.
As Ms. Root and I were talking along came another gentleman who announced he was a baseball player. To be continued . . .