On October 19, 1924, George Herman “Babe” Ruth (1895-1948) hits three home runs in an exhibition game at Dugdale Park in Rainier Valley in Seattle. The Babe’s visit to Seattle creates a huge sensation which is magnified by his powerful performance in the game. The next day, as a grand finale to his Seattle visit, he tosses autographed baseballs from atop the Seattle Post-Intelligencer Building to hundreds of delighted fans waiting eagerly in the street below.
Gangway for the Babe!Babe Ruth had soared into baseball stardom long before his first visit to Seattle in 1924. His baseball career had begun 10 years earlier, briefly with the Baltimore Orioles (then a minor league team) and then with the Boston Red Sox through 1919. In 1920 Ruth joined the New York Yankees, and that year hit a then-astonishing record of 54 home runs, insuring both himself and the Yankees a place in the record books for decades to come.
In October 1924, Ruth came to Washington state, playing in exhibition games in Spokane on October 17 (where he hit two home runs) and in Tacoma on October 18 (where his best hit was a double to center field). He then headed to Seattle to appear in an exhibition game on October 19, which was sponsored by the Seattle Post-Intelligencer to raise funds for charity.
“Gangway for the Babe!” cheered the P-I that Sunday morning. Tickets were a dollar for any seat in the park; reserved seats were a dollar and a half. Children under 14 who arrived at the bleacher entrance before the game started at 2 p.m. were admitted free, courtesy of the P-I. Weather conditions for the big game that afternoon at Dugdale Park between the Seattle All Stars and the Southwest Timber League were perfect for mid-October, sunny and with a temperature around 60 degrees. Ruth played on the All Stars team, while fellow Yankee Bob Meusel (1896-1977), no slouch himself, was featured on the Timber League team.
The Crowd Went Wild
Nine thousand thrilled fans packed the park for the game, which got off to a less than auspicious start for Ruth’s fans. The Timber League batted first and got four fast runs courtesy of a grand slam by Ham Hyatt. But later in the first inning Babe Ruth stepped up to the plate, with two outs and one man on. Royal Brougham (1894-1978), a well-known P-I sportswriter for more than 50 years during the twentieth century, described what came next:
“Ruth, coming to bat in the first inning, met the first ball pitched and hit it high and dry into the next county. The ball, traveling with the velocity of a shot out of a cannon, not only cleared the fence but it soared over the gasoline station across the street. It was by far the longest drive ever hit in Seattle” ("Bambino's Bat Break's Tribe's Park Record").
This brought the score to 4-2 in favor of the Timber League, and they got two more runs in the second and another two in the third, extending their lead to 8-2. Then the Babe came back to bat and slammed another homer. Two more runs by the All Stars during the third inning brought the score to 8-5, Timber League. There it stayed until the last half of the sixth inning, when Ruth batted again, this time with two runners on base. He hammered yet another run over the fence, said by many to be the longest of the day, and tied the score. The crowd went wild.The All Stars scored three more runs in the seventh, but the Timber League made a run for the money in the ninth, scoring two runs as the result of a homer hit off of Ruth by Bob Meusel. In addition to his batting prowess, Ruth was also a strong pitcher. He had pitched 11 at-bats (with no errors) during the game, throwing strong or wily pitches all the while. But when “Long Bob” came up to bat, the Babe suddenly began throwing straight balls to his Yankee teammate, until Meusel responded with a long one to the left bleachers. “That home run was a bit phoney[sic]-looking to some of the fans” grumbled another P-I sportswriter, William Steedman, the next morning. “Apparently Ruth thought the fans weren’t getting their money’s worth.”
Memories to Last a Lifetime
But surely the fans would have disagreed. As the game ended with the All Stars winning 11 to 10, thousands of ecstatic fans swamped the fields and swept Ruth off his feet. Someone spread a false rumor that the Babe was going to hit a few more practice homers just for jolly, which sent the fans racing out beyond the diamond to try to catch one of the balls and gave Ruth a chance to semi-discreetly duck out. “It was almost pathetic to see the eagerness of the youngsters to get a close glimpse of their demigod or to hear a word from his lips,” sniffed Steedman the next morning.
Ruth batted six other times during the game. He got a double in the fourth, hit four outs, and struck out once. But these were minor details. All accounts agree that it was a great day for the Sultan of Swat.That evening Ruth was honored at a banquet put on by the P-I at the Rainier Club. Early the next afternoon, along with his sidekick Meusel, Ruth tossed about a dozen autographed baseballs from the roof of the P-I Building at 6th and Pine avenues into a delighted throng below. He followed that up with a brief pit stop at Seattle College (now Seattle University) and then left for Portland for another exhibition game the next day, leaving thousands of exhilarated Seattleites with memories to last a lifetime.