Johnny Igoe arranged a postseason tour for Ruth after the 1919 season that took him through the West and eventually to California, where he appeared in exhibition games with other major-leaguers, played golf with Buck Weaver and reportedly hit a drive 340 yards. He was also supposed to make a series of movie shorts with such gripping titles as Home Sweet Home, Touch All Bases, The Dough Kiss, The Bacon and even Oliver Twist. Frazee posed for a publicity picture for the last one, doling out porridge with a spoon while Ruth supposedly said, "Please, sir." The money was pouring in and, prompted by Igoe, Ruth began to complain that his three-year contract with Frazee at $10,000 a year was grossly inadequate. He wanted $20,000 a year, he said, or he might not play at all in 1920. Since 1919 had been the best year baseball had ever known in terms of crowds and revenues, Babe had a pretty good argument. But Frazee was in a financial bind with Joseph Lannin, from whom he had bought the Red Sox after the 1916 season and who still held Frazee's notes for a substantial portion of the purchase price. Lannin was calling for payment and Frazee was having difficulty complying with his demands. His credit in Boston was becoming shaky.
Frazee and Colonel Huston, Ruppert's partner, were both convivial party types and got along well. Huston was a self-made man, an engineer who had grown up in Ohio and made a fortune in construction in Cuba after the Spanish-American War. He was a big, heavy man, a careless dresser, open and friendly, who considered the ballplayers and sportswriters his friends. In contrast, Ruppert was a New York aristocrat whose father had been a millionaire brewer. Ruppert owned horses, was a member of the Jockey Club, exhibited show dogs, dressed meticulously, had a valet, collected objets d'art and moved easily in New York society. He served four terms in Congress from Manhattan's Silk Stocking District, and, while a ladies' man, was discreet. He never married, but his will provided generously for a "friend." Ruppert, who carried on the family business of brewing beer, had a faint trace of a German accent ( Ruth was always Root to Ruppert) and never called anyone by his first name.
Ruppert and Huston had nothing in common but money, a keen interest in the Yankees and the title "Colonel." Ruppert got his at 22 when he was made an honorary colonel on the personal staff of Governor Hill of New York. Huston, who was a captain of engineers in the Spanish-American War (his nickname was "Cap"), served overseas in World War I as a colonel. The two had become acquainted because of their rooting interest in the New York Giants. John McGraw learned that the Yankees were for sale and suggested that Ruppert and Huston get together and buy the club. The pair put up $460,000, and in 1915 the Yankees, then a chronic second-division team, were theirs.
Despite his fastidiousness and the dilettante impression he gave, Ruppert was a hard, practical businessman. Huston was much more sentimental and impulsive. Huston liked Wild Bill Donovan, whom they had hired as manager in 1915, but Ruppert was impatient with the slow progress toward respectability the team was making. While Huston was in the Army in France, Ruppert decided it was time to hire a new manager. He asked Ban Johnson, with whom he was then on good terms, if he could suggest a replacement.
"Get Miller Huggins," Johnson said. Huggins was a tiny man (5'6�" and barely 140 pounds) who had been managing the St. Louis Cardinals for five years without spectacular success, but Johnson was always a shrewd judge of talent. "He's a fine manager, and we'll take a good man away from the National League."
Ruppert wired Huston about the proposed change, and Huston instantly replied negatively. He did not want the unimpressive little Huggins. He suggested instead that Ruppert hire the Brooklyn Dodgers' manager, big fat Wilbert Robinson, a jolly crony of Huston's. As a courtesy to his partner, Ruppert interviewed Robinson but his mind was already made up. Impressed with Huggins, he hired him and told Huston about it after it was a fait accompli. Huston was furious, and the relationship between the two colonels, never close, was always uneasy after that.
Still, on some things they worked together well, and when Frazee indicated that Ruth was available Huston was quick to discuss with Ruppert the possibility of getting him. The Yankees had been acquiring ballplayers aggressively during 1918 and 1919, and Ruppert was heartily in favor of obtaining an obvious star and drawing card in Ruth. The only drawback was money. Ruppert had ample wealth, but he was a practical man. Prohibition was about to go into effect, and Ruppert knew it was going to cause a precipitous decline in the revenue of his Manhattan brewery. Too, he was aware that McGraw and the Giants might at any time terminate the arrangement that permitted the Yankees to play in the Polo Grounds (and particularly so if Ruth joined the club). The vague plans he and Huston had tossed around about building their own ball park might have to be implemented, and great quantities of cash would be needed for that. So a lump cash payment for Ruth was out. Nonetheless, the colonels met with Frazee and worked out a deal satisfactory to both sides.
The Yankees agreed to buy Ruth for $100,000, which was double the largest amount ever paid for a ballplayer before that. No other players were involved—it was a straight purchase—but the financial arrangements were complex. According to the contract of sale signed on Friday, Dec. 26, 1919, Ruppert and Huston gave Frazee $25,000 in cash and three promissory notes for $25,000 each, one payable Nov. 1, 1920, the second Nov. 1, 1921, the third Nov. 1, 1922. The notes were at 6%, so the total amount the Yankees paid was nearer to $110,000.
Along with the cash he received for Ruth, Frazee wanted a substantial loan. This was the crux of the deal, and Ruth came to the Yankees because Ruppert agreed to it. He gave Frazee a letter on Dec. 26 that said, "I hereby offer to loan or cause to be loaned to you $300,000...to be secured by a first mortgage [upon the] land now used as a baseball playing field by The Boston American League Baseball Club...." In other words, Ruppert, co-owner of the New York Yankees, would hold a mortgage on Fenway Park, the Boston team's home field. Ruppert's letter said the loan offer would expire if it were not acted upon in 90 days.
The loan was made, and relations between the two clubs continued to be cordial, with Frazee sending player after player to the Yankees over the next few seasons for more and more cash. The Red Sox soon became a baseball disaster area, finishing dead last nine times in 11 seasons, but Frazee survived, eventually sold the Boston team and in 1925 hit the jackpot financially in the New York theater with the enormously successful No! No! Nanette!