- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
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Things came to a head when Larry Doyle of the Giants slid roughly, his spikes high, into Mike McNally at second base. There were angry words and after the game the Red Sox held a meeting and decided to retaliate. They picked out individual Giants for personal vengeance. That night Barrow found McGraw and told him what his players intended to do. After some discussion the two managers agreed things had gone far enough. Each agreed to restrain his players, and from then on the games were played at a more civilized pace.
Ruth continued to be the man the crowds wanted to see. Winston-Salem even declared a half holiday so that fans could go out to the ball park. Everything Ruth did was sensational. In Charleston he swung so hard striking out that as he spun around his spikes caught in the hard clay of the batter's box and he wrenched an ankle. He was carried off the field, writhing with pain. No one in Carolina could recall seeing a man swing so hard he hurt himself when he missed. How badly hurt was another matter. Despite doleful headlines Ruth was back in action the next day, as he so often was after being "seriously injured."
The triumphal tour reached a climax in Baltimore, after the Red Sox had left the Giants in order to play Jack Dunn's minor league Orioles. It was the first time Ruth had appeared before the home folks in his new role as slugger, and he outdid himself. In six at bats he walked twice and hit four home runs. Four home runs! Everyone in Baltimore was talking about him, and it became an article of faith that while Dunn had undoubtedly developed him into the fine pitcher he was, hitting was something Babe had achieved for himself. The ingenuous Ruth agreed with this analysis, telling a group of reporters after the game that no one could teach a man to hit the way he could. "It's a gift," he admitted modestly. Then he added, "I was afraid a few of my old Baltimore neighbors didn't believe all that they've read in the papers about my hitting. Today was my chance to show them what I could do. So I did."
When the season began a few days later the Red Sox were favored to win the pennant again. Even without Shore and Leonard, and with Ruth in the outfield, Barrow had what seemed to be an impressive pitching staff with Carl Mays, Herb Pennock, Sam Jones, Bush and Ray Caldwell, who had come from the Yankees. On opening day in New York the Red Sox made the odds look good when they crushed the Yankees 10-0 behind Mays. The Mauler, as Ruth was now being called, batted fourth and had two hits, including a home run. Rain canceled the rest of the Yankee series, but when the Red Sox moved on to Washington they won the first two games of the series there, with Ruth contributing a double, two triples and five runs scored.
Everything seemed serene, but it wasn't. With the Red Sox on the road in New York and Washington, Babe had been living it up. He had not been home to Boston since leaving for spring training and had not seen Helen for weeks. In Washington, always his favorite playground, he spent almost no time at all in the room in the Raleigh Hotel he shared with Coach Dan Howley. Howley was supposed to be Ruth's keeper and he had told Barrow, "I'll take care of that guy if I have to put a ring through his nose." But Barrow was well aware that Ruth's ample nose was not easy to ring. He knew Babe was staying out till all hours of the night, and despite Ruth's fine hitting and the club's impressive start he was determined to do something about it. On Monday, April 28, after the Red Sox had won their third straight game of the young season, Barrow sat up in the hotel lobby until well after midnight waiting for his errant star. At four in the morning he gave up and went to bed.
The next afternoon Ruth went hitless and the Red Sox lost. After the game the Babe dressed quickly and hurried off. At the hotel that evening an angry Barrow, raging at his inability to control his youthful star's off-field behavior, sought out the night porter, who would be around the lobby all night long, and asked him if he knew Babe Ruth, the big fellow. The porter nodded.
"All right," Barrow said. He gave the porter a couple of dollars, a substantial tip. "Here. When he comes in tonight, you come to my room and tell me. Wake me up. I don't care what time it is. Wake me up and tell me."
When the knock finally came, it was six in the morning. Barrow climbed out of bed and opened the door.
"That fellow just came in," the porter said.
Barrow nodded grimly and put on his robe and slippers. Ruth and Howley were in a room on the same floor. When Barrow got to their door he saw a crack of light and heard voices. He knocked. The voices stopped, and a moment later the light went out. Barrow rattled the knob angrily, and the door, unlocked, opened. He walked into the room and turned on the light.