- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
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- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
"Nobody's going to kill you, Babe. But don't you know you can't go around calling people names like that? What kind of bringing up did you have?"
Ruth hesitated, started to say something, and Barrow interrupted him.
"I'm sorry, Babe, I forgot. I know you had it tough as a kid. But don't you think it's time you straightened out and started living a decent life now? You can't go on the way you've been going."
The contrite Ruth agreed. He asked Barrow if he would lift the suspension and let him play. The manager asked him if he would stop his all-night partying. Ruth said he would but he added that he did not want a keeper following him around. He did not want people checking on him all the time.
"Listen," he suggested. "Suppose I do this. If I promise to leave a note in your box when I come back to the hotel at night, if I put down the exact time I get back, will you lift the suspension? Will you let me play?"
"You mean, you'll tell me the exact time you get in?" Ruth nodded.
"Can I take your word on that?"
"You bet you can," Ruth said fervently. Barrow said all right, and they shook hands on it. For the rest of the season, whenever the Red Sox were on the road Babe would leave notes for Barrow every night. "Dear Eddie," he would write (no one else ever called the majestic Barrow "Eddie"), or "Dear Manager," and then "I got back at 11:30," or "Back at two minutes before midnight." The system worked, and he and Barrow had no more trouble in Boston. In later years Barrow said he never knew whether Ruth lied to him in the notes. "I never checked up on him again," he said. "I took his word."
Despite the peace treaty between Barrow and Ruth—the Babe was back in the lineup the next day—the season was a catastrophe for the Red Sox. They had their good start (four victories and only one defeat the night Barrow and Ruth talked on the train), but after that it was one long decline. The splendid pitching staff sputtered and stalled. Bush started only two games all year. Pennock pitched once during the first six weeks of the season. Jones was out for almost three weeks. Caldwell pitched a couple of fine games and then several bad ones and finally was released. Only Mays was dependable, but the cheerless righthander became increasingly surly as he lost game after game by scores like 1-0, 2-1, 2-0, 3-2. The Red Sox were shut out three straight times in games Mays pitched, and in seven games he started during June they scored a total of eight runs. The team fell into the second division by the third week of May and stayed there the rest of the year, finishing a depressing sixth.
Ruth, too, went into a precipitous slump after his vigorous start and a month into the season was batting .180. He had hit only one home run since opening day, although it was with the bases full, the first time he ever hit a grand-slam homer. It also gave him a pitching victory because Barrow, despite his promise in spring training, asked Ruth to help out on the mound again. Babe filled in for Pennock early in May and won, and in another game relieved Bush when that sore-armed pitcher had to give up in the second inning. Ruth allowed 11 hits in 11 innings of relief but won 6-5. Barrow put him in the regular pitching rotation again, and during the next six weeks Ruth started in turn. He played left field most of the time when he did not pitch, although once in a while the manager would keep him on the bench if a particularly tough lefthander was going for the other team.