By June 20 he had won five games and lost two, but he was not pitching well. When Washington routed him 8-3 on June 25, Barrow let him go back to being a full-lime outfielder. For one thing, Babe's batting had picked up sensationally. His average soared from .180 to .325 in less than a month, and he was beginning to hit home runs again. For another, it was obvious even to the competitive Barrow that the Red Sox were irrevocably out of the pennant race. Since Ruth was the only gate attraction the Red Sox had, he might as well concentrate on hitting and play every day.
Along with his homers, Ruth made headlines early in June when he twisted his knee sliding into third base and was carried off the field. Again, he was back in the lineup in a day or so. And again, he hit a home run the day he returned, which brought more headlines. The fans began to dote on his idiosyncrasies, such as the way he would hold up his bat and look at it in wonder when he missed or did no more than tip a foul back to the screen. One day after striking out he banged his bat on the ground so hard that he cracked the handle. It was a favorite bat, so he kept it and meticulously repaired it with tape and small nails, which was technically against the rules. Later, when he was in a slump, he gave it to Harry Hooper. His strikeouts were almost as interesting as his homers. "When Ruth misses a swipe at the ball," a newspaperman wrote, "the stands quiver." And, of a dull game, "Waiting for Ruth to come to bat was about all the interest the crowd worked up in the first eight innings."
The sportswriters picked up the title of a popular love song called Along Came Ruth
and used the phrase freely in their copy, particularly in descriptions of dramatic situations when the Babe came to bat. One such moment occurred in June in a game against the Yankees in New York. The Red Sox were behind 4-1 in the eighth inning but they put two men on base—and along came Ruth. A home run would mean three runs and a tie score, so the Yankees brought in Bob Shawkey, their best pitcher. When Shawkey struck Ruth out, the big Saturday-afternoon crowd cheered ecstatically, tossed hats in the air and threw programs on the field. But a couple of days later Ruth faced Shawkey again, this time with the bases full, and he hit his second grand slam of the year.
On July 5 he hit two home runs in one game for the first time in his career, and a week later hit homers in successive games to bring his total for the year to 11, equaling his 1918 mark. And he kept right on going. On July 18 against Cleveland he again hit two in one game, and the second was typically melodramatic. It came in the ninth inning with the bases loaded and the Red Sox behind 7-4, giving Boston an 8-7 victory and so angering Cleveland Owner James Dunn that he fired Manager Lee Fohl and replaced him with Tris Speaker. Three days later Babe hit the longest homer ever seen in Detroit, and three days after that hit a two-run homer in Boston that gave the Red Sox a 4-3 win. On July 29 he hit yet another, his ninth of the month and 16th of the season, which tied the American League record set in 1902 by Ralph (Socks) Seybold.
During this sensational streak Ruth returned to pitching on a regular basis for the last time in his career. Again, it was to help out in an emergency, this one caused by the defection of Carl Mays. Mays had become increasingly bitter about the poor batting support he was receiving, and on July 13 in Chicago he walked out on a game after pitching two innings. Barrow soon discovered that Mays did not intend to pitch anymore for the Red Sox. He went to Boston, picked up his belongings and left town. The stubborn pitcher had jumped the club, and Barrow and Frazee had a hasty telephone conference. The Red Sox should have suspended Mays at once, but if he were suspended he could not be sold or traded, and a sale is what Frazee had in mind. His likely customer was Jacob Ruppert, president of the New York Yankees.
"Don't do anything," Frazee warned Barrow. "I might be able to work out something with Ruppert."
Unsuspended, Mays became the focus of attention. Here was a superb pitcher dissatisfied with a club whose owner needed money. Alert to the situation, Ban Johnson, the league president, warned the seven other American League clubs not to deal with the Red Sox for the pitcher. But Ruppert, his partner, Colonel Tillinghast L'Hommedieu Huston, and his business manager, Harry Sparrow, went from New York to Boston and met with Frazee and Barrow when the Red Sox returned from their Western swing. A week later it was announced that Mays had been sent to the Yankees for Pitcher Allan Russell, a second player of little value, and $40,000 in cash. It was one of the biggest cash transactions baseball had ever had. It also came very near to destroying the American League, and it was a major factor leading to the selection of Kenesaw Mountain Landis as High Commissioner of Baseball.
Johnson refused to approve the trade, saying that the Boston club should have suspended the player. He declared Mays suspended by league order for the rest of the season. Ruppert and Huston immediately went into court in New York and obtained a temporary injunction against Johnson. This freed Mays to pitch for the Yankees, and from Aug. 7 to the end of the season he won nine games for them (and 26 the next year and 27 the year after that). Nonetheless, the hassle went on. Chicago joined New York and Boston in challenging Johnson's authority while five clubs supported him. Ruppert continued to attack the league president, who was under severe criticism for arbitrary decisions he had made and for reports, later confirmed, that he had invested $60,000 of his own money in the Cleveland Indians.
" Johnson will be put out of baseball," Ruppert promised. Most baseball men were dissatisfied with the unwieldy three-man national commission that was governing the game, and there had been a movement for some years to name an impartial, non-baseball man as permanent chairman and executive head of the commission ( Judge Landis was the most frequently mentioned candidate). Johnson fought this proposal, but the rift that appeared in his league after the Mays affair brought about his downfall. Before the year was out the three rebel clubs joined with the eight National League teams and threatened to form a new league. Faced with the destruction of the American League, Johnson was forced to back down, and an agreement was reached that led to the dissolution of the old three-man commission and the appointment a little more than a year later (just after news broke about the Black Sox scandal) of Landis as the supreme ruler of baseball.
In July 1919 all that Babe Ruth knew or cared about this was that Mays was gone and he had to take his place while continuing to play in the outfield on the days he did not pitch. His ordeal lasted only a couple of weeks this time (he started three games and lost two of them), for on July 31 the 19-year-old Waite Hoyt joined the Red Sox. He took Ruth's place in the starting rotation and won his first game 2-1 in 12 innings. Ruth, as though in gratitude for being relieved of his burden, helped the young pitcher with four hits in six at bats. Hoyt became a regular starter, and for the rest of his career, except for a few scattered pitching appearances for publicity reasons, Ruth was an outfielder.