SI Vault
Gerald Holland
December 21, 1959
The letter below was sent by a man with the elegant name of Tillinghast L'Hommedieu Huston to the secretary of baseball's National Commission more than 45 years ago. It was destined to have a profound effect on the life and times of this young man, then a pitcher for the Red Sox. With the never-before-published documents reproduced here and on the pages following, a rich, colorful baseball era is vividly recreated.
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December 21, 1959

The Babe Ruth Papers

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Frazee did not give Ruth up without qualms. He hurried back to Boston and conferred with his general manager, Ed Barrow. Barrow told him that if he absolutely had to have cash, then the thing to do was to get all he could and forget about asking for any players in the deal. "The Yankees," said Barrow, "haven't got anybody I'd want on the Red Sox."

That was fine with Frazee. What he wanted was money to pay actors—not more ballplayers to be paid. So he told Colonel Ruppert he could have Ruth for $125,000, providing he took a $350,000 mortgage on the Boston ball park. The colonel reached for his checkbook.

Now, at the time, baseball experts agreed that Ruth's 29 home runs in 1919 represented a feat unlikely to be duplicated (even by Ruth) ever again. But to show their confidence in the Babe, Ruppert and his partner, Tillinghast L'Hommedieu Huston, promptly doubled the $10,000 salary Frazee had paid him at Boston.

Ruth responded by hitting 54 homers in 1920, and in so doing he did more than fill the parks. He blasted away all the skepticism created by the disclosures that some members of the Chicago White Sox had conspired to throw the World Series.

Ruth's public appearances in uniform were models of technical perfection and faultless deportment. But his private life was soon giving Ruppert and Huston concern. Ruth's contract for 1922 (see below) contained a no-drinking clause which the Babe was happy to accept and quick to ignore. Spring training was one long romp for Ruth and his teammates (YANKEES TRAINING ON SCOTCH, read a New York newspaper headline). While the season was still young, the Yankee owners, who by now had brought Ed Barrow down from Boston to be their general manager, engaged a private detective to gather evidence about the nocturnal shenanigans (there was no night baseball then) of Ruth and the team.

The detective was a maneen named Jimmy Kelly. He joined the club in St. Louis, and by offering the players seemingly infallible tips on the horses he soon ingratiated himself with them. When Jimmy enticed a few of the boys up to his hotel room and invited them to share his unlimited stocks of Prohibition beer and booze, his popularity soared still higher. The players actually demanded that he accompany the team to Chicago. It was in Chicago that Jimmy proposed a trip to a brewery in Joliet where he happily called for a group picture (he had conveniently brought along a photographer). When the prints were ready, he suggested that all hands autograph one copy so that he might keep it as a souvenir. It was the signed print that he dispatched, along with other evidence of Yankee high jinks, to Ruppert and Huston. They promptly forwarded Kelly's packet (over the protest of Ed Barrow) to Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis in Chicago, and that rolling stone of righteousness hastened to Boston and confronted the ballplayers in the clubhouse there.

The tongue-lashing by the baseball commissioner affected Babe Ruth not at all. The year was not one of his better ones, however. He hit only 35 home runs (a drop from 59 in 1921), and in 1925 he slumped to 25. This was the year of Babe's nadir as a Yankee. It was also the year of his climactic row with his manager, Miller Huggins. More incongruous feudists could not be imagined: Ruth the big bear of a man, Huggins the skinny little scrap of a fellow who did not seem to be able to find a uniform small enough to fit him. Together, they looked like a premature version of the movie comedy team of Laurel and Hardy.

Ruth, along about this time, was a law unto himself. He roomed alone, and more than once took a suite in a hotel at some distance from the team's headquarters. He rode to the ball park in splendid solitude while his teammates went five to a cab.

He could drink all night and show up at the ball park looking bright-eyed and refreshed. Perhaps, in this condition, he would hit one or two over the wall. But he was scarcely a comfort to his manager, and when, during a series in St. Louis in August 1925, he was gone for a whole night (as house guest of a local acquaintance), Huggins was unable to contain his exasperation any longer. When Ruth finally showed up in the clubhouse at Sportsman's Park and started to put on his uniform, Huggins slapped a $5,000 fine on his problem child and suspended him for "general misconduct off the ball field."

Ruth seemed to be genuinely amazed that he had done anything out of the ordinary. But he could take no satisfaction from a statement issued by Ban Johnson, president of the American League. Said Johnson:

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