Unearthed radio sound from Yankees icon Lou Gehrig helps further one of baseball's most legendary tales: that Babe Ruth called his shot. The Bambino supposedly pointed to the center field fence at Wrigley Field in Game 3 of the 1932 World Series, calling that he'd hit a home run in that direction. As the legend goes, he made good on his word and broke a 4-4 tie in the fifth inning. The Yankees would go on to win the game and the World Series.
This clip comes courtesy of Dan Joseph, author of the Gehrig biography "Last Ride of the Iron Horse: How Lou Gehrig Fought ALS to Play One Final Championship Season," who first heard the audio while researching for his book late last year. He posted the clip onto Twitter on Wednesday.
Did Babe Ruth call his shot #OTD in 1932? Lou Gehrig offers his view in this radio clip aired just a few days later. Unheard for the last 88 years! #MLB #Baseball #History pic.twitter.com/dEQd7n8SWs— Dan Joseph (@danjosephauthor) October 1, 2020
Joseph told MLB.com that he found online references to a radio researcher who had the clip. The clip itself is from the Oct. 6, 1932 episode of "The Fleischmann's Yeast Hour," a popular variety show that bandleader and singer Rudy Vallee hosted on NBC Radio.
If it sounds scripted, it's because it almost certainly is. Joseph notes in a follow-up tweet that almost every major radio program was scripted at the time, even if someone was talking about their lived experience.
"Everybody agreed that the high point of the whole works was Babe's homer in the fifth inning of the third game out in Chicago," Gehrig says in the clip. He then sets the scene of the ravenous Chicago fans in attendance and the heckling Cubs' players on the field. The score was tied, 4-4, and pitcher Charlie Root had Ruth in a 2-2 count.
"So what does he do?" Gehrig continues. "He stands up there and tells the world that he's going to sock that next one. And not only that, but he tells the world right where he's going to sock it, into the center-field stands. A few seconds later, the ball was just where he pointed, in the center-field stands. He called his shot and then made it. I ask you: What can you do with a guy like that?"
Of course, it could very well be that Gehrig, just like Ruth, went with the story a headline in the New York World-Telegram told: "RUTH CALLS SHOT AS HE PUTS HOME RUN NO. 2 IN SIDE POCKET." But if you were to ask Gehrig's biographer himself, he argues that this is evidence that the tall tale is more fact than fiction.
"Until I heard the clip, I doubted it really happened," Joseph told MLB.com. "I thought it was a sportswriter's myth. After hearing Gehrig, who was the on-deck hitter, now I'm inclined to believe that he did it. Gehrig had a reputation for being a very honest, very upright type of person. I don't think he would have said it unless it reflected what he really saw and believed. This is maybe not slam-dunk proof that Ruth called his shot, but it shifts the scale toward the 'yes he did' side."