I choose the years in this Any Ol’ Game pandemic series pretty much at random. I purposely don’t read all those “This Day In Baseball” posts. I don’t want anything special to get in my way – I want to find a game that’s so ordinary it’s been pretty much forgotten. I want to find the beauty in that unsung game.
The date is always the day that I post. Simple enough. But, sometimes strange things happen when I choose a year.
Very strange things.
Maybe I don’t pick the games after all. Maybe they pick me.
May 25, 1935, a Saturday, was any ol’ day.
I was more interested in discovering what was going on in Ann Arbor that day at the Big 10 Championships where a 21-year-old Ohio State track and field star named Jesse Owens would set five world records and equal another in a span of 45 minutes.
3:15 p.m. – At 9.4 seconds, Owens equals the world record in the 100 Yard Dash
3:25 p.m. – Owens sets a world record with a 8.13 meter long jump
3:34 p.m. – Owens sets, in 20.3 seconds, two world records (in yards and meters) in the 220 yard/200 meter dash
4:00 p.m. – Owens sets, in 22.6 seconds, two world records (in yards and meters) in the 220 yard/200 meter low hurdles
While most of us know Owens from his Olympics heroics in 1936, his accomplishments between 3:15 p.m. and 4:00 p.m. on May 25, 1935 are known by many as the greatest 45 minutes ever in sports history.
(The day’s reports had yet to recognize Owens’ two additional “meters” records in the 200 meter and 200 meter low hurdles races.)
That Owens did all this with a back injury so severe that he could barely bend over and touch his knees and his coach nearly pulled him from the event, makes it all the more remarkable.
Surely, one historic sporting event is enough for a single day like this.
But, what about baseball that day? Let’s go with the National League again for this installment of “Any Ol’ Game” and two teams that haven’t yet played in our pandemic series. That’s my informal system – the NL deserves another game, here are some teams I haven’t covered.
Boston Braves at Pittsburgh Pirates
Perfect! Here are two teams with not a lot to show for themselves in 1935, mired toward the bottom of the standings – the Pirates at 19-17 in 5th place on May 25, the Braves at 8-20 in 8th … dead last.
Neither team would threaten the leaders, although the Pirates would improve enough to move into 4th place by season’s end. The Braves would finish the season 38-115, a .248 win percentage which shows that not only did the Braves not improve, they proceeded to get even worse as the season wore on. They are considered one of the worst teams in baseball history.
This is exactly – exactly – the kind of Any Ol’ Game I look for … games that don’t go down in record books, that don’t get recapped and replayed and rehashed.
An any ol’ game that feels a bit new because of its forgottenness.
But, then this.
This isn’t any ol’ game. It’s one of those “for the ages” games … exactly the kind I’m trying to avoid.
(You baseball savants who carry reams of stats and dates engraved on your brain probably knew this all along. To be honest, I’m a little annoyed with your smarts right now.)
Well, if someone is going to foul up my Any Ol’ Game pandemic series with his Ruthian exploits, it might as well be Babe Ruth himself.
The 40-year-old Ruth, traded from the Yankees in the off season, was finishing out his career with the Braves. He was hoping that it would lead to a manager’s position.
The Braves were in financial trouble, and Ruth – even an aging, aching, hobbled Ruth – could bring in the dough. The Braves had no designs on being a good team in 1935 and Ruth had just one job to do as far as the front office was concerned: bring in the fans.
Let’s cut to the chase.
On Saturday, May 25, 1935, Babe Ruth hit three home runs and a single that accounted for six of the Braves seven runs. A Ruthian feat, true, but not enough to beat the Pirates, who won 11-7.
These three home runs were the final three in Babe Ruth’s 714-home run career.
The first went into the right field lower deck. The second was lifted into the right field upper deck.
And, the third one, the last of his career, was a home run for the ages in a game for the ages – it soared over the right field roof and out of Forbes Field in Pittsburgh, the first home run to ever clear the park. It landed in a neighbor’s yard.
Because, of course it did.
That ball is on display at the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown.
“Ruth’s batting feat so stirred the crowd of more than 10,000 fans that the spectators regarded the ultimate Pirate victory as a decided anti-climax,” the Pittsburgh Sun-Telegraph reported.
Ruth would play his last major league game five days later. He retired on June 2.
In 1938, he was hired as first base coach for the Dodgers. He left at the end of the season and never got the chance to manage a team.
But … hey, wait. Don’t go.
Is there anything – anything – from this game left to cover?
Well, we could give the day’s only other home run its due. That’s only fair, right?
The Pirates had a home run, too.
It was a three-run shot in the 5th by infielder Floyd “Pep” Young – playing in place of an ailing Pie Traynor.
In his 10 major league seasons, Young would hit 32 home runs. This was his first.
Mostly known for his defense, Young is the kind of guy who makes a difference at the time (he finished 14th in MVP voting in 1938) but then is sort of forgotten.
Babe Ruth can’t say that.