June 12, 2004

October 9, 1916. In 1916, Red Sox pitcher Babe Ruth won 23 games with an American League-leading 1.75 ERA. He set a new record for lefties with nine shutouts (it would be tied in 1978 by Ron Guidry). Ruth allowed the fewest hits per nine innings (opponents batted .199 against him), was second in winning percentage and third in wins, innings pitched and strikeouts. Boston met the Brooklyn Dodgers (or Robins, after their manager Wilbert Robinson) in the World Series. From my book "Babe Ruth and the 1918 Red Sox":
Dark clouds hung over Braves Field before Game Two on October 9, 1916, as 41,373 fans watched one of the greatest battles in World Series history. It was Ruth’s first World Series start and the crowd was roaring from the first pitch. Hy Myers hit an inside-the-park home run in the first inning, but Boston tied the game in the third when Everett Scott tripled and scored on Ruth’s ground ball. Brooklyn’s Sherry Smith struggled as the game went on, but Boston couldn’t break the 1-1 tie.

In the fifth, Chet Thomas was awarded third base on a hotly contested interference call against Brooklyn shortstop Ivy Olson. Batting with two outs, Ruth looked at strike one, then whiffed on the next two. Babe kept the game scoreless in the eighth by covering home plate during a rundown and sustained a bloody nose after a collision with Dodger Mike Mowrey. Then Ruth retired the next batter by leaping straight up to snare a high bouncer and throwing to first.

Ruth retired the Dodgers in order in the ninth. He gave up a two-out walk in the tenth, and was perfect in the eleventh and twelfth innings. A Brooklyn runner reached base on an error to open the thirteenth, but was stranded at first. In the fourteenth, the Dodgers went down on only nine pitches and when Boston finally scored a run in the bottom half, Ruth completed the marathon, throwing 147 pitches for a 2-1 win. Over the final seven innings, Ruth allowed no hits and only one walk. The game is still the longest World Series contest by innings.

Boston split the next two games in Brooklyn, then returned home, where Ernie Shore’s three-hitter gave the Red Sox its second straight championship. New York sportswriter Hugh Fullerton suggested that since the American League had won six of the last seven titles, the World Series should be abolished, as the National League was too weak. ...
According to Marshall Smelser (his book "The Life That Ruth Built" is an excellent biography of Ruth, overshadowed by Robert Creamer's "Babe: The Legend Comes To Life"), the 147 pitches Ruth threw broke down like this: 54 balls and 93 strikes (47 swinging or called, 5 foul balls, 6 hits, 23 ground outs, 12 fly outs). Smelser says the most pitches Babe threw in an inning was 16, the fewest was 8; in six of the 14 innings, he needed only 9 pitches each. ... However, the Boston Traveller reported that both Ruth and Smith finished the game with a pitch count of 148.

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