Part #2: THE 65TH ANNIVERSARY OF BABE RUTH’S GIFT TO YALE
The first column in this two-part set took us back 85 years ago this past April 12th to the dedication of Yale Field in West Haven, and some of what preceded and followed it during that span of years.
Following is the concluding segment of our SportzEdge tribute to this West Haven landmark, in which we will highlight the most famous and historic moment to have occurred there. Ironically, it did not take place during a baseball game but before one even started. It featured a future U.S. President and, arguably, the greatest and most famous player to be known by the baseball and non-baseball world.
The moment that was immortalized in a photo
Over the years photos have circulated and often been published showing the iconic Babe Ruth, holding the stem of a cigar in his right hand, standing on the pitchers’ mound at Yale Field on June 5, 1948. The physically ravaged Sultan of Swat is donating the original black bound manuscript of his book, The Babe Ruth Story, to the Yale library. Accepting it on behalf of the university is its uniformed baseball captain and future U.S. President, George H. W. Bush.
Others in the ceremony were Yale athletic director and renowned swimming coach, Bob Kiphuth, James Babb, the university librarian, and William (Bill) Celentano, the Mayor of New Haven. There are at least two versions of the widely circulated photo, taken seconds apart and almost identical. Some of those that have been published show only Ruth and Bush.
Speaking in an illness-impaired and raspy voice, Ruth said into a microphone that “I’ve been to New Haven many, many times over the years, but this is one of the best times.” Less than 11 weeks later he died at the age of 53.
It is true that he had been to New Haven, as well as Hamden and West Haven, several times to play in exhibition games as a member of the Red Sox, Yankees, or a team of barnstormers. But although his sport was baseball, Ruth was also a football fan. Relatively few know that in 1932 he and his wife were in the Yale Bowl and saw Yale defeat Harvard 19-0 in a driving rainstorm.
Almost 16 years later the Babe was on the other side of Derby Avenue opposite the Bowl. He was at Yale Field to present the text of The Babe Ruth Story, co-written by him and the well-known author and journalist Bob Consadine. The book and movie, in which William Bendix played the role of Ruth, soon followed. Unfortunately, neither was an artistic success.
The ceremony took place after a morning rain had cut down a smaller than expected crowd at that day’s Yale-Princeton game. Afterwards the Babe took a seat along the first base line and joined the gathering, estimated to be 5,000 or 6,000, and including a high percentage of youngsters.
Ruth rose to his feet in the fifth inning when Yale shortstop Artie Moher hit a 390-foot homer into the left field bleachers (which no longer exist), then left with the Bulldogs in front 6-1 on the way to a 14-2 victory.
An indication of the popularity of college baseball in those days is that, in addition to covering Ruth’s appearance, the game to follow was considered important enough in its own right to be reported in detail, along with the box score and the standings of the Eastern Intercollegiate League, in The New York Times.
After the Yale Field appearance
This event turned out to be the penultimate formal public appearance Babe Ruth would ever make. His health rapidly declining, he managed to put on the pinstripes one last time for the 25th anniversary celebration of Yankee Stadium eight days later. There, a touching picture was taken, showing only his back side, leaning on a bat for support. It won a Pulitzer Prize for the photographer, Nat Fein, and is still among the most famous of all sports photos.
On July 26, 1948, Ruth managed to attend the New York premier of his movie, The Babe Ruth Story, based on the same manuscript he had presented at Yale Field only seven weeks earlier. He life ended the following August 16th.
Through this column, SportzEdge hopes to have offered a fitting acknowledgement of the most historic moment at Yale Field, 65 years ago to this day (June 5th).
But like the 85th anniversary of the Field’s dedication earlier this year, this will also probably pass without mention by most, if not all, of our sports media. It would be an indication of just how easy it is to ignore or be unaware of notable events in the past.
And that’s the unfortunate conclusion we must arrive at in this part of our story of Yale Field.