Babe Ruth vs Landis

At the time of Landis’s appointment as commissioner, it was common for professional baseball players to supplement their pay by participating in postseason “barnstorming” tours, playing on teams which would visit smaller cities and towns to play games for which admission would be charged. Since 1911, however, players on the two World Series teams had been barred from barnstorming.  The rule had been indifferently enforced—in 1916, several members of the champion Red Sox, including pitcher George Herman “Babe” Ruth had barnstormed and had been fined a token $100 each by the National Commission.

Ruth had asked Yankees general manager Ed Barrow for permission to barnstorm. Barrow had no objection but warned Ruth he must obtain Landis’s consent.  Landis biographer Spink, who was at the time the editor of The Sporting News, stated, “I can say that Ruth knew exactly what he was doing when he defied Landis in October, 1921. He was willing to back his own popularity and well-known drawing powers against the Judge.”  Ruth, to the commissioner’s irritation, did not contact Landis until October 15, one day before the first exhibition. When the two spoke by telephone, Landis ordered Ruth to attend a meeting with him; Ruth refused, stating that he had to leave for Buffalo for the first game. Landis angrily refused consent for Ruth to barnstorm, and after slamming down the receiver, is recorded as saying, “Who the hell does that big ape think he is? That blankety-blank! If he goes on that trip it will be one of the sorriest things he has ever done.”  By one account, Yankees co-owner Colonel Tillinghast Huston attempted to dissuade Ruth as he departed, only to be told by the ballplayer, “Aw, tell the old guy to jump in a lake.

 

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