Babe Ruth, indeed, played in York in 1928
Babe Ruth’s autograph is shown on a piece of Hotel Penn stationary owned by West Manchester Township resident Jason Showvaker in 2006. Showvaker obtained the stationery from another collector. Background posts: Story answers much about great athlete Hinkey Haines, including origin of his nickname and York turned its eyes to Joe DiMaggio and Adding to York baseball timeline: Revs ready for ‘second helping’.
Jim Fickes (firstname.lastname@example.org) e-mailed to explore a claim from his father that Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig played baseball at White Oak Park.
His late grandfather saw them play there.
“I saw your article which included a picture of the park from July of 1945. Was any baseball ever played there? Whatever info you could provide would be appreciated,”
We’ll turn the question of the Babe’s appearance at the White Oak Park ballfield, north of York, to any fans out there to respond.
Here’s some help.
York Daily Record columnist Jim Hubley wrote an account in 1995 of the Babe’s visit to Eagles Park for the game that Jim Fickes’ grandfather probably recalled:
It was inevitable. I was not surprised; I knew it was going to happen. When stories began popping up on sports pages about Babe Ruth’s 100th birthday, and plans for special observances of the event in Baltimore, I anticipated there would be telephone calls.
There were. It’s the cross I bear for having spent most of my long tenure with this newspaper as sports editor. But I’m glad fans still remember and delighted when they call seeking sports information, particularly if it’s about my all-time favored sports personality, Babe Ruth.
The fans asked: “Did you ever see the Babe play?” “Did you ever interview him?” “Was he ever in York?” And (I was stunned), “Did he ever appear at Sports Night?” That last question quite obviously was from a younger fan and I supplied the answer as graciously as possible without embarrassing the chap. To my knowledge Babe Ruth never was at a Sports Night since, as a matter of record, he had passed away 16 years before the initial Sports Night was held.
Before hanging up, the same youth asked, “Well, did you ever get his autograph?” As a matter of fact I did get his autograph and I did see him play, both in regular major league games (and) right here in York.
What I never had the opportunity to do was interview him. By the time I got into sports communications Ruth had retired from baseball and our paths never crossed. To the best of my knowledge, Babe Ruth never was in York after that cloudy, drizzly spring day in 1928.
That was the day I got his autograph. I still retain possession of the ball although the signature cannot be seen. The reason is not a cop-out but a wash-out. There were no ball-point pens in 1928, at least I didn’t have one. Ruth signed the ball with an ink pen. I tried to cover it from the rain but the ink ran off and Babe left before I could get a second. Without the autograph the ball didn’t mean much, so I used it until it was scuffed, dirtied and battered beyond use.
Oft times during the past half century the lady who does my housekeeping has tried to dispose of “that dirty baseball.” By now she has become resigned to the fact she would have to go first. About that Sunday afternoon of May 27, 1928, I remember it well. Sunday baseball was not allowed in Philadelphia in that era of Blue Law restrictions. The Yankees of 1927, then as well as now, were recognized as the best team ever in baseball. Riding high in that early part of 1928, the Yankees were in Philadelphia for an important six-game series.
However, they could not play on Sunday. So the York club of the New York-Pennsylvania League managed to snare the Yankees for an exhibition game in York at old Eagles Park. Imagine any major league team doing that today. York fans were fearful not all the Yankees would show. But they did with only one regular missing the contest.
The New York team, quartered in Philadelphia, bussed here. They arrived around noon and set up headquarters at the Penn Hotel. The squad dressed there, returned after the game, changed clothes, had a big meal featuring illegal York County beer and then returned to the Quaker city. When the team arrived at Eagles Park, Ruth was first off the bus. He greeted his fans, including a host of kids such as myself, and promised to talk to us after the game.
Ruth hit a home run as the Yankees crushed the White Roses, 9-2. Rain threatened but held off until shortly after the contest ended but not before Ruth kept his word and held court along the first base side. That’s when and where I got the washed-out autograph.
Later I saw Ruth and the Yankees play several times against the old Philadelphia Athletics at Shibe Park. It was in Philadelphia I saw him for the last time, just several months before he passed on. Babe was being wheeled to catch a train while my family and I were en route to Atlantic City. He was only a wasted shadow and it was sad, very sad.
But I wonder how many of today’s major leaguers will be honored on the 100th anniversary of their birthday?
Also of interest:
– York City Police Blue Coats played baseball at Penn Park’s stadium to raise funds for uniforms.
– From Penn Park field to Sovereign Bank Stadium, York-area baseball fans have heard ‘Play ball’ .
– Remembering York/Adams major leaguers.
– York County sports a miniature Cooperstown..