*** On Babe Ruth's Fielding ***



This is MUST-READING for any fan of the Babe.
Don't miss the comments by Christy Mathewson,
Tris Speaker, George Sisler and the long description
of how Ruth fooled Charley Gehringer).


"Most enthusiasts think of Ruth only as a mighty batsman.
As a matter of fact, he is a very finished outfielder
with a marvelous throwing arm. . . Ruth plays a hard-hit ball
as well as any outfielder in the business. He goes after
a ground ball like an infielder, and for all his size
he is a smart and daring base runner."
(Christy Mathewson, Collier's, October 11, 1924, pp.45)

"I have been asked my opinion of great outfielders I have known.
By outfielders I mean solely the ability to play the position
quite apart from batting or base running talent. I will say,
without hesitation, that Babe Ruth is one of the half dozen
greatest outfielders I ever saw. This is aside from his
slugging ability, which is unrivaled, and his base running ability
which is much greater than is commonly supposed.
Purely as an outfielder, Babe will rank among the game's greatest.
He was not always so. When he first shifted from the pitching slab
to the outfield, he did not seem to take his work seriously.
His thoughts were mainly devoted to his batting. No doubt
they still are. But for all that, Babe has become a great outfielder.
He covers a lot of ground, primarily because he plays the batter correctly.
He has a sure pair of hands, a wonderful throwing arm and he always
knows exactly what to do with the ball when he gets it."
(Tris Speaker, Baseball Magazine, October 1928)

"He is really a great outfielder, one of the greatest.
He plays batters correctly, covers a lot more ground than
you'd think he'd be able to do with his bulk,
and has one of the deadliest throwing arms ever known.
Besides, Babe has an accurate baseball judgment and
never throws to the wrong base."
(George Sisler, (Baseball Magazine, April 1931, pp. 484)

"By common consent, Ruth was the hardest hitter of history;
a fine fielder, if not a finished one; an inspired base runner,
seeming to do the right thing without thinking. He had the most
perfect co-ordination of any human animal I ever knew."
(Hugh Fullerton, Chicago sportswriter)

"Ruth could make marvelous catches of fly balls that were
as spectacular in their cleverness as made by any outfielder
playing ball. Especially was this true of those long high flies which,
to a slower man, it would have been impossible to get under."
(John B. Foster (Editor-in-Chief of the Official Spalding Baseball Guide),
1938 Spalding Official Baseball Guide)

"But there also were numerous occasions when the Babe made plays
which he had craftily thought up beforehand. Such as the day
he played left field in Detroit and trapped no less an experienced hand
than Charley Gehringer into thinking a fly ball had cleared the fence
for a homer instead of coming down for an easy out. This was before
the present double deck stands had been erected in what then
was call Navin Field. There was just a board fence in left and
to the Babe one day it occurred that with a runner on second
it could be possible, with a high fly ball hit out toward left,
to fake all the notions of a dejected outfielder who knows a homer
is about to sail over his head. So he bided his time and
one afternoon it came. With Gehringer on second, a high fly soared
out to left. The Babe ran back to the fence, looked up at the ball
for a moment and then with a motion of utter disgust shrugged
his shoulders and cast his eyes on the ground. It was a beautiful piece
of acting and fooled Gehringer completely. Certain the ball was
clearing the fence, the Tiger second baseman headed for home.
And in that same moment Ruth darted forward, got his eyes back
on that ball and caught it some five feet in front of the fence.
Doubling up Gehringer at second was then a simple matter.
Of course, in order to accomplish the trick an outfielder
must be equipped with the gift of being able to take his eye
off the ball for an appreciable length of time. But then
the effervescent Babe Ruth was ever a very gifted hand at anything
he tried on a ball field.
(Ferdinand Cole Lane, Baseball Magazine, 1946)

"Few modern fans may realize it, but Babe Ruth was a great outfielder.
We mean defensively. The Babe rarely dropped a ball he got his glove on
and nobody can remember when he threw to the wrong base.
How did he get that way? Not by sitting around,
watching other outfielders practice."
(Ed Rumill, Baseball Magazine, September 1947)

"As a defensive outfielder he was top-hole despite his great bulk,
and his throwing arm was one of the most feared."
(Shirley Povich, Baseball Digest, March 1959)

". . .Ruth?. . . But he wasn't just a great pitcher and a great hitter,
he was a great outfielder. His throws were very accurate and
he made long throws. He was a good ballplayer. Great ballplayer.
(Joe Wood, interview by Mark Alvarez in 1975 and published in the
Baseball Research Journal, 1987, #16, pp. 54)
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