The day Babe Ruth almost left: What if Yankees had let him go?

The Yankees' legendary star Babe Ruth
Amanda Paula
Monday August 28, 2023

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Imagine if the New York Yankees had fired Babe Ruth due to a poor performance on the pitch. The history of the Yanks would have been completely altered. However, this scenario nearly unfolded ninety-eight years ago when the baseball world was shaken by a stunning turn of events involving none other than the legendary Babe Ruth.

Recognized as the quintessential slugger of his era, Babe Ruth’s golden age with the New York Yankees had its highs and lows. Among these, a remarkable and pivotal moment stands out — a moment that would be forever engraved in the annals of baseball history.

Babe Ruth’s suspension and redemption

In the early 20th century, Babe Ruth reigned supreme as the epitome of power-hitting and charisma on the baseball diamond. Yet, his larger-than-life persona was accompanied by a propensity for trouble, both on and off the field. August 29, 1925, marked a fateful Sunday that saw Babe Ruth facing a blow that not only shook the baseball community but also offered a glimpse into the complex persona behind the legendary figure.

On that somber August day, without a word of protest, Babe Ruth obeyed his manager’s order to pack his bags and leave St. Louis, making his way back to New York. The incident led to a suspension that left the baseball world baffled and intrigued. Manager Miller Huggins, without disclosing the specifics of the incident, declared Ruth guilty of “misconduct off the field.”

Questions swirled as the media and fans sought answers. Was it a breach of training rules? Did the term “misconduct” encompass drinking, a common vice in those times? Manager Huggins clarified that the misconduct indeed referred to drinking and various other forms of unacceptable behavior. Ruth’s behavior had strayed from the path of discipline and self-care that was expected of him.

Huggins didn’t mince his words: “I am disciplining him for general misconduct off the ball field, detrimental to the best interests of the club during this present road trip.” The Yankees had already been forgiving of Ruth’s lackluster performance on the field, attributing it to illness. However, his behavior during the road trip had pushed the boundaries of patience, leading to fines and suspension.

Speculation and rumors ran rife as the baseball world tried to decipher the exact nature of Ruth’s misdeeds. The news was met with disbelief by fans and fellow players alike. Babe Ruth, the larger-than-life hero, was human after all. The incident marked a turning point in his career, leaving a cloud of uncertainty hanging over his future.

As the hours ticked by, it became clear that Babe Ruth’s suspension was not just a fluke but a serious decision by Manager Huggins. Ruth’s absence from the lineup on the day of the game sent shockwaves through the baseball community. However, Ruth’s response to the suspension displayed an unexpected level of nonchalance. Witnesses at the Buckingham Hotel reported that he left with a smile on his face, leaving no forwarding address.

However, just as the storm of speculation was at its height, Babe Ruth’s fate took an unforeseen turn. In a surprising twist, Ruth’s suspension was lifted on September 7, merely a week after his suspension. Manager Huggins called him back to the team, signaling a redemption that nobody had seen coming.

Babe Ruth’s return marked an end to the chapter of turmoil, but not without its own share of drama. The manager accepted Ruth’s apology and reinstated him, with one exception — the hefty $5000 fine would stand. The slugger took it all in stride, agreeing to accompany the team to Boston, where he would face the mighty Red Sox once more.

As Ruth rejoined the team for the doubleheader against the Red Sox, the baseball world held its breath. The prodigious slugger, known for his awe-inspiring home runs, was back in action. The suspense was palpable as the Yankees faced their arch-rivals. Babe Ruth, in his signature charismatic manner, made his presence felt.

In the midst of anticipation, Ruth and Huggins had a moment. The manager’s acceptance of Babe Ruth’s apology and his decision to lift the suspension marked a turning point in the slugger’s career. Though Ruth was not eligible to play that day, the announcement was enough to ignite a sense of redemption and recommitment.

As history has shown, Babe Ruth’s saga of suspension and redemption became a footnote in his storied career. The $ 5,000 fine and the suspension were eclipsed by his subsequent triumphs on the baseball field. Ruth’s legacy as a larger-than-life figure, complete with his flaws and moments of reckoning, endures as a testament to the complex nature of sports heroes.

Ninety-eight years after that fateful August day, the story of Babe Ruth’s suspension and subsequent return reminds us that even the mightiest can falter, but redemption is always within reach. The baseball world may have witnessed a moment of weakness in Babe’s journey, but it also witnessed the strength of character that led to his ultimate redemption.

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