On This Day in History | 1920

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Headlines on Jan. 6, 1920 say it all

On this day 93 years ago Babe Ruth hit his first home run as a Yankee in a 6-0 victory over Boston. After going without a long ball in eleven April games, the Sultan of Swat saved his first of 659 Yankee dingers for a matchup with his former club. Herb Pennock, another future Yankee great, took the loss while Bob Shawkey tossed a complete game shutout, allowing just 4 hits.

The Yankees purchased Ruth the previous January in a dubious deal that has yet to be forgotten by the two great cities. Boston’s owner, Harry Frazee, was in debt and facing a demand from his star pitcher for a $10,000 raise.  When Babe Ruth refused to play until he got his raise, Frazee decided to trade him.  Chicago offered Shoeless Joe Jackson and $60,000 while Yankee owners Jack Ruppert and Tillinghast L’Hommedieu Huston countered with a cash deal of $125,000 which the Red Sox readily agreed to. Additionally, the Yankees loaned Boston $300,000 with the mortgage to Fenway Park as collateral.  On January 6th The Boston Globe quoted Frazee:

I should have preferred to take players in exchange for Ruth, but no club could have given me the equivalent in men without wrecking itself, and so the deal had to be made on a cash basis.  No other club could afford to give me the amount the Yankees have paid for him, and I don’t mind saying I think they are taking a gamble.  With this money the Boston club can now go into the market and buy other players and have a stronger and better team in all respects than we would have had if Ruth had remained with us.

Frazee’s prophecy could not have been more off base.  The trade would propel the Yankees to a dynastic rule over baseball and would leave Boston with “The Curse of the Bambino” as they went without a championship for 86 years after trading him.

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