Saturday, April 18, 2015

First Baseball Game Played at Yankee Stadium April 18 1923

On This Day in Baseball History April 18, 1923: Colonel Jacob Ruppert's ballpark in the Bronx opened up for business in front of 74, 200 spectators. The anticipation for the stadium's opening was so intense that 25,000 spectators were turned away. 

Yankees starter Bob Shawkey threw a 3-hitter and as a sign of many to come, George Hermann Ruth aka The Babe hit a home run helping the Yankees defeat the Boston Red Sox 4-1. The article 74,200 SEE YANKEES OPEN NEW STADIUM from the New York Times dated April 18, 1923 described the fateful at-bat by the Babe that could be the impetus for the old Stadium eventually being christened as the House that Ruth Built:
Only one more thing was in demand, and Babe Ruth supplied that. The big slugger is a keen student of the dramatic, in addition to being the greatest home run hitter. He was playing a new role yesterday-not the accustomed one of a renowned slugger, but of a penitent, trying to "come back" after a poor season and a poorer world's series. Before the game he said he would give a year of his life if he could hit a home run in his first game at the new stadium. The Babe was on trial, and he knew it better than anybody.
He could hardly have picked a better time and place for the drive that he hammered into the bleachers in the third inning. The Yankees had just broken a scoreless tie by pushing Shawkey over the plate with one run. Witt was on third base, Dugan was on first, when Ruth appeared at the plate to face Howard Ehmke, the Boston pitcher. Ruth worked the count to two and two, and them Ehmke tried to fool him with one of those slow balls the Giants used successfully in the last world's series.
The ball came in slowly, but left quite rapidly, rising on a line and then dipping suddenly from the force behind it. It struck well inside the foul line, eight or ten rows above the low railing in front of the bleachers, and as Ruth circled the bases he received probably the greatest ovation of his career. The biggest crowd in baseball history rose to its feet and let loose the biggest shout in baseball history. Ruth, jogging over the home plate, grinned broadly, lifted his cap at arm's length and waved it at the multitude.
How bad was Ruth's 1922 season that he needed redemption? In 110 games Ruth batted .315 with 35 homers and 96 RBI. Not too shabby right? So why the drama? Well, consider that in 1920 Ruth hit .376 with 54 homers and 135 RBI and 1921 he hit .378 with 59 homers and 168 RBI. Amazing. I know. Even more amazing was that in both 1920 and 1921, Ruth wasn't the league leader in batting average. George Sisler of the St. Louis Browns led the American League in batting with a .407 average in 1920 and Harry Heilmann hit .394 for the Detroit Tigers in 1921.

Ruth parlayed his opening day home run into a career year where Ruth hit .393 with 41 homers and 130 RBI and his only MVP award. Again, his .393 wasn't good enough to lead the league. Heilmann once again led the league in batting, this time with a .403 batting average.

More important than a batting title for Ruth and the Yankees was the achievement of the franchise's first championship by defeating the cross-town rival New York Giants four games to two in the World Series. In doing so, the Yankees avenged the two consecutive losses to the Giants in the 1920 and 1921 World Series and helped to swing the balance of power in New York City baseball to favor the Yankees.

With that I leave you the box score of that game from the New York Times.

Until Then Keep Playing Ball,
Baseball Sisco