To this day, I remember the comment.
“Mike, you have a great face for radio!”
I don’t think that was a compliment. However, that was the way I was greeted by station manager Larry Bornacelli when I was hosting a weekly sports talk radio show back in 1994 in West Palm Beach, FL.
The feature of my show was a telephone interview with a sports personality, and Larry’s interest was piqued when I told him I would be interviewing the last living, on the field witness to Babe Ruth’s famous called shot in the 1932 World Series.
To refresh your memory, In the fifth inning of game 3, of the 1932 World Series, Babe Ruth, with two strikes against him, pointed to the centerfield bleachers and hit the next pitch to the deepest part of centerfield stands, exactly where he pointed. The home run put the Yankees ahead as they would sweep the Cubs in four games.
Elwood George English, at age 88, was clear and coherent when I interviewed him that evening.
He was also very angry.
‘Woody” English was in the prime of a 12 year major league career and playing third base that day when Ruth came to bat.
“ It all started with bad feelings between the two teams,” said English. “ In the middle of the year our shortstop Billy Jurges was hurt, and we brought up Mark Keonig, who had previously played for the New York Yankees. Keonig was a favorite of the Babe’s, and for whatever reason, we did not vote a full share of World Series money to him for his contributions.”
According to English, this infuriated Ruth and Yankee teammates that knew and liked Keonig.
The bench talk was going back and forth between the the two teams in every game, even during batting practice. As related by English, the language was ugly and profane.
At third base, English was in perfect position to witness every moment when Ruth came to the plate in the third game.
“We had Charlie Root on the mound, and I’m telling you, if Ruth had pointed to centerfield, Charlie would have put the next pitch in his ear. What he [Ruth] did was hold up a finger saying that after two strikes, he still had one strike left.”
Not in dispute is that Babe Ruth hit the next pitch at least 440 feet to the deepest part of the ballfield near the flagpole. The Yankees would win the game 7-5. A sportswriter would immortalize his gesture, and the next day the Babe would be asked, “ Did you really call your shot?”
The Babe, by this time, very skilled in handling the media, said, “You read it in the newspapers, didn’t you?”
You can Google the old back and white film, read the statements and make up your own mind. Was it a gesture or a direct point, an indication of intent.
I am a believer. The game of baseball needs the lore and legend: the stories handed down to sons and daughters. The show that night brought our highest number of listener calls, both pro and con.
They agreed on one thing. I did, indeed, have a great face for radio.