Early footage of Babe Ruth vs. Walter Johnson


USC Moving Image Research Collections Screenshot

Tom Shieber of the fascinating Baseball Researcher blog recently reviewed some footage from the University of South Carolina’s Moving Image Research Collections and found a gem of a clip from June 1, 1925.

Babe Ruth is easily recognizable, Walter Johnson less so without his three arms. Lou Gehrig makes a cameo over Ruth’s right shoulder starting at the 2:15 mark in the video below from last night’s Olbermann.

As Shieber notes, Fox Movietone probably dispatched a cameraman to Yankee Stadium because Ruth was making his season debut after undergoing surgery for the “bellyache heard ’round the world.” The Bambino walked and grounded out twice in three plate appearances, but the game would come to take on even greater significance for Gehrig’s appearance as a pinch hitter against Johnson in the eighth inning.

Gehrig, who hadn’t appeared in a game in four days, flied out against the Big Train, who improved to 8-2 and lowered his ERA to 2.79 in the Senators’ 5-3 win. It would mark the first of Gehrig’s then-record 2,130 consecutive games played. He started the next day in place of Wally Pipp and the rest was pre-Cal Ripken history.

Shieber, who has come across footage in his research with dates that don’t match the action, explains how he confirmed that this find is in fact from June 1, 1925.

At one point in the footage, with the count 2-and-1 on Ruth, we see the Senators catcher receive a pitch from Johnson (ball three) and then quickly fire the ball toward the infield. His throw is nothing like his normal, leisurely tosses back to Johnson. It is clearly a throw to second base. This corroborates perfectly with the play-by-play from the June 1 contest which notes that, during Ruth’s at bat, Combs tried to steal second, but was retired: catcher Muddy Ruel throwing to shortstop Roger Peckinpaugh for the putout. A perfect match between footage and play-by-play There’s no question that we’re seeing Ruth’s sixth-inning at bat on June 1, 1925.

Scott Allen writes about all things DC sports. Follow him on Twitter @ScottSAllen or e-mail him if you’ve got a tip to share.
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