Shirley Povich wrote about sports for The Washington Post for 75 years, until the day he died at 92--June 4, 1998. With the 20th century drawing to a close, a review of Povich's columns from the past seven decades provides a picture of the people and events that dominated the century of sports in America. With great pleasure, we'll present some of these columns, continuing today with Povich's column of Oct. 1, 1934, on Babe Ruth's final game as a member of the New York Yankees against the Washington Senators --a onetime member of the American League--at Griffith Stadium.
The Babe bowed out yesterday.
The end of a 22-year trail, strewn with records fashioned by his bludgeoning bat, greeted Babe Ruth at Griffith Stadium where 12,000 assembled to watch the King of Diamonds abdicate. It was his last game as a regular with the Yankees, a voluntary relinquishment of his post.
Babe bowed out as a loser, what with the Yankees dropping a 5-3 decision to the Nats, but no single defeat could mar the memory of the Big Fellow's deeds of the past, which, after all, were the excuse for the party.
Belongs to Ruth
Nor did the fact that Ruth's potent bat failed to ram even as much as a single to the outfield terrain against Washington's rookie pitching, cloud Washington's tribute to the Big Fellow. The show belonged to Ruth, as fans who turned out for the ball game, as meaningless as an icicle in Little America, attested.
Those pipestem legs carried the great hulk of a man that is Ruth down the first base line for the last time in a regular role. That waddling sprint that has become his curiously mincing steps now were to be lost to baseball's daily menu. That robust swing was being framed in its natural setting for the final time.
School Band Plays
But yesterday, in his mind's eye, he saw his own humble beginning as baseball's big shot. There at home plate in the pregame ceremonies was the St. Mary's Industrial School Band, of Baltimore, rendering the same airs that the Big Fellow heard as a lad before he fared forth from the same orphanage to make his way in baseball.
With bared heads, the players of both teams stood at the plate as the Big Fellow was presented with a parchment of thousands of signatures of his admirers in Washington and environs, their tribute to this man whose home run feats rocketed baseball into unprecedented heights.
The Big Fellow spoke his appreciation into the amplifiers. He said:
"It is with great satisfaction that I receive this from the fans of Washington. I've always considered the Washington fans my best friends. And this touching tribute is something I shall cherish as long as I live and one thing I want my family to cherish for generations to come.
"I hope to play baseball as long as I am able to be of use to my team, perhaps two or three times a week next season."
And then he went into the ball game. But no semblance of a base hit bounced off his lusty bat. The rookie pitcher, Orville Armbrust, retired him in the first inning on a fly to center field. On his next appearance he was walked. A harmless grounder to Buddy Myer, he drilled on his third trip to the plate. Came the seventh, one man on base and the Yankees trailing by two runs.
Thomas Is Sent In
Acting Manager Schacht withdrew the rookie Armbrust, sending in Al Thomas to face the Big Fellow. Perhaps Schacht did not want Ruth's regular career to end on the sour note of a base on balls that Armbrust might give him. Anyway, Thomas flung a suspicious-looking pitch down the alley to the Babe. Away it went, taking the long route to deep center field, where Jake Powell gathered it in.
With that, Ruth doffed his cap, waved a farewell to his admirers, and dashed to the dressing room. It was finis.
The shadow that has been enveloping Ruth in the final years of his playing career, Lou Gehrig's own potent bat, yesterday lengthened even more ominously. Ruth was the nominal hero yesterday, but the actual heroics were performed by the man who gradually has usurped his home-run throne. Lou Gehrig smashed out his forty-ninth home run of the season, slammed a single and a double, extended his record of consecutive games to 1,504, won the batting championship of the league and the honor of driving in more runs than any other player this season.
Score Five in Fifth
In one uproarious assault against Red Ruffing, the Nats won the ball game, blasting a 2-0 Yankee lead out of being with a five-run splurge in the fifth inning.
Johnny Stone was the hero of the uprising, delivering a triple to the right field wall over the head of the helpless Ruth and driving three runs across the plate.
Young Armbrust held that lead, with a six-hit game in his possession going into the eighth inning, after parceling out single runs to the Yanks in three different innings. Thomas, who relieved him in the eighth, saw the game sealed in the ninth when Bluege started a double play on Heffner's grounder.
But that ball game had been only an anticlimax. Unlike Hamlet, the Babe, not the play, was the thing.