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The season started nicely for Boston, with back-to-back shutouts (the only other season they started that way was 1940), but by May 22 they had a losing record and never saw .500 again. For a team which had enjoyed such success in the decade, it was embarrassing to plunge all the way to sixth place. They hadn’t been below .500 since 1908. On June 29, Carl Mays again threw two games in one day, this time winning the first one and losing the second. A couple of weeks earlier, Herb Pennock had thrown a shutout, pitching to the minimum 27 batters, but it wasn’t that close to a no-hitter: he’d actually been touched for three singles and a walk (it’s just that every one of the four was thrown out as a baserunner. Babe Ruth hit the first grand slam of his career on May 20, and then hit three more before the season was over. Ruth was used less frequently as a pitcher, starting 15 games. Most of the rest of the time, he played outfield and hit 29 homers by the end of the year (nine more than the 20 he’d hit in all five prior seasons put together). Ruth had set a new major-league record with the 29; all Ruth’s teammates taken together hit four. It was abundantly clear he had become a force to be reckoned with. Ruth also led the team in batting in runs, with 114 (almost double second-ranking Stuffy McInnis, who drove in 58). He led the league in RBIs, too, and in homers, on-base percentage, and slugging percentage. As a pitcher, Ruth was 9-5 with a 2.97 earned run average. He had also become insufferable, far from a team player. On September 20, the Red Sox held “Babe Ruth Day” at Fenway Park. Indicative of the relationship, Ruth complained the following year that owner Harry Frazee had made him “buy my wife’s ticket to the game,” and he further griped, “Fifteen thousand fans show up and all I got was a cigar.” Ruth had signed a three-year contract in March, but past practice probably let Frazee and Barrow understand that it would only prove to be something Ruth would try to renegotiate within 12 months. With a sub-.500 season underway, by the end of June there were already reports of dissension on the ballclub. It wasn’t Ruth who was at the center of the biggest flareup, however. It was Carl Mays, who simply left the team in between innings of the July 13 game he had started. He was said to be upset with the poor fielding behind him, and maybe humiliated when hit on the back of the head by a ball thrown by one of his fielders. Unwilling to countenance this sort of behavior, he was traded to the Yankees for two pitchers and a check for $40,000. It was a serious loss for the Red Sox, though; in his five seasons, Mays was 72-51 with a 2.21 ERA (he was, however, 5-11 in the disappointing 1919 campaign). AL President Ban Johnson was upset that such a major player had been traded without his permission and ordered the Yankees not to pitch Mays, but the Yanks went so far as to get a court order to block Ban’s ban. The rift between Johnson and the owners of the Yankees and Red Sox became a large one. Mays went on to wine nine and lose three for New York in the second half of the season. Boston’s two best pitchers were Pennock (16-8, 2.71) and Allen Russell, one of the two players who came to Boston for Mays; Russell was 10-4, 2.52 for the Sox. Sam Jones won 12 games but he lost 20. The reigning world champions finished 20 ½ games out of first place. The Chicago White Sox finished first, but it later emerged that several members of the team had conspired with gamblers to throw the World Series in what became known as the “Black Sox” scandal. On the day after Christmas, Harry Frazee sold Babe Ruth to the New York Yankees. He also borrowed $350,000 from the Yankee owners - and put up Fenway Park as collateral for the loan.

By Bill Nowlin
 

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Tagged:
Allen Russell, Babe Ruth, Ban Johnson, Carl Mays, Harry Frazee, Herb Pennock, Sam Jones, Stuffy McInnis

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