For three days in January 1920, New York Yankees manager Miller Huggins scoured Los Angeles for Babe Ruth. He'd traveled there to inform the former Red Sox two-way star that he was now a Yankee, acquired from Boston owner Harry Frazee for $125,000. Huggins finally found Ruth on a golf course in Griffith Park where Ruth played regularly to stay in shape, in addition to his regular "long walks," according to The New York Times account of the search. Huggins cornered Ruth at the end of a round.
As more details trickled in about the greatest player acquisition of all time, a few things emerged: Ruth had no love lost for Frazee, who branded him a troublemaker - "Frazee is not good enough to own any ball club," he said - and Ruth wasn't going to continue to pitch.
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As Ruth began to show a rare ability to smash a baseball with an unorthodox swing in 1918, The Boston Globe reported, "Ruth's big ambition is to be an everyday member of the ball club." Ruth combined for 6.7 fWAR in 1918 (5.2 as a batter). He then clubbed a record 29 home runs in 1919. But the Red Sox wanted him to keep pitching, too. Ruth was regarded as one of the best left-handed pitchers in the game, but his interest in pitching was waning. The Yankees wanted his bat.
After acquiring Ruth, they secured a $150,000 insurance policy on the slugger that "made provisions for any accident serious enough to keep the home-run king out of the daily lineup," the Times reported.
Ruth told the press he would smash his own home run record in 1920 - and he did with 54 homers - in part because of the short distance to the right-field wall at Polo Grounds where the Yankees then played. He would pitch only five more times in his career.
"I don't think a man can pitch in his regular turn, and play some other positions and keep the pace year after year," Ruth said.
The year marked the end of the last great two-way player experiment until Shohei Ohtani came along. The big question with Ohtani is how to balance his hitting and pitching to maximize his skill set and keep him on the field. This season, the Los Angeles Angels are much more aggressive in how they deploy him - to the delight of all of us watching.