Babe Ruth vs. Walter Johnson
The Anniversary Edition
by Matthew Orso
Can you imagine Babe Ruth hitting against Walter Johnson? Well that is easy to imagine because they faced each other a lot in their careers. However, now imagine the Babe and Walter going against each other in a 21 pitch duel over seven years after Babeís retirement? That historic moment actually took place on August 23rd 1942 at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx.
It took place in between a double header. The event was a way for fans to come to the Ball Park and help a good cause. All the proceeds went to support the Army and Navy in World War II. 55 year old Walter Johnson stepped out of the dugout and was greeted by the cheering of over 70,000 fans at Yankee Stadium. Johnson known as "The Big Train" was one of the greatest pitchers in Major League Baseball history. According to legends such as Ty Cobb and Babe Ruth, Johnsonís fastball was the greatest that they had ever seen. His 417 wins are second all time only to CY Young and he led the Washington Senators to their only World Series title in 1924. His mere presence made the limbs of hitters shake to no end.
This event was taking place at Yankees Stadium. Therefore it had to have a Yankees legend to make the event worthwhile. Babe Ruth, the sultan of swat was just the type of Yankee legend needed to fill the seats in the Bronx. Ruth was baseballís all time leader in homeruns and RBIS. His 714 homeruns were 150 more than his second closest competitor. He also had a .342 batting average and led the Yankees from cellar dwellers in the AL to World Series Champions. Fans fell in love with his passion for the game and of course his monster homeruns. Yankee Stadium was even nicknamed "The House that Ruth Built." When the 47 year old Babe Ruth took the field, the stadium erupted into applause.
The rules of this contest were simple. 21 pitches were to be thrown and the goal was to see how many homeruns the Babe could hit. Babe Ruth shook the hand of Walter Johnson and the battle commenced. Walter Johnson at 55 years old had lost the fastball he once was known for, but still had the will to win. He wasnít going to let Babe Ruth hit a homerun without a fight.
Walter Johnson was spot on with his control. On some swings, he made Babe Ruth look foolish at the plate. Though on others, Ruth looked like the Baseball Deity of old. Ruth had hit two homeruns on the first twenty pitches. The final pitch was about to happen. The fans at the stadium dare not blink only if they wanted to miss history at its zenith. Walter Johnson threw the final pitch and Babe Ruth took his mightiest swing of the night. He hit a long fly ball deep into the right field seats. Research tells us that the ball just missed being a fair ball by inches, but the always flamboyant Babe Ruth didnít care. After making contact with the baseball, Ruth ran around the bases to give the fans a show. He tipped his cap to the fans as he did many a time as a player while rounding the bases.
This was truly an event to behold. Not only did the greatest batter of the 20th century face the greatest pitcher of the 20th century years after their retirement, they did it for a common purpose. The purpose was to help the Army and Navy in support of our country. Baseball was able to help the country with the help of their greatest heroes. August 23rd 1942 is a day that should never be forgotten, not only in baseball history but American history.