The called shot

BaseballSportsBabe RuthDeathNew York YankeesChicago CubsGabby Hartnett

Despite the decades, the debate will not die. Did Babe Ruth call his shot or not? It happened--if it did happen--while Ruth was at the plate at Wrigley Field in the third game of the 1932 World Series.

It was a 4-4 score. The New York Yankees had won the first two games in New York and would sweep the series in four.The famous slugger was fighting off strong heckling from the Cub bench and assorted fruits and vegetables from the stands when he took a strike from the Cubs' Charlie Root in the fifth inning.

Ruth held up an inoffensive finger and said to Chicago catcher Gabby Hartnett, "It only takes one to hit it." Ruth watched a second called strike.

Here's where things get fuzzy. According to many players and witnesses, Ruth then pointed toward Root and hollered something unpleasant. Or he held up two fingers and hollered something unpleasant at the Cub dugout. Or he held up one finger and pointed directly to center field. Or he first held up two fingers, then thrust dramatically with one finger toward the beachers in center field.

Westbrook Pegler, who thought Ruth was reacting to riding from Cub pitcher Guy Bush on the bench, saw it this way in his Tribune column the next day: "Then, with a warning gesture of his hand to Bush, he sent him the signal for the customers to see. `Now,' it said, `This is the one. Look!' And that one went riding in the longest home run ever hit in the park."

Root went to his grave scoffing at the "called shot" story. And Ruth? "The ball just went on and on and on," he said in his 1948 autobiography, "and hit far up in the center-field bleachers in exactly the spot I had pointed to."

On the other hand, he also said he did not call the shot. "Hell no," he said in a 1933 interview. "Only a damned fool would do a thing like that."

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