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Cover art: Five O'Clock Lightning Press Release
Book: Five O'Clock Lightning

Also Read: Summer of 1927Feb 1927 Excerpt The Best of TimesMarch 1927 ExcerptPre Season ExcerptFeb 2008 Excerpt Ruth Excerpt Ruth 60 Excerpt Yankees Excerpt Has It Really Been a Yankee Century? NY POST/FIVE O'CLOCK LIGHTNING

Harvey Frommer on Sports

February 1927:

 (Excerpt from Five O’Clock Lighting: Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, and the 1927 New York Yankees, The Greatest Baseball Team Ever)

The pieces were falling into place for the 1927 Yankees. But the biggest piece, Babe Ruth, had not yet signed a new contract and seemed not likely to do so anytime soon. Hands down, he had rejected the $52,000 salary he earned in 1926. That was out of the question. 

In early February,  Jake Ruppert sent another in what would be a series of contract offers to Ruth. This one was for $55,000. The offer annoyed the hell out of the competitive Babe who said he had  it on good authority that Ty Cobb, now with the Philadelphia Athletics, was slated to get $75,000.  

The peripatetic Yankee outfielder moved on to “Hooray for Hollywood” time. He was now a star on the East Coast and the West Coast, now making his first movie, “The Babe Comes Home” for First National pictures. 

In a break during shooting he said: “Reading, like picture shows is almost taboo, I’ve got to watch the old optics closer than anything else.”

Under strict orders from his trainer Artie McGovern, the Bambino, also got his beauty sleep. He was early to bed by 9 P.M. (it wasn’t clear whether he was there alone or had company), and early to rise he was on there on the movie set no later than six A.M.

On Hollywood Boulevard, running three to five miles a day, George Herman winked and smiled at folks all along the way, truly a sight for all kinds of eyes. After the up and downing on the streets, Ruth was rewarded back at his Hollywood Plaza Hotel with a comforting and stimulating rub down by McGovern who had taken leave of his New York City gymnasium on 42nd Street and Madison Avenue to press the flesh of his most illustrious client still unsigned to a Yankee contract for the 1927 season. McGovern, in a comment praising himself and the wondrous work he was accomplishing remarked about his beginnings with Ruth:  “He was as near to being a total loss as anyone I ever had under my care.”

On February 22, six days before the first Yankees were scheduled to arrive in St. Petersburg for spring training, Babe Ruth mailed to Colonel Ruppert from Hollywood an outline of what he thought he should be paid for 1927, just another  salvo in their continuing out in the public eye contract wrangling. The Babe was adamant as he spoke to reporters. He pressed the point that he would retire from baseball and organize a string of gymnasiums with Artie McGovern if his salary needs were not met.   

On February 25, the day before the big man left California for New York, his salary demands were published in the New York Daily News. Two days later a letter he wrote to Colonel Ruppert appeared in The New York Times. The letter’s tone was conciliatory. It was also forceful.                                                                                                   

“You will find enclosed contract for 1927 which I am returning unsigned because of the $52,000 salary figure. I am leaving Los Angeles February 26 to see you in New York and will be prepared to report at St. Petersburg but only on the basis of $100,000 a year for two years, plus $7,700 held out of my salary in the past.. . .

"In fine physical condition today I hope to play as good as last year or better. I have exercised all winter and for the past twelve weeks have been working out of doors. At my own expense I have brought Arthur McGovern from New York to condition me.                               

 "The New York club has profited from five of the best years of my baseball life. During that period my earning power to the club has greatly increased while my salary has remained unchanged. . ..

"During the winter season I booked my own exhibition games and without support from other players I have received more in three weeks than the New York club pays me in three months....

"I have refused to discuss my new contract or salary during the Winter but now that I have returned my contract unsigned an explanation will be expected, and I wish you would show this letter to any newspaper writer who wishes to see it

“With best personal wishes, I am

        Yours truly, BABE RUTH”

After the long trip from California, Babe Ruth arrived on the second day of March at Grand Central Station in Manhattan at 9:40 A.M. on the first section of the Twentieth Century Limited.  Half a dozen gate tenders, a squad of private police and railroad security were powerless to hold back more than a hundred of the more ardent and adoring fans who had broken through and gained access to the train platform. They roared at their idol, easy to spot in his brown cap and tan overcoat, as he got off the train.

    Outside the entrance to the train, more than two thousand more fans waited, excited, cheering as their hero came through, a wide smile on his big face.

Harvey Frommer is his 33rd consecutive year of writing sports books. The author of 40 of them including “New York City Baseball,1947-1957" and “Shoeless Joe and Ragtime Baseball”. His “Remembering Yankee Stadium: An Oral and Narrative History of the House that Ruth Built” (Abrams, Stewart, Tabori and Chang) was published in 2008 as well as a reprint version of his “Shoeless Joe and Ragtime."

Frommer sports books are available direct from the author - discounted and autographed.

FROMMER SPORTSNET (syndicated) reaches a readership in excess of one million and appears on Internet search engines for extended periods of time.   


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