The Chicago Cubs continue their decade-themed homestands with the 1930s this weekend. The first 10,000 fans in attendance at today’s game will receive a limited edition Babe Ruth Called Shot Bobblehead. As you can see in the picture above, the famous slugger is wearing a Yankees road uniform and pointing off into the distance. This, of course, is referencing Babe Ruth’s “called shot” in the 1932 World Series.
I’m not here to debate the validity of Ruth calling his shot. I wasn’t there, and countless people much smarter than myself have already beaten that question to death over the past few decades. It may seem kind of odd, what with the Cubs giving out a bobblehead of an opponent who swept them out of the World Series. Yet Ruth and his home run are one of the great pieces of baseball history, even if the Cubs were on the losing side of it. Teams have given away bobbleheads of their opponents’ historical moments before: just look at this super-cool, flag-saving Rick Monday bobble that the Los Angeles Dodgers gave away last year.
Twitter friend Stan Crousett (#FF!) has a nice take on the did-he-or-didn’t-he-call-it debate:
“I choose to believe that Ruth called his shot because baseball needs to preserve that legend,” Stan tweeted. “Disproving it does nothing but detract some of that magical allure from the game.”
That being said, this entire 1930s homestand seems to be ignoring – and possibly offending – the longest-tenured Cub pitcher of all time: right-hander Charlie Root.
There were a handful of great batters who played at Wrigley Field during the 1930s, but one constant on the pitching staff was Charlie Root. Let’s take a moment to highlight some of Root’s career accolades:
- Charlie Root is the all-time Wins leader for the Cubs with 201 and accumulated those back when wins were a better judgement of performance than they are today.
- Root led the Cubs in wins in 1926 (19), 1931 (17), and 1927, when he won 26 games, the most in Major League Baseball. Additionally, Root has the most wins out of any Cubs pitcher in the 1930s with 114.
- In 1926, Root won the Cubs ERA title with a 2.82 mark.
- Root accumulated the most strikeouts of any Cubs pitcher in 1926 (127), 1927 (145), and 1931 (131).
- Root pitched in more games than any Cub (605), had five years of the most games started, four years of the most innings pitched, and three years of the most complete games.
- Root played in four different World Series with the Cubs and made five Opening Day starts (tied for third all-time amongst Cubs pitchers).
- In addition to wins and games pitched, Root is also the Cubs all-time leader in innings pitched (3,137.1), and years of service (16).
Charlie Root certainly wasn’t the best or most dominant Cubs pitcher of all time – his career ERA hovers at a respectable, but not mind-blowing, 3.59. But his tenure cannot be ignored, especially when talking about the 1930s.
When reading the press release detailing all of the fun happenings of this homestand, Root is only mentioned as the guy who gave up the homer to the Babe. The Cubs are inviting a handful of interesting folks with connections to Wrigley Field’s history this weekend, including a representative from the architectural firm that designed the bleachers and scoreboard, and Babe Ruth’s 97-year-old daughter. But no descendants of Root are on the guest list.
Charlie Root’s daughter, Della Root Arnold, passed away in 2012. I’m not sure if there are any children or grandchildren of Root left or how far down that family tree goes, but it would be cool to see his lineage included in the ceremonies somehow. Maybe the Cubs even reached out to the Root family, they declined, and we just never heard about it.
To be honest, I wouldn’t be surprised if an invitation was rejected. I get the sense that the Root family isn’t too keen on how Charlie’s legacy is remembered. The following is a rather humorous (and enlightening) passage from “Root for the Cubs,” a book written about Charlie Root and the 1929 Chicago Cubs conveying many stories and firsthand accounts from his daughter Della. (It’s a good book and a pretty easy read; pick it up if you have a few extra bucks.)
Root wasn’t haunted by the “called shot” legend, but several incidents indicated how he felt about it, even when it involved his own family and a “friendly” wiffle ball game.
The first incident occurred in Milwaukee in the 1950s. Warren Spahn mocked Root by pointing to center field while Root was pitching batting practice. Root stunned everyone by sizzling a fast ball right at their top star’s head. No Brave was brave enough to mock Root again.
In 1961, during a Cub tryout, a young player did the same thing while instructor Root was pitching spring training batting practice.
Root knocked the kid flat with the first pitch and then unloaded all of the balls in his pockets to keep him pinned on his back in the dirt at home plate.
“OK, he didn’t point,” the kid yelled so he could get back up.
During a family outing, Charlie Junior’s wife defiantly pointed her wiffle ball bat toward center. Root hissed the wiffle ball right at his daughter-in-law, hitting her neck.
“Root for the Cubs” by Roger Snell, page 245.
So yeah, I’m not too sure how excited Charlie Root would be to see that the “called shot” is being celebrated in bobblehead form today.
Don’t get me wrong, the bobble is pretty cool and I’m a bit jealous I won’t be picking one up. But as we celebrate the 1930s and honor Babe Ruth’s legacy, let’s not forget an important Cubs icon from that decade: the winningest Cubs pitcher of all time, Charlie Root.
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