Big Changes in Babe Ruth's Ball Club
Although Boston Red Sox manager Bill Carrigan retired and headed home to Maine at the end of the 1916 season, for Babe Ruth and his teammates, it was off to New Hampshire for a post-season hunting trip with their wives.
Another winner's share -- $3,780.25, more than his yearly salary -- pushed Babe's earnings for the season up to nearly $7,500. This was in an era when new cars could be had for a few hundred bucks. He had no problem spending the loot quickly.
The purchase of an 80-acre spread in suburban Sudbury, Massachusetts, (20 miles from Boston) gave Babe and Helen their first real home, and the place was fittingly named "Home Plate Farm." Although Helen would spend much time there over the next several years, her husband found it too quiet to frequent on a regular basis. There was too much fun to be had out in the world, and right now the fun looked like it would never end.
Carrigan was not the only prominent member of Boston's World Series winners who would not be around the following spring. Suffering from a bad heart, upset over Carrigan's retirement, and troubled with the fan backlash from the Speaker deal, Joe Lannin announced on November 1 that he was selling the club for $650,000 to a trio of investors. The leading shareholder and most prominent among the group was New York theatrical producer Harry Frazee -- a man who would later become known as the greatest villain in the history of the Red Sox.
Frazee was a self-made entertainment czar. Having risen from life as a bellhop in Peoria, Illinois, to owner of two of the nation's leading theaters, Frazee would prove a shrewd charmer who convinced Boston fans he had their best interests at heart. Truth be told, his mind and heart were usually looking ahead to his next show.
After taking over one of baseball's leading teams, he would take less than five years to decimate it and shift the American League's base of power from Boston to New York. While the Yankees would go on to championship after championship, the Red Sox would be floundering near or at the bottom of the AL for over a decade.
None of this could be imagined early on. Frazee spent his first months as president trying to convince Carrigan to return as manager, while also supposedly negotiating a $60,000 deal for Walter Johnson. Both attempts failed (the latter was later suspected as a public relations scam), but fans appreciated the effort.
Frazee even claimed he was willing to take all necessary steps to become a Massachusetts resident, as long as he could return to New York each New Year's Eve. "Harry Frazee, at least, combines experience in the game [with] a genuine love for it," stated the Boston Globe. "Like Joe Lannin, he is a fan 'from way back,' and that is reassuring to the fans of Boston and New England."
Ruth Gets a Raise
Babe Ruth was undoubtedly among Frazee's admirers. Heeding a warning from AL president Ban Johnson that "extravagances, especially salaries, must be reduced" for the league to remain profitable, Frazee had cut several salaries and offered just few raises to his World Series winners.
One of the raises, however, went to Ruth, whose annual pay jumped from $3,500 to $5,000. Pleased, Babe reported to spring training at Hot Springs, Arkansas, fit in mind and body and with Helen in tow.
His happiness reached new heights as he found himself more easily accepted as a veteran star by his teammates. It was a loose, carefree camp under Frazee's new manager (and second baseman) Jack Barry, and Ruth's loud laugh was a welcome sound in the bowling alleys and at poker games.
The atmosphere in the real world was growing tense with the increased threat of America entering into World War I, but even an order from Ban Johnson for teams to begin instituting drill practice was quickly ignored.
Only when President Woodrow Wilson officially declared war on Germany on April 2 did the Red Sox and other clubs finally take heed -- and ballplayers could be seen on the field and marching in time prior to the action on Opening Day.
Against this patriotic backdrop, Babe shut out the Yankees 10-0 in Boston's opener at the Polo Grounds.
But Babe Ruth's future held both ups and downs. Learn more when you continue to the next page.
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