When Babe Ruth got extra-thick around the middle and finally hung up his mighty bat, he didn’t want to walk away from baseball. Ruth’s dream was to become a manager, but the Yankees wanted nothing to do with the Big Fella.
“Ruth’s appetite is for drinking and women,” Yankees’ owner Jacob Ruppert said. “I’d have to hire a dozen detectives to keep my manager out of trouble.”
But Babe was sure he could use his years of experience to be a success on the bench. Others, namely Ty Cobb, Tris Speaker, and Rogers Hornsby, had taken on the role of manager, and the Babe felt he was just as capable as those guys.
That’s why Ruth accepted a job with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1938 to be their first base coach. Ruth felt the gig was a stepping stone to a managerial position. But the Dodgers simply wanted a gate attraction.
The Dodgers were a miserable team in 1938, often drawing sparse crowds to Ebbets Field. But with the Great Bambino wearing the Dodger blue and standing at first base for half the game, the team felt they might have something.
But the 1938 season turned sour for Babe. Apparently he was under the impression that he would serve as “co-manager,” which came as a big surprise to manager Burleigh Grimes. The confusion, irked Ruth.
Initially, Ruth did his duty: he stepped out of the dugout before home games and waved his cap to the crowd. He held animated conversations with baserunners and umpires while he manned the first base coaching box. He tried to mentor younger players. But gradually, as Babe realized his prospects for the top job were none, he lost focus. Ruth arrived late at the ballpark and refused to doff his cap like a monkey in a circus. He even started blowing off games here and there. By late summer, it was clear that the marriage between the Dodgers and Ruth was heading for divorce.
Following the season, Ruth retired from baseball, and he never again accepted a position in the game.
The Helmar Big League Brew card above shows Babe Ruth in his one season wearing the wools of the Brooklyn Dodgers.