No Babe Ruth

Discussion in 'Alternate History Discussion: After 1900' started by Big Tex, Apr 15, 2008.

  1. Big Tex Texas Thunderhawk

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    My most recent what if just added to the Texas Sports Column. What if by chance the most iconic American Athlete perhaps of all time, is adopted and never gets into baseball...
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    We are in the midst of Yankee Stadiums last hurrah. In honor of the House that Ruth Built, here is another Texas Sports Column What If.

    In 1902 a seven year old kid named Babe Ruth was taken by his parent to St. Mary’s Industrial school for Boys. In addition to being a catholic school it also served as an orphanage. Ruth’s parent’s worked long hours at lower-middle class jobs and simply had no time to take care of him. The young Ruth showed enthusiasm towards baseball and hoped to work with Brother Matthias who was knowledgeable in the game. However the young man was adopted within weeks and little was known since then.

    In real life that kid would grown up in baseball, sign a minor league contract with the Baltimore Orioles, move up to the Red Sox, get traded to the Yankees, and the rest is history. But who likes real life, especially when it involves the Yanks?

    There are three major questions that need to be asked if Ruth, a global sports icon to this day, is suddenly removed. First of all, what happens to the Yankees? Was Ruth the cornerstone to turning around their fortunes and his loss would turn them into a cross between the Cubs and Dodgers or would they have reached the pinnacle of sport anyways? Secondly what happens to the game of baseball? Undoubtedly the game would survive, but would it be nearly as popular, and would another franchise replace the Yankees as the super dynasty of American sport? Lastly where would thing stand today had Ruth not laid the foundation for modern day baseball?

    As fun as it would be to say that the Yankees entire success and future hinged on the acquisition of Ruth from the Sox, it really wasn’t. The Yankees foundation was laid by stereotypical early 1900’s named men, Colonel Jacob Ruppert and Captain Tillinghast L'Hommedieu Huston. They brought the deep pockets and insight to turn the Yankees from fourth string NYC scrubs to the jewel of the MLB.

    Under the manager Mike Huggins and GM Ed Barrow, Barrow coming from the Sox as well and being arguably just as great a steal as Ruth but don’t tell that to Yankee fans, the Yankees would thrive no matter what, at least enough to crawl out of the New York City cellar and away from the mythical giant rats and alligators. But Ruth provided the Yankees with something that managers and better everyday players couldn’t, entertainment. As a team the Yankees won pennant after pennant, but Ruth alone drew the massive crowds and hit the record amounts of homers. Why is Yankee stadium known as the house that Ruth built? Because only Ruth could sell it’s unprecedented 58,000 seats. Without him, the Yanks are still sharing the Polo Grounds with the Giants, and simply can’t hang in the sheer number of pennant races and World Series they participated in, in real life.

    Ruth was the centerpiece of seven AL pennants and four Yankee World Series victories in 1923, 1927, 1928, and 1932. Taking away Ruth and his big bat, we know the Yankees collapse without him in the lineup as shown by his extended absence in 1925 the same year the Yankees went from perennial AL elite team to second to last.

    Looking at old box scores and standings (Thanks Wikipedia!) the Yankees without Ruth would realistically only be able to win the AL in 1923, 1927, and 1932. In 1923 they fall to the Giants, ensuring the Giant’s supremacy over New York City. The Yankees do however win in 1927 with the murder’s row lineup (even without Ruth that’s a really good line up) and in 1932 against the cursed Cubs.

    Regardless of Ruth’s involvement, in 1923, a young Lou Gehrig joins the Yankees, giving the club their first major hall of famer and face of the franchise. What’s interesting is would Gehrig’s death in 1941, which forced him to retire early two years before, be looked by Yankee fans as less a celebration of life and more of a curse of the Yankees? Remember in our little Ruthless universe the Yankees and their fans aren’t all cocky and confident from repeated success, just like everyone, else they see there team for what it is; a scrub team for decades with some recent success but always missing that one key piece of the puzzle that could lead them to the promised land. Ladies and gentlemen without Babe Ruth. Yankees fans become a hybrid of Pre-2004 Red Sox fans and Aggie Fans!

    While the Yankees have good ownership, without Ruth they lack the massively deep pockets to create the best scouting system in America, not to mention the sheer clustering of luck that seemingly follows the franchise around. Without a deep nationwide scouting system the Yankees are sure to miss out on two of their greats; Joe DiMaggio who was playing minor league ball in San Francisco and Mickey Mantel who played minor league in Kansas. Yogi Berra plays minor league ball with the Yankee’s affiliate so he’s a Yank no matter what. Thurmon Munson and Whitey Ford, who played in the New York area, will go to highest bidder, one of which will undoubtedly be the NYC dominant Giants.

    In our little alternate Universe DiMaggio will most likely go to one of the dominant MLB teams, the Giants or Red Sox. Let’s say Boston. Mantel will probably end up a Chicago Cub or White Sox, or maybe even in St. Louis because of the Midwest roots, let’s say the Cubs to make things interesting. Munson will be a Yank and Ford will be a Giant in this timeline to round things out.

    With the Yankee greats effectively scattered, there is simply no way the Yankees become a viable dynasty like they are from 1921 to 1962. At this point there are too many possibilities to accurately predict what would happen but broadly speaking, it’s the Giants who become the dominant New York team while the Yankees and Dodgers flee to the West Coast.

    Giant’s ownership is historically sketchy and Hank Steinbrenner wouldn’t be scrambling to buy either club (It would be interesting to see where he lands though.). In the long run there simply is no major NYC dynasty of any kind, though the Giants win out the race to be the best team in the city and will have more titles than the Yankees in the long run.

    But what happens to the game overall? Apart from being an icon and entertainer, Ruth changed the game fundamentally by introducing the live ball era and making baseball a game of power instead of speed. The change to a power game is inevitable as players will get bigger and stronger over the years and someone will inherit Ruth’s position as the Sultan of Swat. Roger’s Hornsby would be the first big home run hitter in our minds today but in my opinion the new Sultan of Swat would be either Ted Williams or Mickey Mantle. Baseball was popular in America without the home run but with it, it exploded in popularity. In this universe maybe football captures the public’s hearts earlier with a delayed explosion in baseball’s popularity, but that is asking a lot from the fractured NFL.

    In a game without Ruth I would venture to say that the game wouldn’t be much different than today, though records would be much different and it would be interesting to see which team would take advantage of their deep pockets and the free agent era. The main rivalry in American sport would almost certainly be Boston Red Sox vs. New York Giants and the game’s history would be interesting as well. Instead of one singular dynasty flowing in an almost complete line from 1921 to now, there would be many small dynasties of a few years with the Giants or Red Sox or Cardinals having the most success. In the end the broad game stays the same but the details and histories of individual teams and players would be much different. All because some kid in Baltimore got adopted.
     
  2. Big Tex Texas Thunderhawk

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    Lastly for those who might be wondering where the "Soccer crazed America" What if is, it's in the works I've just been Hellabusy recently. Hopefully it will be in the next What If update I have marked down for the end of April!:D
     
  3. Jasen777 Not Even People Donor

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    Williams and Mantle are too late to get the "Sultan of Swat" label. My bet for baseball's first mega star is Jimmie Foxx. And without most of the Yankees' run in the '20s, the Philadelphia A's are baseball's first modern dynasty in the the '20s and early '30s. This should be enough to let them survive the depression and not have Mack sell all their best players (when the A's are sold they get a deeper pocketed owner).

    ITTL, I think it is Philadelphia and not Boston that becomes baseball's "second city". And if the Giants win the battle for New York like you suggest, and is likely that it is the Yankees who move west (and the Phillies).
     
    Last edited: Aug 4, 2008
  4. Big Tex Texas Thunderhawk

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  5. Jasen777 Not Even People Donor

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    I'd like to see the Senators do well...


    ITTL, the A's went to Kansas City, but then moved to Oakland after about a decade. The Royals were an expansion team. Butterflies in your timeline could do alot of things.
     
  6. Big Tex Texas Thunderhawk

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    True, in fact if the senators do better and win a few more World Series they might just stay in Washington instead of moving to Minnesota. Expansion team in Minneapolis that should have been in KC?

    I'm curious about team movement now. After finals I might sit down for an hour and try to figure out who would end up where.
     
  7. Jasen777 Not Even People Donor

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    I'll do so as well and then we can compare.
     
  8. 1940LaSalle Member

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    If I recall correctly, the powers of baseball were going to introduce a new ball in 1920 anyhow. Thus, the dead-ball era, dominated by Ty Cobb and station-to-station baseball would be on its way out anyhow. My guess is that in the early 1920s (assuming the White Sox lost eight men after the 1919 scandal) would be that the St. Louis Browns*, led by George Sisler, would be the dominant AL team for a while, along with the Walter Johnson-led Washington Senators (talk about an ultimate irony: the AL led by two of the perennial doormats in OTL).

    It seems to me that the Yankees would be a strong but not overwhelming team with maybe one-half to one-third the pennants that they have in OTL. Certainly there would also have been more varied World Series winners, and that's where the projections get difficult without a lot of simulation (who's to say, for example, who would have won the 1926 series between the Cardinals and, let's say, the Philadelphia A's or the Washington Senators?).

    But I'd go so far to predict that none of New York's teams would decamp for the west coast in this timeline. No, I think that honor-if you can call it that-would go to the Phillies and the Braves: apart from the 1915 pennant for the Phillies and the 1914 flag for the Braves, neither won squat until after World War II. That would leave Philadelphia to the A's (and for the bulk of their history, they were the more popular team in Philadelphia), and Boston to the Red Sox (same story for the Braves with respect to the Sox). For grins, assume the Phils would go to Frisco while the Braves would go to LA. I'd also figure on new nicknames, echoing the old Pacific Coast League names; i.e., the San Francisco Seals and the Los Angeles Angels. My only trouble with this: hard to imagine Rich Ashburn playing his best years in Frisco. Maybe he'd play for the A's instead and still be a Philadelphia icon.

    Then comes the question of St. Louis: with a few championships in the '20s, the Browns are no longer the threadbare franchise they were in OTL. Indeed, it might even be the Cardinals that move--and Baltimore would be the destination, no matter which St. Louis team moved. No way that St. Louis remains a two team town to this day, though.

    Thus, the projected look of major league baseball, circa 1954:

    AMERICAN LEAGUE

    Boston Red Sox
    New York Yankees
    Philadelphia A's
    Washington Senators
    Cleveland Indians
    Detroit Tigers
    Chicago White Sox
    St. Louis Browns

    NATIONAL LEAGUE

    New York Giants
    Brooklyn Dodgers
    Baltimore Orioles
    Pittsburgh Pirates
    Cincinnati Reds
    Chicago Cubs
    San Francisco Seals
    Los Angeles Angels



    *As a footnote, the '22 Browns missed the AL pennant by all of one game; thus, a few random bad bounces, and the Browns would have been the champs that year.
     
  9. The Green Vermontster Banned

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    The Boston Braves...

    What happens to them after the 1952 season ?
    Do they move to Milwaukee or do The Red Sox ?
    And if the Red Sox move to Milwaukee in 1952
    do they IMMEDIAETLY get re-named The Brewers ?
    Do the Braves win The World Series in 1948
    or is it still Cleveland ? Or do The Boston Red Sox PLAY
    The Boston Braves in 1948 in The World Series ?
    Basically, my question, and one you seem to ignore,
    is Boston a two team town after 1952 or no
    minus Babe Ruth in OTL ? I bet New England
    could currently support two MLB teams, one in the AL
    and one in the NL. When Les Expos were in Montreal,
    most people in New England rooted for them as their "second" team,
    though in baseball, one roots for primarily one team, and one team only.
     
  10. pacifichistorian Banned

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    How about a slightly different spin (knuckleball?:p)? Suppose the Sox's owner turns down the Yanks' OTL offer (or says no to Yvette or whoever his Broadway show was supposedly about:p). Sox dynasty?:eek: Or just a happier Toby Ziegler?:p
     
  11. AltSptHst Well-Known Member

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    Top 5 Reasons

    Here is another Ruth spin that I learned on the Top 5 Reasons episode. What if Ruth's manager didn't resign to be with his pregnant wife around 1916? How does this matter? Well, this guy could keep Ruth in line. He was sort-of like Phil Jackson with Dennis Rodman. If that manager(I think that his name was Bill Kerrigan) never resigns, then Ruth stays with the Sox, doesn't go to the Yanks, and they don't win as many pennants.