EDDIE WELLS: In 1928, the day before the season opened, Washington sold me to Birmingham outright. I won twenty-five games for Birmingham that year. Then about two weeks before the season ended, we were on a train going from Birmingham to Atlanta to play the Atlanta Crackers. I'd just had dinner on the diner and was sitting in my Pullman seat when Billy West, our traveling secretary and business manager, told me I'd been sold to the Yankees for twenty thousand dollars. He told me I'd be reporting to them next spring training in St. Petersburg. That took a few minutes to sink in and then I became excited.
I remember during my playing days in Detroit a lot of ball players would be talking about how we'd like to be Yankees ourselves. Man, we were always in awe when we met the Yankees. There was just a certain air about them, like they were different from other ball clubs. We looked at them as being double big-leaguers. Yes sir.
I told you the first time I faced Babe Ruth, I struck him out. Three slow balls. In all of my career I pitched against Babe four years with Detroit and two with St. Louis. Well, he never hit a home run off me.
In 1926 we were playing the Yankees in Detroit. In those days they had to come through our dugout to get to their clubhouse. And Babe said to me, "Eddie, if it's the last thing I ever do, I'm gonna get you on the Yankees." I just laughed at that deal.
Anyway, in 1929, when I reported to Miller Huggins in St. Petersburg, Babe saw me in the clubhouse. He said, "Ed, what did I tell you that time in Detroit?" I said, "I thought you were kidding." He said, "Well, I wasn't." Well, I don't know if he got me on the Yankees or who got me on.
That ol' Babe. Man, oh man, he was something. We had a lot of fun. He'd give you the shirt off his back. I never saw a man with the constitution like the Babe had. He could put away that whiskey and beer. But listen, he could have a rough night and go out and hit those home runs like nobody's business. He swung a forty-two-ounce bat. Sure did. We called it a wagon tongue.
You know, Babe started out as a pitcher in Boston. His manager Ed Barrow's the one who saw the potential there and had him quit pitching. Barrow thought he'd do a lot better in the outfield, being the kind of hitter he was. Harold Frazee had the Red Sox. He was a theatrical man. He was going bankrupt. He was going to lose everything he had until [Yankees owner] Colonel Jake Ruppert bailed him out. Colonel Ruppert bought a whole bunch of ball players to get him out of debt. Then they built Yankee Stadium for the Babe. "The House That Ruth Built" is what they called it. And that's where he really went to town.
I dressed for four years between Babe and Lou Gehrig in the locker room, so I got to know those two men very well. Babe was an extrovert and Gehrig was the introvert. Babe was the idol of the fans and Gehrig was a close second. The right-field bleachers at Yankee Stadium were called "Ruthville" because that's where Babe hit ninety percent of his home runs. The fans there were just crazy about ol' Babe.
We were playing the White Sox one game in 1932. We always caught the early train from Chicago to St. Louis and here we are tied in the twelfth inning. Babe said, "Listen, boys, I'm going to end this or we'll miss our train if I don't." Well, Babe was first up and he drilled that first pitch into the right-field bleachers. Sure did. The White Sox didn't score in the bottom of the twelfth and we caught our train.
The Yankees were famous for hitting those home runs in clusters. I think that was the year Lou Gehrig hit four over the right-field wall in Shibe Park one Sunday. Lou was really a happy man in the clubhouse.
Babe was a happy guy at the right time and place. Off days and rainy days, it was hard killing time. We just wanted to play ball, take care of the business at hand. Tony Lazzeri was one who liked to give you the hot foot when you were killing time, reading a newspaper. Or he'd light the corner of the paper and set fire to it. Another trick was spittin' tobacco juice on your baseball shoes after you'd just polished them. You can just imagine that deal, with everybody on the team chewin' tobacco.
From Cobb Would Have Caught It by Richard Bak.
Copyright © 1991 by Wayne State University Press. Reprinted with permission.