Following the 1921 World Series, New York Yankees slugger Babe Ruth formed a team of major league all-stars that would barnstorm around America. Ruth and the players needed the money.
Before free agency, most players worked during the off-season because they needed the money. Baseball players earned only slightly more than most Americans and some, as difficult as it might be to believe today, even used public transportation to get to work.
Jobs included selling cars or insurance (Bob Feller and Al Rosen), teaching (Joe Black) and grave digging (Richie Hebner).
On Nov. 12, 1920 baseball owners installed a new commissioner following the revelation that the Cincinnati Reds had been given unfair help in winning the 1919 World Series. Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis became baseball’s monarch whose primary objective was to restore public confidence in the game.
The iron-fisted Landis had a rule that prevented players who had participated in the World Series from barnstorming. When he discovered that Babe Ruth had ignored his edict, he suspended Ruth for 39 days, forcing him to miss more than a month of the 1922 season.
Babe’s teammate Bob Meusel, a member of Ruth’s barnstorming all-stars, was also suspended.
Ruth’s personality matched that of Landis. Neither wanted to be told what to do.
The barnstorming tour started in Buffalo. Five days later in Scranton, Landis told Ruth to end it. Ruth challenged Landis’ authority, which was a mistake.
Landis not only suspended Ruth and Meusel, he fined them each $3,362.26 was which equal to their 1921 World Series shares. Ruth wasn’t going to take it quietly. He was helped by the president of the United States.
When the Yankees opened the season in Washington, Ruth was at President Warren Harding’s side when he threw out the first ball. The Babe watched the game from the presidential box. He had his moments.
After beginning his season more than a month late, Ruth complicated matters.
During one altercation, Ruth threw dirt in an umpire’s eyes and was suspended again.
On another occasion, the “fun-loving” Babe went into the stands after a heckler. When the fans booed him, Ruth stood on top of the dugout, shook his fist at the fans and called them all yellow.
Ruth missed almost one third of the season but still managed to hit .315 with 35 home runs and 99 RBIs.
The Yankees won the 1922 pennant by a single game over the St. Louis Browns. They faced their conquerors from the 1921 World Series in their cross-town rivals, the New York Giants.
It was in the second game that the fans booed Judge Landis with much more emotion than they had ever booed Babe Ruth.
The game was tied 3-3 after 10 innings when home plate umpire George Hillebrand wheeled around, held up his hand and made an announcement. In a voice that few could hear, he said that the game had been called on account of darkness.
It was not a popular decision.
The Yankees were thunderstruck. They watched Hillebrand in total amazement as he left the field and headed for the exit behind the Yankees’ dugout with the other three umpires in close pursuit.
The bewildered fans slowly realized that the game was over. Most started for the exits, but many of the more than 37,000 fans headed for the box that was near the Yankees’ dugout on the first base side of the field.
They were after commissioner Landis.
Before he realized what was happening, Judge Landis and his wife were surrounded by hundreds of angry fans. Some wanted to know why the game was called while others implored baseball’s monarch to allow the game to continue.
One fan shouted, “Barnum was right, and we’re the suckers.” A few claimed that the game was called so “the fakers could have another chance at our money.” One asked Landis “Is this is what you get $100,000 a year for?”
Special police arrived on the scene. They didn’t have riot gear in 1922.
Landis held his hand up to the crowd for silence. But the crowd, unlike those in baseball whom he ruled, ignored him. The jeers continued.
The police attempted to lead Landis off the field but he refused. “I’m not afraid of any crowd in New York. I’ll make my own way from the field.” And he did as he called the fans “cowards.” Shades of Babe Ruth.
“I know baseball fans and I was never for a moment in fear of physical harm. In fact, I asked the police not to try to pick a path for me across the field. I was perfectly able to make my way without assistance.”
New York Times.”Fans in Uproar as the Game is Called; Receipts to Charity; Thousands in a Riotous Protest After Umpire Halts Play On Account of Darkness. Landis Menaced on Field. He Defies Hecklers and Calls Them ‘Cowards’—Refuses Protection of Police.” 6 October 1922, p.1.