Some new information has come to light regarding the whereabouts of Babe Ruth in the Fall of 1923, and how it relates to the rumored fateful meeting between he, and my wife’s great-grandfather, Donald “Dutch” Schneider.
A big thank you goes out to Bill Jenkinson, author of the book “The Year Babe Ruth Hit 104 Home Runs“, who provided my mother-in-law with some of his hand-written notes related to Ruth’s exploits in the state of Pennsylvania. He was able to fill in some blanks that I wasn’t, and has provided me with no less than 3 new leads, one of which will hopefully lead to some definitive evidence that Dutch did in fact strike out the mighty Babe somewhere on a ball field in central Pennsylvania. Ok, so that may be a bit of wishful thinking, but I’m at least hoping to prove that they did at least play on the same field at the same time.
The first few games I missed were all fairly early on, after Ruth departed from Hornell, NY on 10/19/23. According to Mr. Jenkinson’s notes, Ruth actually played a game in Hornell the day before, on 10/18/23, and was already in Elmira, NY on 10/19, where he played a game at Dunn Field. His team lost 2-1 to a local squad. Ruth pitched the first 4 innings, and then played shortstop for four more, while going 0-4 on the day. I guess even the greatest have a bad day from time to time.
Obviously I didn’t have anything on the game in Elmira, and the next mention I was able to find during my limited research was a brief mention in the Easton Free Press dated 10/22/23, which has Ruth passing through town on his way to Mauch Chunk (Jim Thorpe) the night before. That same day as the mention in the Easton Free Press, Ruth played a game in Hazelton, PA on 10/22 and was struck out twice by a coal miner.
What I didn’t have, was any evidence or mention of any games played on his way to Hazelton, and after his visit to Elmira, which I was previously unaware of, Jenkinson also has information on two more games The Babe played in between Hornell and Hazelton. The first one, on 10/20/23 was played at Forness Park in Olean, NY vs. the Buffalo Hewitts (a team I can find no information about), and Ruth struck out 3 times. There is also a mention of Mrs. Ruth leaving 3 rings on the train that were later recovered.
I want to go back to the Hewitts for a brief moment. While I haven’t found anything definitive, it would reasonably make sense that they might have had something to do with THIS GUY, Hewitt Teabout. I checked for any related information, but couldn’t find any. It’s also possible that Jenkinson’s notes could have been in reference to the Buffalo Bisons, who had a pitcher named John Hewitt on their squad in 1923. It doesn’t really matter as it relates to our story, but it is very interesting to find out where a lot of these teams got their names.
The next mention Jenkinson has notated for Ruth is a game played on the very next day, 10/21. There isn’t a location listed, but the game was played between Brooklyn and St. Agatha. It could be the Brooklyn Dodgers, but it could also be the Brooklyn Crabapples too. There were a ton of leagues and teams in the 1920’s. It is noted that Ruth went 2 for 3, with a single, double, and stolen base. He also pitched 4 or so innings, giving up 9 hits before being removed in the 5th. Incidentally, the pitcher who replaced Ruth in this particular game was Dutch Ruether, who at the time was playing ball with the Brooklyn Robins. Guess we can put one mystery to rest (the Robins and the Dodgers were one in the same).
As mentioned earlier, we already know about Ruth’s stop in Hazelton on 10/22, so we’ll skip over that to the next blank that needs to be filled in. The next date I was able to account for The Babe’s whereabouts after the game in Hazelton was a full 3 days later, in Scranton, PA, where he was mobbed by a crowd of 6,000 children. Jenkinson filled in 2 additional stops that were previously missing.
10/23/21 – Ruth was scheduled to play a game in Shenandah, PA but it ends up getting rained out, so he holes up for the night it a hotel. The following day, 10/22 Ruth was scheduled to play a game at Maxville Park in Shamokin, PA, which also ends up being a rainout. I googled Maxville Park, hoping to find some information, but came away empty handed. I do know that Ruth stayed at the Graemar Hotel in fabulous downtown Shamokin.
The game played in Scranton on the 25th was mentioned earlier, so there’s no need to go there again, but there are a few more gaps to fill between Scranton, and the next place I was able to find mention of Ruth, in Oil City, PA on 10/27/23. Once again, Jenkinson’s notes fill in some more holes, and really help to map out this entire journey.
On 10/26 The Bambino played a game in Mahanoy City, PAat West End Park. Mahanoy City was home to the Bluebirds, of the Anthracite League, of whom Joe Harris played for from time to time. Harris is mentioned in the Pittsburgh Post Gazette article about the game in Oil City which was played the following day, on 10/27/23. Ruth put on a show in Mahanoy City, reportedly hitting a 460 ft. home run over the center field fence (into the wind), and also became the first, and presumably only person to hit a ball into Mahanoy Creek, a feat which he accomplished during batting practice. Yet another outrageous,folklore-ish tale to add to the Ruth saga.
I was able to find a mention of West End Park in Mahanoy City that even included an image. It also mentions the Ruth visit in 1923. Sweet!
Ruth’s appearance in Mahanoy City was not the last surprise Jenkinson’s notes had in store for me. Far from it in fact.The next place Ruth stopped was only for a quick visit, but it also put him very, very close to where my wife’s great-grandfather, Dutch Schneider grew up. On his way from Mahanoy City to Oil City, Babe Ruth stopped off in Williamsport and attempted to schedule a game to be played a few days later. This proved to be the game I was looking for, and the game we already know Dutch didn’t play in.
Back when I wrote about Ruth’s next game, or at least the next game I could find any information on, which was played in Oil City, PA, I commented on the distance, and how it didn’t quite make sense for him to have gone from Scranton to Oil City, only to come back across the state again to play at Williamsport on 10/31. It makes perfect sense that he would have stopped in Mahanoy City on the way out, and it makes just as much sense that he also played a game in Erie, PA on 10/28/23, after appearing in Oil City the day before. The game in Erie is listed as being played against a team referred to only as Moose, and Moose team is listed as “City Champs”.
Babe went 3 for 5 in Erie including a home run, and there is a mention in Jenkinson’s notes of him hitting a batting practice home run over some sort of smokestack, which I assume was probably pretty far from the field. I love the lore and legend associated with Ruth’s baseball exploits. It seems like there’s a story for every town.I believe this game was played at what was later referred to as Ainsworth Field, and that Wikipedia link specifically mentions the ball that may or may not have cleared the smokestack. Turns out it was attached to a school that was close by.
Perhaps the biggest gap in my research, a full unaccounted for 4 days between 10/27 and 10/31 is an area where I expected Jenkinson to be able to fill in some additional gaps, and once again, he did not disappoint. We already have the game in Erie on 10/28, which was promptly followed up by a game in Wilkes-Barre, PA on 10/29. Jenkinson has the match up listed as Ruth’s All-Stars vs. Larksville. It is noted that Ruth went 3 for 4 with two singles and a long home run to center. He also pitched 2 innings and played every position on the field. What interests me most about this appearance is that it is specifically noted that he signed MANY autographs after the game. I already know Dutch ended up settling at least temporarily in the Wilkes-Barre area, and several relatives recall the team he played for having been called the Wilkes Barre Willies. I have found no mention of any such team, but this appearance definitely warrants some more research, since there is a fairly high probability that the fateful meeting between Dutch and the Bambino could have happened on this day. I did manage to track down a photo taken of Ruth in Larksville on this particular day, but still cannot find any information online about a semi-pro team from Larksville during this era, but plan on vetting this further before giving up.
The day following his appearance in Wilkes Barre, Ruth took a day off on 10/30 to go hunting in southwestern NY. On 10/31 we’ve already established that he was in Williamsport for a game against the Grays of the New York-Penn League. At the time, the Grays were still being referred to as the Williamsport Billies, and seeing as how Dutch grew up just a stone’s throw from Williamsport, I thought for sure this had to be the game they played in together. The box score has since proven me wrong, and the search presses on.
On his way out of Pennsylvania, Ruth made one last stop after leaving Williamsport on 10/31. The very next day, 11/4, he finally played a game in Shamokin, PA to make up the game that was canceled due to rain on 10/24. Ruth’s squad faced a team of local stars, and won 5-3 in a shortened 7-inning affair. The game was ended early because Ruth had a train to catch. He was heading back to New York for his final barnstorming appearance of the year, a game at Dexter Park in Brooklyn, NY against the Bushwicks.
So now that we have solid information on every visit Ruth made on his 1923 barnstorming tour, the trip can be accurately plotted on a map. I guess we can consider it a nice consolation prize for now, since the mission at hand, which is finding some sort of proof that Donald “Dutch” Schneider was in fact a local star baseball player, and once faced Ruth in a game, is still less than completed.
Below is the final map of Ruth’s trip. Since this is only a Pennsylvania Railroad map, and doesn’t include other connecting lines, it’s still not known at this point the exact routes to took, but we’ve at least covered everywhere that he stopped and/or played.
What’s encouraging though, is that Jenkinson’s notes have provided me with a few new leads, one of which appears to be very promising. You’ve also only seen the tip of the iceberg, as his notes also provide information on every off-season trip that the Bambino ever made to the great state of Pennsylvania, along with more information about those games played specifically in the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre area. I have a good feeling about that Larksville visit, and know for a fact that Ruth was back in Pennsylvania in 1926, and once again, also played a game against Larksville. Prior to seeing Jenkinson’s notes, I had no clue that Babe had even stopped in Wilkes-Barre in 1923, so that is most definitely an exciting possibility that needs exploring.
You have not heard the end of this tale, but as of this moment, I’ve told all there is to tell. Any new information is going to involve some digging, and just like Agent Mulder used to say “the truth is out there”. I am planning on heading to the Wilkes-Barre area sometime this spring/summer to do some archival research. I’m fairly confident that there has to be a mention of Dutch Schneider in an easily overlooked box score from some local paper in central Pennsylvania.
This is the ninth of a series of posts documenting my attempts to not only track Babe Ruth’s barnstorming trip of 1923, but to also track down my wife’s great-grandfather, who is believed to have played against him in a game that year. CLICK HERE to read other posts from this series.
P.S. – I should have posted about my Orioles today, in an attempt to reverse the jinx that I inadvertently placed upon them the last time I wrote about them… a full week ago. They haven’t won since.