Digging Deeper – Tracking The Babe In 1923

Throughout the course of my research on Babe Ruth’s 1923 barnstorming trip across PA and western NY, I’ve come across little tidbits of information that while not directly related to my search for Dutch Schneider, are equally of interest to me. I am borderline obsessive when it comes to information, and always have to know the reason why things happen the way that they do.

Bill Jenkinson’s notes have helped me put the pieces together very easily, and without them, I wouldn’t have the new leads into Dutch’s meting with Ruth that I now have. This post isn’t about that though. This post is about the incidentals, one such incidental in particular.

If you’ve been following this series of posts, you already know about the curious game that Ruth played on 10/20/1923 in Olean, NY versus the Buffalo Hewitts. While I am in the process of trying to identify who the Hewitts were (and have some solid leads at that), this isn’t another post about them, either. Jenkinson’s notes list another stop Ruth made while in the Olean area, a trip made to St. Bonaventure University to watch a football game.

Why would Ruth visit a small religious college in western, NY? To watch a football game of all things? Ruth played baseball, not football (thank you Capt. Obvious!).

Well… it didn’t take long for the answer to reveal itself, and not surprisingly, the connection is purely baseball. One of the first things I stumbled upon was that the athletic field at St. Bonaventure is called McGraw-Jennings Field. These two names should be immediately familiar to anyone who is a fan of pre-WWII baseball. For the field at St. Bonnie is named after two of its most famous alumni, John McGraw and Hughie Jennings, both of whom broke into professional baseball with the amazing 1890’s Baltimore Orioles. Oh, they’re both enshrined in the National Baseball Hall of Fame as well. Not exactly lightweights.

I can’t say definitively whether or not Ruth went to St. Bonaventure strictly because of McGraw or Jennings, but I do know that Ruth and McGraw were fairly close, and there are photographs of Ruth and McGraw from this very same 1923 barnstorming trip. McGraw also played his first minor league ball on Olean, NY, and grew up 200 miles away in Truxton, NY. Hughie Jennings was still managing the Detroit Tigers in 1923, but would join his pal McGraw with the NY Giants the following season. This is more about McGraw than it is anyone else.

Babe Ruth & John McGraw, 1923

Is this McGraw connection the reason why Ruth picked Olean, NY for an exhibition game against the Buffalo Hewitts? After all, Buffalo is a good 80-100 miles north of Olean to begin with. Why didn’t Ruth just go all the way to Buffalo? They were travelling by train, so I’m sure it wouldn’t have been difficult.

While the real answer may never be known, I still find it fascinating how it all relates, and it really gives you a feel for the kind of person Ruth was. If the trip to St. Bonaventure was made at the request of McGraw, it’s yet another example of the selflessness of Babe Ruth. He was an entertainer first and foremost and really seemed to enjoy being adored by his fans.

I hope you enjoyed this post, and I hope that you’ll indulge me in my future obsessive compulsive quests. After all people, “The truth is out there”.



5 responses to “Digging Deeper – Tracking The Babe In 1923

  1. Play at the Plate

    I’m hoping you find all the answers about Dutch.

  2. Thank you for this great information. It is the best story I have read all week.

  3. My family is related to Fred Forness, longtime mayor of Olean NY. M h uncle tells a tale that Fred offered the Babe $$ to play in Olean. There is a photo of Fred and Babe Ruth sitting on horses in Olean. The Babe is in uniform.

  4. I can confirm Lorene Cook’s statement. Fred Forness donated the funds to build the first football field at St Bonaventure University, it was named ‘Forness Field’. I have a copy of that photo, it is from the ribbon cutting ceremony for the football field. My father was Douglas S. Forness, his father was Clarence Forness, and he was directly related to Fred W. Forness, Mayor of Olean, NY.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s