Over the course of 22 seasons in Major League Baseball, Babe Ruth became one of the most legendary figures in the history of sports.
In 1919, after a stellar tenure with the Boston Red Sox that included three World Series titles, Babe Ruth was famously sold to the New York Yankees for a then-record amount of $100,00. The Great Bambino became the biggest star the game had ever seen, setting numerous records and winning four more World Series championships.
However, five years before landing in the Bronx, the course of baseball history nearly changed drastically when Babe Ruth almost became a member of the Cincinnati Reds.
The early days of The Babe
In the spring of 1914, Babe Ruth began his professional baseball career with the minor-league Baltimore Orioles but was soon after sold to the Boston Red Sox, who were one of the only teams that could afford what Orioles owner and manager Jack Dunn was looking for. Dunn was in financial trouble and sold off most of the best players on the roster in the team’s final year of existence.
Ruth, who was both a pitcher and a position player, joined the Red Sox on July 11, 1914, and promptly won his first game, a 4-3 Boston victory over the Cleveland Naps. However, Ruth lost his second start and didn’t see much playing time in the field during his first few weeks in the majors, only getting a handful of at-bats.
How the Cincinnati Reds nearly acquired Babe Ruth…twice
On July 30, 1914, Red Sox owner Joseph Lannin purchased the minor-league Providence (RI) Grays of the International League. The Grays had been owned by a number of people associated with the Detroit Tigers, including Ty Cobb, and as part of the deal, the Red Sox agreed to send a Grays pitcher to Detroit. Knowing the Providence fans would be upset at losing a player, Lannin announced that a replacement would be coming soon, a young prospect named Babe Ruth, whom the Red Sox had to officially place on waivers to allow this to happen.
Seeing an opportunity to pick up a player who had shown promise, Cincinnati Reds owner Garry Herrmann quickly claimed Ruth off waivers. However, Lannin wrote Herrmann a letter, explaining that Ruth was being sent to Providence to develop as a player and wanted to withdraw the claim as he had no intention of releasing The Babe to a major-league team. Herrmann acquiesced and allowed Ruth to go to the minors, for which he received another letter from Lannin, a thank-you note for allowing this to happen. It was later revealed by Red Sox manager Bill Carrigan that Ruth wasn’t sent to Providence to develop but to help the Grays win the International League pennant.
That was actually the second time that the Reds had a chance to get Babe Ruth. The first time came before Ruth ever even went to Boston. The Orioles had actually offered The Babe, along with pitcher Ernie Shore, to Cincinnati for $12,000. Herrmann really wanted Ruth on the Reds roster but manager Buck Herzog had no interest. He wanted shortstop Claud Derrick and outfielder George Twombly from Baltimore instead and Herrmann reluctantly agreed, paying $15,000 for the duo. Derrick appeared in just three games for the Reds before being moved to the Cubs and Twombly hit just .222 in 117 games for Cincinnati in three years.
The Babe goes back to Boston and the rest is history
Babe Ruth did indeed help the Providence Grays to first place in the International League in 1914. He was recalled to the Red Sox following the end of the Grays’ season and picked up his second win as a pitcher, a victory over the New York Yankees, and got his first major-league hit.
The following season, he helped the Red Sox to a World Series victory, the first of three titles he’d win in Boston before being sold to the Yankees. As for the Cincinnati Reds, they would still find some success in the decade, winning the World Series in 1919, although that championship remains a little tainted in the eyes of some due to the Black Sox scandal.
But just imagine what the game of baseball would have looked like had Babe Ruth joined the Cincinnati Reds in 1914. The “Curse of The Bambino” would have never existed in Boston. The “House That Ruth Built” wouldn’t be that at all. No Murderers’ Row in New York. No called shot at the 1932 World Series. The “what if” scenarios are endless in sports but Babe Ruth going to the Reds may be the biggest the game of baseball has ever seen.