BASEBALL Ruth lore: fact or fiction?

Did Babe Ruth really call his famous World Series home run, the one he swatted out of Chicago's Wrigley Field in 1932? The facts surrounding this incident remain fuzzy, since Ruth himself wasn't too consistent in retelling it. Erle Painter, the Yankee trainer at the time, claims to have a clear recollection of the legendary feat, and recently shared it with the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y.

As Painter remembers it, the stage was set by the Yankees' razzing of the Cubs, who had voted ex-Yankee Mark Koenig only a quarter series share. "The Chicago sports writers got into the act, the fans became conversant with the situation, and when the Yankees arrived for Games 3 and 4 on the lakefront they were greeted with more jeers than cheers," Painter relates.

Ruth was an especially popular target for such treatment, and when he stepped to the plate in the fifth inning of the third game, Charley Root threw a called strike. The crowd roared its approval.

"Ruth made a three-quarter turn to the stands and held up one finger," Painter says. "It was plain he was signifying one strike didn't mean he was out. Root put over another strike and the Babe repeated the pantomime, holding up two fingers this time. Then, before taking his stance, he swept his left arm full length and pointed to the centerfield fence." The next pitch, of course, sailed out of the ballpark.

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