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This Day in Yankees History: The Babe bids farewell

Ruth announces the end of his storied career at age 40.

Babe Ruth Waving Hat in Dugout

With the start of the 2020 season delayed for the foreseeable future, the Pinstripe Alley team decided to revive the program in a slightly different format. These daily posts will highlight two or three key moments in Yankees history on a given date, as well as recognize players born on the day. Hope you enjoy this trip down memory lane with us!

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This Day in Yankees History (June 2)

85 Years Ago

40-year-old Babe Ruth announced his retirement from baseball while a member of the Boston Braves. The baseball icon and former Yankees cornerstone had wished to retire three weeks earlier, but Braves owner Emil Fuchs convinced Ruth to play on, so that Boston could visit every National League park before he said farewell.

During his time with the Braves, Ruth was a shadow of his once-dominant self, batting a depressing .181, and striking out more than twice as often as his career rate.

Despite the decline, Ruth still retained some of his touch as the quintessential slugger. Even in his baseball twilight, he drew 20 walks in 28 games in his final season, and six of his 13 hits were home runs — bringing his career total to the hallowed 714 that Hank Aaron would surmount nearly 40 years later.

79 Years Ago

Upon arriving in Detroit for a two-game set with the Tigers, the Yankees learned that Lou Gehrig had passed away in his sleep due to ALS. He died in his home in the Bronx, 17 days shy of his 38th birthday.

Exactly 16 years prior, Gehrig had made his debut in the Yankees lineup as the first baseman, replacing Wally Pipp and beginning the consecutive games played streak that helped define him as New York’s “Iron Horse.”

The Yankees captain left behind a much-admired legacy. In 1939, shortly after he had announced his career was over, Gehrig became the first major leaguer to have his number retired. That year, the Baseball Hall of Fame also voted to suspend the waiting period for recently retired players, and enshrined Gehrig in Cooperstown.

And the year after his death his achievements were memorialized in the film The Pride of the Yankees, starring Gary Cooper as the Bombers’ legendary first baseman.

11 Years Ago

Ichiro Suzuki established a new Seattle Mariners record by hitting safely in his 26th consecutive game, surpassing the franchise mark he set in 2007. He proceeded to extend his record to 27 games the following day.

The feat still left the outfielder a staggering 29 games behind the great Joe DiMaggio. But though he never reached the heights of the Yankee Clipper’s streak, he did have his own special moment in pinstripes.

A 38-year-old Ichiro joined the Yankees during the 2012 season. The next year, he recorded his 4,000th career hit as a professional, including his time playing for the Orix BlueWave of Nippon Professional Baseball in his native Japan.

He would finish with 3,089 hits in Major League Baseball. Combined with the 1,278 base knocks he accumulated in NPB, he retired with 4,367 professional hits, a near-unassailable number in its own right.

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Here’s to a happy birthday for a whole host of former Yankees: Chris Martin, Raul Ibanez, Mike Stanton, Horace Clark, Gene Michael, Jerry Lumpe, Lou Skizas, Marshall Bridges, Frank Verdi, and Jack O’Connor.

As a player, Gene “Stick” Michael had a quiet career in pinstripes. The light-hitting shortstop spent seven seasons with the Bombers from 1968 to 1974, with his best year coming in 1969, when he slashed .272/.341/.364.

Michael would make his lasting mark with the Yankees two decades later in a new capacity, as general manager from 1991 to 1995. It was his second stab at the role, after holding the job from 1980 to 1981, and it was vital to modern Yankees history. In his return act, Michael became the primary architect of the 1990s team that eventually blossomed into a dynasty under the successful stewardship of Brian Cashman.

Southpaw reliever and fellow birthday boy Mike Stanton became a key member of that dynasty, joining the club in 1997. He won three World Series in four attempts in pinstripes, after two unsuccessful trips with the rival Atlanta Braves earlier in his career.

Stanton saved his best work for late October. In 23.1 World Series innings spread across 20 appearances, he sported a 3-0 record, a 1.54 ERA, and a 0.814 WHIP.

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We thank Baseball-Reference, Nationalpastime.com, and FanGraphs for providing background information for these posts.