In the first game of a doubleheader against the Philadelphia Athletics on October 1, 1921, the Yankees clinched their first ever AL pennant. That led to things getting pretty weird in the second game of the doubleheader.
With a trip to the World Series already locked up, the Yankees sent out a slightly weakened lineup in the second game of the day, but it still included some of the Yankees’ big names. Pitcher Waite Hoyte got the start despite the World Series being just four days out and him being the Yankees’ number two starter. Also, starting in left field was a certain Babe Ruth.
Ruth would be involved in the action early when his third inning groundout plated a run to put the Yankees up 2-0.
Two batters after Ruth was scheduled to be Yankees’ first baseman Wally Pipp, but pinch-hitter Chicken Hawks (bless you, 1921) was sent up in his place. Hawks was an outfielder himself, so in order to accommodate the pinch-hitter in the defensive lineup, Ruth was shifted from left field to first base. It wouldn’t be the first or last time Ruth would play first, but it is quite a move to put your best player at a semi-unusual position days before you play for a championship.
The Yankees broke the game open with three runs in the fourth and then another in the fifth. Meanwhile, Hoyte had been removed and replaced by Jack Quinn to start the fifth. Hoyte had allowed just three hits in four scoreless innings, and Quinn would continue the shutout. In three innings, he allowed just one hit and walk while keeping the A’s off the board.
Then in the eighth, the Yankees made, what is in modern day sensibilities, a truly bizarre move. Bench bat Fred Hoffman was brought in for Quinn and moved to first base, and moving to the mound was Babe Ruth.
Yes, Ruth famously came up as a pitcher and primarily played there with the Red Sox before coming over to the Yankees. Just two years earlier in his final season in Boston, he threw 133 innings. He had already appeared as a pitcher in a game earlier that season and in one the season before. It was not unheard of for the Yankees to use him. It’s just that, again, this was four days before their first ever World Series appearance. Some weird freak accident happens, and you could be depriving yourself of the best player in the world.
Even weirder than the decision was the outing Ruth ended up having.
Ruth retired the first hitter he faced. However, the next eight all reached base. By the time he got the second out of the inning, the game was tied at six. Despite that, they left him in and he finished off the inning. Even though he had thrown a disastrous inning, they let him come back out for the next one. In fact, they left him in for four innings in total, finishing off the Yankees’ pitching for the day before the offense finally won via walk-off in the 11th. Ruth finished with a final pitching line of six runs on nine hits and three walks with two strikeouts in four innings.
Thankfully, nothing happened to him, and Ruth went on to hit .313/.476/.500 in the World Series. Despite that, the Yankees lost the best-of-nine series in eight games to the Giants.
If the 2021 Yankees clinch the AL East with a couple games to go, Aaron Judge will not be coming in to pitch in a meaningless game a few days ahead of the ALDS. I think I’m okay with that.