A while back I wrote a post about the (other other) Toronto Maple Leafs, a semi-pro baseball team that called Toronto home from 1886 to 1967. One of the most interesting things about them was the stadium they played in for the last fortyish years of their existence. Another interesting thing about them is a little tidbit of Toronto trivia I want to lob your way today. Or maybe curveball your way. Or maybe even pitching machine your way.
Even if you don’t follow or care about baseball, you’ve probably heard of Babe Ruth. He’s basically the Gretzky or MJ of baseball. He played from 1914 to 1935 and when he retired, he held a whole bunch of major league records. He actually still holds a bunch. He was perhaps most famous for hitting tons of home runs for both the Boston Red Sox and the New York Yankees. As a 1920s baseball fan, you may be thinking, “but Toronto didn’t even have a team in the MLB until the Blue Jays flew on the scene in 1977! How could this guy Babe have anything to do with Toronto?” Well, just you wait. And scroll down.
Back in 1914, when George Herman Ruth was but a 19 year old lad, he had played a few minor league games in Baltimore before being traded up to the Boston Red Sox. Apparently he had tons of promise as a pitcher and hitter, but had yet to crack the major league rotation in his few months with the Red Sox. Around the same time, the owner of the Red Sox bought a team called the Providence Grays, which was a team that belonged to the semi-pro International League (where the aforementioned Maple Leafs also played). Ruth was sent down to help him develop as a baseball player, but mostly to help the Grays win a pennant. A few weeks later, he came to Hanlan’s Stadium in Toronto as a member of the Grays.
So he came strutting into Hanlan’s Stadium (which was located on Hanlan’s Point on Toronto Island) on September 5th, 1914. They were playing a doubleheader, and while Toronto won the second game 3-2, Ruth pitched the first game and struck out 7, holding the Leafs to 0 runs in a 9-0 crushing. The next day, a reporter for The Globe described him this way: “This youngster is not yet old enough to vote, but he can heave that old pill.” Not only could he…uh…heave that old pill, he could also…swing that old twig. He hit a dinger over the fence, which was his first professional home run. Because this was near the end of the season and he was going back to play with the Red Sox the following year, it would end up being his only home run as a semi-pro player.
The Grays went on to win the International League pennant that year. Babe Ruth’s stint in the minors was brief, and after that season was over, he never played in a semi-pro league again. So there you have it. If someone ever approaches you on the street and says, “I’ll give you $1000 if you can tell me where Babe Ruth hit his only semi-pro home run,” you can make a cool grand without batting an eyelash. Or even a baseball.