May 5, 1935: Dizzy Dean faces Babe Ruth

In many ways, the 1934 season marked the passing of a torch.

Babe Ruth, the premier slugger of his era, played his final season with the New York Yankees. As Ruth’s career was winding down, young Dizzy Dean vaulted to the national spotlight. As the Oklahoma farmboy led the Gashouse Gang to the World Series championship, he charmed fans across the nation with his boyish charisma and lighthearted antics.

Dean was a fan of Ruth and even called the Yankees slugger following his Game 1 World Series victory over the Detroit Tigers and invited him to stop by the Cardinals’ clubhouse.[1] After the series concluded, no less an authority than Grantland Rice, known as the “Dean of American Sports Writers” (no pun intended), wrote that Dean’s legacy would come to match those of Ruth, Honus Wagner, Christy Mathewson, and Ty Cobb in the years ahead.

“As Babe Ruth fades out, the bounding Deans arrive just in time to fill the gap against the skyline,” Rice wrote.[2]

Though everyone expected Ruth to retire at the end of the season, the Boston Braves offered him an opportunity to extend his career as a player, assistant manager, and team vice president. When Dean and the Cardinals squared off against Boston on May 5, 1935, at Braves Field, the 40-year-old Ruth was penciled in at left field, batting third in the lineup.

Dean entered the game with a 2-2 record and a 2.08 ERA, and quickly overpowered the Braves, who would finish last in the National League with a 38-115 record. Dean retired Billy Urbanski and Buck Jordan, then respectfully tipped his cap as Ruth stepped to the plate.[3] Ruth drew a walk before Dean retired Wally Berger.

The Cardinals jumped out to a 6-0 lead in the second inning. Catcher Spud Davis hit an RBI triple to score Ripper Collins, and Terry Moore followed with a two-run homer. With two outs, Dean strolled to the plate. With the Boston fans greeting him with a mix of cheers and boos, he gave the crowd a bow before hitting a slow curve into the stands in left center field.[4] Following Dean’s home run, Jack Rothrock hit an RBI double and Charlie Wilson brought him home with a single.

“From that point, it was a gallop for Dizzy,” sports editor Sid C. Keener wrote for the St. Louis Star and Times. “He laughed and joked with the Braves.”[5]

In the fourth inning, Dean still held a 6-0 lead when he struck out Ruth with a high fastball[6] for his ninth consecutive out. Two innings later, Collins tripled and Terry Moore hit a sacrifice fly to left to extend the Cardinals’ lead to 7-0.

In the bottom of the sixth, Ruth led off the inning with a groundout to the shortstop. After the inning ended, Braves manager Bill McKechnie replaced Ruth with Joe Mowry.

“I hated stealin’ the show from him like that,” Dean later said, referring to Ruth.[7]

Dean worked around a single and a walk in the ninth inning to secure the complete-game victory. He improved to 3-2 on the season while scattering 10 hits and striking out three. Ed Brandt took the loss for Boston.

Exactly two weeks later, on May 19, Dean and Ruth met again for the second and final time. One day earlier, Dean injured his right knee during practice and there were fears that the injury might prevent him from making his start against Ruth and the Braves.[8]

When game time came, however, Dean was ready for the rematch. He struck out Ruth in the first inning, but the veteran made up for it when he raced to deep left field and leaped to catch a deep drive off Collins’ bat.

“It was a great catch, reminiscent of the kind Babe used to make in his heyday as a star,” Ray J. Gillespie wrote for the St. Louis Star and Times. “The play brought down the place in thunderous applause and the big fellow doffed his cap and smiled broadly as he marched to the dugout between innings.”[9]

Ruth hit sharply into an inning-ending double play in the third, then grounded out to Dean and hit a foul pop fly to third base. He finished the day 0-for-4, dropping his batting average for the season to .156.

Dean again pitched a complete game, allowing three runs on seven hits, including a two-run homer by Randy Moore.

Dean led the league with 28 wins in 1935. His 325 1/3 innings pitched and 190 strikeouts also paced the circuit as he finished second in the National League MVP voting behind Gabby Hartnett.

Ruth played in just 25 games in 1935, batting .181 with six homers and 12 RBIs. Less than a week after facing Dean for the final time, on May 25, Ruth hit three homers and drove in six runs against the Pittsburgh Pirates. Ruth’s third homer of the day, the 714th and final blast of his incredible career, cleared the right field roof for the longest home run ever hit at Forbes Field.[10]


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[1] Doug Feldmann (2000), Dizzy and the Gas House Gang: The 1934 St. Louis Cardinals and Depression-Era Baseball, McFarland & Company, Inc., Jefferson, NC, 147.

[2] Doug Feldmann (2000), Dizzy and the Gas House Gang: The 1934 St. Louis Cardinals and Depression-Era Baseball, McFarland & Company, Inc., Jefferson, NC, 171.

[3] Doug Feldmann (2000), Dizzy and the Gas House Gang: The 1934 St. Louis Cardinals and Depression-Era Baseball, McFarland & Company, Inc., Jefferson, NC, 175.

[4] Sid C. Keener, “Cards, Two Games Behind Leading Giants, Oppose Robins Next,” St. Louis Star and Times, May 6, 1935.

[5] Sid C. Keener, “Cards, Two Games Behind Leading Giants, Oppose Robins Next,” St. Louis Star and Times, May 6, 1935.

[6] Associated Press, “Dizzy Toys With Braves As Cards Triumph, 7-0,” St. Louis Daily Globe-Democrat, May 6, 1935.

[7] Doug Feldmann (2000), Dizzy and the Gas House Gang: The 1934 St. Louis Cardinals and Depression-Era Baseball, McFarland & Company, Inc., Jefferson, NC, 176.

[8] “Dizzy Dean Hurt In Fall, But He May Pitch Today,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, May 19, 1935.

[9] Ray J. Gillespie, “Dizzy Dean and Ruth Provide Thrills As Cards Trim Braves 7 To 3,” St. Louis Star and Times, May 20, 1935.

[10] Allan Wood, “Babe Ruth,” Society for American Baseball Research, https://sabr.org/bioproj/person/babe-ruth/.

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