On this day in 1945, baseball superstar Babe Ruth delighted 2,500 fans in Hartford by participating in an exhibition game between two local semi-pro teams: the Savitt Gems of Hartford and the New Britain Codys. The Gems had been founded by a successful local jeweler, Bill Savitt, who used his money and influence to schedule popular charity exhibition games involving some of the biggest names in professional baseball — and Babe Ruth’s appearance was one of Savitt’s biggest celebrity coups yet.
By 1945, even though Babe Ruth had already been retired from professional baseball for ten years, he was still among the most popular sports figures in the United States (and remains so to this day). In his 22-year professional career, Ruth played for the Boston Red Sox before being infamously traded to the New York Yankees, where he earned the nickname “the Sultan of Swat” by shattering career records for home runs, RBIs, batting percentages, and more.
On the morning of September 30, the Hartford Courant breathlessly announced that “the greatest attraction ever known in baseball and the home run king of all times [sic], Babe Ruth” was scheduled to appear “in person” at Bulkeley Stadium in Hartford and “give a demonstration of hitting the ball over the fence” before pinch-hitting for the Savitt Gems. That afternoon, wearing a brand-new Gems jersey with a bright red baseball cap and matching stockings, the 51-year-old Ruth managed to hit off a handful of home runs before the game, much to the delight of everyone in attendance. His game-time performance, however, resulted in a handful of unexciting balls and strikes while at bat. During his interview with local radio personality Bob Steele after the game, Ruth wryly remarked, “Some days the pitches look like watermelons, and other days like peanuts.”
Though no one knew it at the time, Ruth’s 1945 Hartford appearance would be the last time he ever took the field as a baseball player. A few months after the exhibition game, Ruth’s health began to deteriorate rapidly; he was diagnosed with advanced esophageal cancer in 1946 and died from the disease in 1948. A living legend took the plate for the last time in front of thousands of adoring fans, on this day in Connecticut history.
Earl Yost, “Babe Ruth Pinch Hit For Local Batter In His Last Game,” Hartford Courant
Dom Amore, “From Gehrig To Bagwell, A Proud History Of Baseball In Connecticut,” Hartford Courant