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Babe Ruth Versus Lou Gehrig: The Bronx Bombers Come to Asbury Park

Editor’s note: In 1926, legendary New York Yankees slugger Babe Ruth brought a barnstorming team to Monmouth County for a pair of exhibition games, one on October 11 in Bradley Beach, and the second on October 23 in Highlands.  Both games were marked by overflow attendance and extensive media coverage.

On April 21, 2022, Glenn Cashion, a member of the Monmouth County Historical Commission and an expert in the history of baseball in Freehold and Monmouth County, gave a lecture as part of the Monmouth County Historical Association’s Historically Speaking series called “Baseball is in my DNA.”  His presentation included highlights from the Bradley Beach game referenced above, a game that was umpired by Mr. Cashion’s father.  Mr. Cashion’s lecture, illustrated with many rare images from his personal collection, is available publicly on YouTube.  This game was just one part of a comprehensive look at baseball in our region, especially Freehold. Mr. Cashion also has authored a book called The History of Freehold Baseball which will be available in the fall of 2022, publication details to be announced later.

By coincidence, Monmouth Timeline correspondent Mark Wallinger was working on his own story about the following year, 1927, when Babe Ruth came back to Monmouth County for an exhibition game, this time to face a team led by his superstar teammate Lou Gehrig.

By Mark A. Wallinger

On October 13, 1927, legendary New York Yankees baseball superstars Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig stopped in Asbury Park during their barnstorming days for a story that could only be called “Ruthian.”

The immortal Babe Ruth at the plate.

Ruth and Gehrig were the cornerstone of what many still consider the best major league baseball team ever – the 1927 Yankees – who were coming off a four-game sweep of the Pittsburgh Pirates in the World Series earlier that month, in which Gehrig hit .308 with four RBIs, and Ruth batted .400 with two home runs.

“Barnstorming” is defined as “to travel from place to place making brief stops (as in a political campaign or a promotional tour.”  For most of Major League Baseball history, until the 1980’s, players rarely earned enough money from competing to pay the bills all year long, and so they routinely would stage exhibition tours during the offseason, traveling from town to town in places where people often lived too far away to be able to attend a New York Yankees game, so these were popular exhibitions that offered a good offseason payday for the biggest stars.

An ad in the Asbury Park Press from 1926 promoting the first barnstorming appearance of Babe Ruth in Monmouth County.

On this barnstorming tour, Ruth’s team was called the Bustin’ Babes and Gehrig’s the Larrupin’ Lous. Anticipating a large Monmouth County crowd, the game was moved from Bradley Beach to the then-new high school near Deal Lake – even though the grounds had no baseball field.

The local promoter for this event was William H. Truby, who was the manager of a Bradley Beach semi-pro team which had hosted barnstorming teams the year before.

The game started 45 minutes late (see why below) and ended three innings early. Ruth put one in Deal Lake, but Gehrig did, too, in the sixth inning. Gehrig’s hit was the last available baseball, and his team was declared the winner, 8-5, before “7,000 foot-stomping, cat-calling fans.”

The crowd then mobbed Ruth.

These games received major media coverage and fans often came onto the field, sometimes to get autographs, or hold onto Ruth’s legs as he rounded the bases, or, as in the Asbury Park game, to steal a passed-ball that got past the catcher.

The New York Times had full-game coverage and a four-deck headline reading: 36 BASEBALLS LOST ENDING RUTH GAME.

Story in The New York Times about this exhibition game.

But the game almost didn’t take place.

In the hours prior to the scheduled start of the exhibition, Ruth and Gehrig were holed up in their rooms at the swank Berkeley-Carteret Hotel (built in 1925), awaiting payment.  Stars of that magnitude did not take chances on getting stiffed by local promoters.  And the money had not arrived.

Meanwhile, almost the entire Asbury Park police force sat in the raw wood bleachers at the new concrete high school stadium in anticipation of pandemonium, as the city fathers had an urgent meeting to figure out how to get the two stars out of their rooms.

The back story, in true New Jersey fashion, is almost as interesting. A $2,500 appearance fee was promised to the Yankees stars by promoter Truby.  But Truby at that time was a defendant in a lawsuit brought by Umberto Grieco, seeking payment of $466 for subletting beach chair concessions at the annual bathing beauty parade.

Grieco had the sheriffs seize the money from the baseball exhibition ticket sales. The funds were held despite pleas by the undersheriff, the school board president, two city commissioners, Monmouth County Surrogate Joseph L. Donahay, and Truby.

Finally, Donahay, who was up for reelection as county surrogate, fronted the funds for the appearance fee. City officials cashed his check and ran the money over to the hotel, and the game was on.

Lou Gehrig outside the Berkeley-Carteret hotel in Asbury Park on his way to the game.

The decision in Harry N. Johnson, Sherriff of the County of Monmouth, Complaint v. Joe Lyons et al., Defendants in the Court of Chancery handed down October 1928 can be accessed at www.casetext.com.

About the Author:

Mark A. Wallinger is a former award-winning professional journalist and a senior marketing and sales executive with a passion for history and the New York Yankees.  A native of New Jersey, Mr. Wallinger currently resides in Westerville, Ohio.

Sources:

1927 World Series: New York Yankees over Pittsburgh Pirates (4-0). (2000). Baseball-Reference.com. Available: https://www.baseball-reference.com/postseason/1927_WS.shtml

BASEBALL Bradley Beach Ballpark. (1926). Asbury Park Press, October 9, 1926, P. 15.

Berkely-Carteret Hotel. (2022). https://www.berkeleyhotelnj.com/.

Definition of barnstorming. (2022). Merriam-Webster Dictionary. Available: https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/barnstorming.

Edelson, Stephen. (2016). Babe Ruth Part of Rich Baseball History at Jersey Shore. The Asbury Park Press, Asbury Park, N.J., April 14, 2016,

Leavy, Jane. (2018). The Big Fella: Babe Ruth and World He Created. Harper, An Imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers, New York, N.Y., 2018.

Lou Gehrig image credit: NJ Baseball. Available: https://njbaseball.net/lou-gehrig-in-asbury-park/.

Monday October 11 Ruth vs Brooklyn Royal Colored Giants, Bradley Beach Ballpark.

Two Home Runs Scored by Ruth. (1926). Asbury Park Press, Asbury Park N.J., October 23, 1926, P. 7.

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