The House That Ruth Built
A New Stadium, the First Yankees Championship, and the Redemption of 1923
by Robert Weintraub
Little, Brown and Company, 2013
Sportswriter Robert Weintraub penned this elegant history of the 1923 major league baseball season in which Yankee Stadium opened in the Bronx, Babe Ruth began his legendary career in pinstripes, and the Yankees challenged the Brooklyn Giants for their first World Series title.
The Yankees and Giants played three consecutive World Series in the early 1920s. Those games were a collision in styles, pitting the dead ball "Scientific" style of John McGraw's Giants and the new power game personified by Babe Ruth.
The Giants prevailed in 1921 and 1922, and Ruth was an embarrassing failure in the second series. Baseball scribes lambasted him and many speculated that his career was near its end. For Ruth, the following year was a make-or-break season of redemption.
"The time before Babe Ruth became a New York Yankee is known in retrospect as the dead-ball era," Weintraub explains. "Practitioners and press at the time called the prevalent style Scientific Baseball. Runs came at a premium, earned with difficulty through cunning, aggression, and patience. They weren't so much scored as crafted. The sacrifice hit, the stolen base, and the hit-and-run play were the pillars on which the game rested.
"Then along came the Babe. Ruth's power at the plate combined with new rules that emphasized offense... New, more tightly wound baseballs were produced. Smudged, dirty balls were tossed out immediately in favor of whiter balls that were easier for the hitter to see. Trick pitches that required foreign substances, like the spitball, the emery ball, and the mud balls, were banned.
"Taken cumulatively, the effect was explosive. As with the introduction of the forward pass in football or the twenty-four-second shot clock in basketball, baseball's changes altered the game utterly."
Recognizing a profoundly important but unappreciated turning point in baseball history, Weintraub pounced on this story like a shortstop making the play on a dying quail.