Thursday, March 30, 2017

Babe Ruth in Knoxville

Yesterday the Knoxville Mercury posted a list of "100 Things You Don't Know* About Knoxville".

There were three items about baseball.

Part of Jack Neely's list included:
19. Knoxville was primarily a baseball town decades before football became popular. Downtown businesses sometimes closed on baseball game days.
36. Knoxville had baseball about 25 years before it had football. It had bowling at least 10 years before it had baseball.
Part of Mike Donila's list included:
78. Babe Ruth played at the old Bill Meyer Stadium (though it wasn’t called that at the time). Big leaguers used to play exhibition games when they traveled by train from city to city between series. Ruth also played in the Appalachian League in Asheville when he was coming up in the farm system.
Jack had written about these before.  I not familiar with Mike Donila but I'd like to address #78.

Babe Ruth did come to Knoxville in April of 1924.  The Yankees played the Brooklyn Robins.  The previous day the teams tangled with the Yankees coming out on top, 17-4.  They also won the Tuesday game, 19-12.  I wrote about these games previously.
The Knoxville News-Sentinel - April 9, 1924
The games were played at Caswell Park.  Bill Meyer Stadium, previously Municipal Stadium, was not named until 1957, almost nine years after Babe Ruth died.

These type of exhibition games were often played by the major league teams as they left spring training on their way back to open the season.

I can find no evidence that Ruth played for the Asheville Moonshiners of the Appalachian League.  The Moonshiners were only in the Appy League in the 1911 and 1912 seasons.

Ruth was scheduled to play with the Yankees in Asheville in April of 1925.  This story is known as "The Bellyache Heard 'Round the World".   He hit a home run against the Brooklyn Dodgers in Knoxville on April 6th, before taking the train towards Asheville.

Ruth started his professional baseball career playing for the Baltimore Orioles of the International League in 1914 before ascending to the majors to play with the Boston Red Sox of the American League in July that same year.  A month later he was with the Providence Grays of the International League.  In early October he was back with Boston.

Not only did Ruth smack two dingers while he was in Knoxville, he also opened the Knoxville News Marble Tournament.

The Knoxville News-Sentinel - April 9, 1924

So, yes, Ruth did play in Knoxville.  The rest you can take with a grain or two of salt.  Please consult your doctor before doing so.


images from the Knox County Library historical newspaper archives

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