Most fans probably aren’t aware of the link between Babe Ruth, the city of Pittsburgh and the final moment of greatness from the greatest baseball player that ever lived. Babe Ruth’s last hit and last home run came at Forbes Field.
Wait, how is that possible? Didn’t the Sultan of Swat play his entire career in the American League? Nope, he only spent roughly 98.9% of his career in the AL. Babe Ruth played 2,475 games in the American League between the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees. The only time he came to Forbes Field during that time was the 1927 World Series, where Ruth went 3-for-7 with three singles in Games 1 and 2 in what is dubbed as one of the greatest teams in history. The ’27 Yankees would go on to easily sweep the Buccos.
But Babe would visit Forbes Field again at the twilight of his career. After the Yankees released Ruth prior to the start of the 1935 season, Ruth returned to Boston, this time signing with the Boston Braves of the National League at the age of 40.
Ruth would only play 28 games in the NL with the Braves after deciding to hang it up at the conclusion of May after hitting just .181/.359/.431. But before retiring, Ruth and the Braves would make a trip to Pittsburgh from May 23-25 to play the Pirates. In the first game of the series, Ruth went 0-for-4 with one strikeout, then 1-for-4 in game two, but it was the final game of the series that Ruth turned back the clock a little.
On Saturday, May 25, 1935, the 8-20 Boston Braves looked to avoid the sweep against the 19-17 Pirates in front of a crowd of less than 10,000 fans (source: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette). Red Lucas was on the mound for the Pirates that afternoon and wouldn’t stay there for long. After a leadoff walk and a bunt out, Ruth strolled to the plate and blasted his 712th career home run into the right field seats to give the Braves an early 2-0 lead. After singles to the next two batters, Pirates manager Pie Traynor had seen enough of Lucas and pulled him in favor of Guy Bush.
In the Babe’s next at-bat in the third inning and a runner on first, he belted his second consecutive homer into the right field stands again for his 713th career home run to give the Braves a 4-0 lead. The Bucs would rally to tie the game with four runs in the bottom of the fourth inning. The tie was short lived, however, as Ruth came up in the fifth inning and drove in a run on a single to left field to make it 5-4 Braves. The Pirates would rally once again and take the lead on a three-run inside-the-park home run by second baseman Pep Young to give the Pirates a 7-5 advantage.
The Bambino came up for his fourth at-bat in the top of the 7th inning and against Bush, ripped a 3-1 pitch that cleared the 86-foot right field roof at Forbes Field for the first time in the ballpark’s history. That ball currently sits at the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown. The solo home run that literally left the park was Ruth’s 714th career home run, a mark that would stand for 39 years until Hank Aaron would break his record.
Ruth’s final home run made the score 7-6 Pirates and Ruth would pull himself from the game following that blast. The Pirates would go on to finish the sweep, winning 11-7 over the Braves. But Ruth had given the crowd a throwback performance for the ages—4-for-4, three home runs and six RBIs.
Ruth would play five more games, all on the road in Cincinnati and Philadelphia, before deciding with the Braves owner and manager that his retirement was mutually in everyone’s interest. He didn’t record a hit in his last 13 plate appearances, making his home run over the RF roof at Forbes Field on May 25, 1935, his last hit of his illustrious career. Ruth finished with a ridiculous .342/.474/.690 slash line.
Babe Ruth may have only made it to Pittsburgh twice throughout his career, but his final moment at Forbes Field ties him to Pittsburgh history forever.