Mr. Ruth and Hornsby: Two Greatest Hitters Are of Different Types but Get the Same Results

Damon Runyon

New York American/October 1, 1926

Mr. Ruth is a Wonder

The World Series of 1926 is of unusual interest if only because it presents on the same bill the two greatest baseball headliners of these times.

They are Mr. George Herman Babe Ruth, sometimes called the Big Barn (Oh Mister Printer, PLEASE don’t make that “bum”) and Rogers Hornsby, the former Home Run King, and the latter probably the greatest right-handed hitter of all time.

Mr. George Herman Babe Ruth would seem to be entering the series with something of an advantage over his opponent in the matter of batting condition, Mr. Ruth being in the proverbial pink, while Rogers Hornsby has just closed one of the leanest seasons of his career because of illness. Mr. Ruth hit around .369 in the year, and nudged out some forty-seven home runs, so you can see he has been feeling first rate all year.

Rogers Hornsby, on the other hand, got so far away from the .300 mark that he felt positively naked. He wound up less than a score of points beyond .300, which is little more than infield batting practice to Rogers Hornsby. However, he may get going in the series and knock the boys bowlegged. You can’t keep a squirrel on the ground.

 

Mr. Ruth and Rogers Hornsby undoubtedly represent the greatest amount of pounding power that baseball has ever known. I mean to say they hit the ball harder than any batsmen that ever lived.

If you could combine their batting power into one punch it would probably be sufficient to drive a baseball from the Battery to the Bronx, which is quite a distance.

Of the two, I believe Rogers Hornsby hits the ball harder, and Mr. Ruth hits it farther. This seems contradictory, but I can explain it. Rogers Hornsby hits the ball on the beezer or nose, with a straightaway drive. It shoots from his bat like a rifle bullet, traveling in a straight line.

Mr. Ruth, as a rule, hits under the ball, lifting it when he connects as a golfer lifts a golf ball. Rogers Hornsby seems to always be trying to break the infielders’ kneecaps, while Mr. Ruth seems to be firing at the landscapes beyond the walls. They both get the same general result, which are additions to their batting averages. Rogers Hornsby is perhaps not a great hitter in general than Tyrus Raymond Cobb, the Jewel of Georgia, at his best, but Tyrus Raymond Cobb is a left-handed batter. Moreover, Tyrus Raymond Cobb was one of the speediest men ever known to baseball, and he got many hits by out-footing short drives. He did not hit a ball as hard as Rogers Hornsby.

Before Rogers Hornsby’s time there was a man named Ed Delahanty, one of a numerous baseball family, who was accounted the greatest right-handed hitter that ever lived. Then Rogers Hornsby came along, and the old-timers say that he is even greater than Delahanty.

Before Mr. Ruth, there were no hitters of his exact type worth mentioning in the same breath with Mr. Ruth. He is unique and peculiar in baseball. I doubt that we shall see his like again. He is certainly the most picturesque, colorful character the pastime has ever known. He is the only man I ever saw who can create a sensation by merely striking out, for Mr. Ruth strikes out with great regularity.

Rogers Hornsby does not strike out with majesty. In fact, he does not strike out at all. In the matter of cold precision, Rogers Hornsby has something on Mr. Ruth, but I never cared for precisionists myself. I like the wild abandon of Mr. Ruth.

As between the two in the matter of drawing power at the gate there is no comparison. Mr. Ruth could be hitting fifty points less than Rogers Hornsby and still outdraw the St. Louis man, because Rogers Hornsby, great hitter that he is, lacks Mr. Ruth’s vivid personality and appeal to the populace.

However, Rogers Hornsby can do things that Mr. Ruth cannot do, one of them being to manage a big-league club to the pennant. I doubt that Mr. Ruth has the temperament to do that. Still, one of the last men in the world I would have selected to successfully manage a ball club is Monsieur Reeshard de Markee de Marquard, otherwise known as Rube Marquard, the old slab-sided left-hander of the Giants.

(Source: Jim Reisler, ed., “Guys, Dolls and Curveballs,” Da Capo Press, 2005)

The works of Damon Runyon and other American journalists are now freely available at The Archive of American Journalism. Visit our bookstore for single-volume collections–-ideal for research, reference use or casual reading.