The above photo came through my in-box today and I thought that with the baseball post-season beginning this week it would be apropos to share. This is Babe Ruth saluting General John Pershing outside the State, War and Navy Building in Washington D.C. Ruth had recently joined 104th Field Artillery of the New York National Guard at Pershing’s request as a way to generate interest in the Citizens’ Military Training Camps. The Army needed all the help it could get half a decade after the Treaty of Versailles; the military drawback of the early 1920s meant that the United States again had a small fighting force.
A little digging shows that Ruth had sought a khaki uniform in New York but could not find one for his large frame. It is interesting to note that by today’s he is not that large. This is 1924 and he actually looks relatively slim, certainly slimmer than we came to know him as he grew older and stouter due to his excesses. It says something that a man of this physical stature would be considered stout for his time, and that a uniform could not be found in his size in all of New York. Ruth reported to the Quartermaster General’s office in Washington to be fitted early on May 28 and reported to Pershing for this photo op after that. Photo op is the right phrase: a basic search reveals several outtakes of the two men saluting, smiling, and/or shaking hands.
The Yankees were in Washington to play the Senators in on odd two-game road trip that lasted all one day. The Yankees and Senators split a double-header at Griffith Stadium. The Bambino went 3 for 8 in the two games. Ruth visited numerous Citizens’ Military Training Camps in the years after this photo was taken. By the endow the decade Ruth had apparently had enough; in April 1930 he informed Major General Hanson E. Ely, commander of the Second Corps Area at Fort Jay on Governors Island, that he was stepping down. Though again a “civilian” Ruth continued making a contribution, signing bats and balls to be given as trophies at CMTC athletic events until at least the mid-1930s.