The Reds had a working agreement with the Orioles where the Reds would be allowed to choose (purchase) any two players on the squad at a certain date. On July 7, the Reds sent a lower level manager to Baltimore to check out the squad. The Baltimore Orioles had a long standing reputation of developing outstanding players. The agent checked out the Orioles roster and selected two players: a 22-year-old outfielder with speed in George Twombly and a 28-year-old former major league infielder in Claud Derrick. Derrick had already played parts of four seasons in the majors with the Philadelphia Athletics and the New York Yankees. He had hit .233 in 59 games with the Athletics and .292 in 23 games with the Yankees.
Twombly and Derrick seemed like low risk useful players for a team that was down on it’s luck. The Reds of 1914 were one of the ten worst Reds teams of all time, as they finished 60-94 for a .390 won-loss percentage and finished last in the league. That may also explain why they sent a low level administrator and not a talent scout to Baltimore for he missed two players that the Boston Red Sox quickly purchased. Or may be we just felt we didn’t need pitchers at the time.
George Herman (Babe) Ruth and pitcher Ernie Shore were those two players. Both were purchased from Baltimore by the Red Sox on July 9, two days after Twombly and Derrick were purchased by the Reds. Ruth and Shore were pitchers; Ruth was just 19 and in his first year of professional baseball. Shore, like Derrick, had reached the majors before with Shore having pitched one game for the New York Giants in 1912. And, keep in mind, Ruth had an unorthodox swing for his era, an era where bat control was the rule and Ty Cobb was the model. His swing probably didn’t impress the scout, and Ruth was predominantly a pitcher at the time anyway.
Both Twombly and Derrick were immediately added to the Reds roster (as Ruth and Shore were added to the Red Sox roster). Derrick’s career with the Reds was rather short. He played three games, going 2-6 before the Reds traded him to the Chicago Cubs for first baseman Fritz Mollwitz, who became the Reds starter for 1915, batting .259 with a .597 OPS. As you may surmise, teams playing with a first baseman possessing an OPS of .597 aren’t usually winning teams, and the 1915 team finished seventh of eight. Now we needed Mollwitz, or at least another first baseman for the Reds had sold their first baseman, Dick Hoblitzell, just four days earlier to the Red Sox, the same team that had just purchased Shore and Ruth. Hoblitzell had been one of our best players since 1908, but when he began 1914 (at age 25) batting .210 we sent him to the Bosox where he finished the year batting .319 and became their starting first baseman through 1917. After his trade, Derrick batted .214 for the Cubs in 1914 (28 games) and it was back to the minors for good.
Twombly lasted a little longer, playing parts of three seasons with the Reds. Playing 117 games for Cincinnati, George Twombly batted .222 with 6 triples and 17 stolen bases. The Reds sold him to the Boston Braves after the 1916 season. Twombly set two major league records for the Reds during the 1914 season, as he hit five triples with no doubles (most triples without a double) and for hitting five triples with no other extra base hits. Twombly played 150 games in his career with a career batting average of .211 and he collected seven triples. He finally did get a double, one double total, for the Braves in 1917.
Meanwhile, both Shore and Ruth became part of the starting pitching rotation for possibly the best team in baseball at the time, the Boston Red Sox. The Red Sox won World championships in 1912, 1915, 1916, and 1918. From 1914-17, Shore went 58-33 with a 2.12 ERA for the Bosox (ERA+ of 128) with 51 complete games and nine shutouts. He’s best known for a game he pitched in relief of George Herman (Babe) Ruth. Ruth was the starting pitcher and walked the first batter. Ruth was promptly tossed out for arguing balls and strikes. Shore came on to pitch and the runner on first, Ray Morgan, was thrown out attempting to steal second. Shore then retired the next 26 batters he faced. He was credited with a perfect game for decades, until the rules changed and Shore’s game was reclassified as a combined no-hitter with Ruth.
George Herman (Babe) Ruth, however, became the greatest player in the history of baseball. He was a star pitcher with a great bat and an unusual swing for his time that led to a great many home runs blasted out of the park. The Red Sox used him primarily as a pitcher until 1918 when he played more and more in the outfield as he got into 95 games and led the league with 11 homers. By 1919, his last year with the Red Sox, they played him 111 games in the outfield (130 games overall) and he responded with a league record 29 home runs. He was sold to the Yankees in January of 1920, and the rest, as they say, is history.
Ruth and Shore both were purchased by the Red Sox from Baltimore on July 9, 1914, two days after the Reds purchased Twombly and Derrick. Ruth’s major league debut came on July 11 (age 19 or not) and he only played five games (pitching in five) going 2-1 with a 3.91 ERA. Ruth was in the 1915 rotation and went 18-8 with a 2.44 ERA, leading the American League in ERA in 1916. Shore immediately went into the rotation, finishing the year 10-5 with a 2.00 ERA. In 1915, Shore was 19-8 with a 1.64 ERA.
So, the Reds passed on the greatest player in major league history by choosing George Twombly instead of George Herman Ruth. And, in case you don’t know, we also traded away arguably the best pitcher in major league history, Christy Mathewson. You can read about that here.