On December 29th, 1933 the Cincinnati Reds tried to buy the contract for Babe Ruth from the New York Yankees to have Ruth be a player/manager. Then Yankees owner Jacob Ruppert, however, didn’t like the deal as much as the Reds did and put the nix on the deal. The Reds actually tweeted about this on the anniversary of the deal not being struck earlier this week. That took this particular writer down a rabbit hole of curiosity on what could have been.

Perhaps the 1934 Reds could have used what Babe Ruth was bringing to the table as a player. Then 39-years-old, Ruth played in 125 games and hit .288/.448/.537 with 17 doubles, 4 triples, and 22 home runs. Hardly a “Ruthian” effort, and while they didn’t exactly know what OPS+ was at the time, his 160 OPS+ was still an elite level. But 1935 was not exactly ideal. Ruth was released by the Yankees in February of 1935 and signed with the Boston Braves. Ruth only played in 28 games, hitting just .181/.359/.431 before playing his final game just before the final day of May.

That story, though, is the THIRD time that the Cincinnati Reds missed out on Babe Ruth. The first time they missed out would have changed the course of history a little bit for the franchise. The Baltimore Orioles owner was in need of cash and was having a little bit of a sale of his young players. Cincinnati’s owner, Garry Herrmann was interested in Ruth and Baltimore was willing to sell his rights along with Ernie Shore for $12,000. Reds manager Buck Herzog, though, wanted two other Orioles and convinced Herrmann to acquire them instead. The Reds wound up purchasing Claud Derrick and George Twombly for $15,000, while Ruth and Shore were sold to the Boston Red Sox for $12,000.

So, how did the two players bought instead turn out? Well, you clearly know they aren’t Babe Ruth. Shortstop Claud Derrick was a Red for less than two weeks before he was traded to the Chicago Cubs for Fritz Mollwitz, who played in 250 games over three seasons and hit .238/.262/.292 for Cincinnati. As for George Twombly, he played in parts of three seasons for Cincinnati, hitting .222/.284/.260 in 117 total games.


But what about the second time that the Cincinnati Reds had the opportunity to pick up Babe Ruth? That came just a handful of weeks later after their first attempt was squashed by their manager. On July 30th of 1914 the owner of the Boston Red Sox, who now had purchased Ruth a few weeks prior, also bought the Providence Grays of the International League. Ruth was sent to Providence, and at the time that meant that he had to be placed on waivers. Cincinnati claimed Ruth, but Boston/Providence owner Joseph Lannin wrote to Reds owner Garry Herrmann and told him that Ruth was being sent to Providence to develop. Cincinnati’s owner withdrew his claim of Ruth and allowed him to remain with the Red Sox organization.

Double Oops.

9 Responses

  1. Melvin

    I never heard that before. Interesting.

  2. Bred

    Happy New Year to all! That was an interesting history lesson that reveals that poor decision making has plagued the Reds for over 100 years. Is there a curse on the Reds I don’t know about, or is it in the Reds’ DNA to make poor decisions?

    • Randy in Chatt

      Yeah, lots of bad decisions in the late 1960’s and the BRM that was to come.

  3. GR

    Thanks. I knew of the attempt to acquire Babe Ruth in 1930s, but nit the two previous times.

  4. MK

    Would the Reds have made him an outfielder? When at Baltimore he was strictly a pitcher. They had to be acquiring him with pitching in mind.

    • KDJ

      Maybe they would not have been able to decide if he was a starting pitcher or center fielder. As a consequence, they don’t really develop him as either and just play him sparingly.

  5. Louis

    Cincinnati is the quintessential ‘almost’ town 🙂

  6. west larry

    I never knew that the reds attempted tp acquire Ruth, and three times at that! Great story.