Summer is synonymous with baseball. From little league to church leagues, people are swinging the bat and taking to the mound pretty seriously. As school ends and local high schools are dominating State Championship titles, our town has many great baseball players already, never mind its history of greats. Simply put, the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown, New York boasts a Babe Ruth Room, but Fayetteville pays homage to the baseball legend where he hit his first home run.
To commemorate the 100th anniversary of the home run last March, several community organizations came together to host a number of special events, including a re-dedication of the Babe Ruth historic highway marker and two Vintage baseball games. If you have not ventured down to see the marker and perhaps take a photo next to it, the marker is at the intersection of Gillespie Street and Southern Avenue, in front of the NCDOT facility.
The player's historical "first" took place on March 7, 1914, here in Fayetteville, during an intrasquad game in which he played shortstop. Ruth's first "official" home run came on September 5, 1914 for the Providence Greys of the International League, where the Red Sox had sent him for more seasoning the month before. The Orioles sold Ruth to the Boston Red Sox on July 9, 1914 along with two other players as part of a fire sale by team owner Jack Dunn, who found himself in financial straits when the presence of a Baltimore franchise in the new Federal League obliterated the Orioles’ attendance.
Ruth then made his major league debut at Fenway Park on July 11, 1914 as a starting pitcher. He pitched seven innings for the win but was 0-for-2 at the plate, striking out against Cleveland lefty Willie Mitchell in his first major league at-bat.
History in the making
George Herman Ruth Jr., born on February 6, 1895 in Baltimore, is known for his slugging records and left handed pitching feats. Had George, Jr. been raised in a traditional family home, chances are he might have missed his destiny. Known for being a hellion at age 7, Ruth’s parents thought it best to send him away to St. Mary’s Industrial School for Boys, a Catholic orphanage and reformatory where he was listed as incorrigible. It was there that Brother Mathias, a monk, introduced Ruth to the game. Later at the school Ruth caught the eye of Jack Dunn, the owner of the minor league Baltimore Orioles, and the rest, as they say, is history.
Only true fans know how he acquired his nickname, which was actually only one of many: Bambino, Jack Dunn’s Baby, Dunn’s New Babe, Babe, The Great Bambino, The Sultan of Swat and Bam.
As I dug into some of Babe Ruth’s history, I was surprised to learn that an early female player carved out a little corner of history for herself after striking out “Babe” in 1931. Jackie Mitchell, a 17-year-old southpaw who pitched against the New York Yankees on April 2, 1931. The first batter she faced was Ruth, followed by Lou Gehrig, the deadliest hitting duo in baseball history. Mitchell struck them both out. There was a box score to prove it and news stories proclaiming her “organized baseball’s first girl pitcher.” Perhaps if it happened in 2014, the headline would read “Babe vs. a Babe.”
Congratulations to the boys team at Freedom Christian Academy on winning the NCISAA 1-A title and finishing third in the state.
In the Mid South Conference our top four ranked teams in this order were: Cape Fear 22-2, Pine Forest, 16-7, Jack Britt 15-10, and South View 11-13.
Conference baseball team:
Player of the year
Trey Jacobs, South View High School
Pitcher of the year
Justin Huggins, Cape Fear High School
Coach of the year
Tom Willoughby, Pine Forest High School
Cape Fear: Austin Davis,
Chipper Cashwell, Davis Cass,
Pine Forest: Grant Bennett, J.T. Stone, Jonathan Moore, Cobie Vance, Christian Austin
South View: Austin Fuentes, Tommy McMaster, C.J. Tew
Jack Britt: John Ortiz, Cameron Locklear, D.J. Bishop, Kyle Kennedy
Seventy-First: Kevin Ayala,
E.E. Smith: Joan Martinez, Nigel McCauley
Looking to immerse the kids or grandkids in some baseball and other sports history? The Museum of the Cape Fear is partnering with the Fayetteville Area Transportation and Local History Museum to present an ongoing exhibit titled Sports in the Sandhills.
Terrmel Sledge was born on Friday, March 18, 1977, in Fayetteville, North Carolina. Sledge was 27-years-old when he broke into the big leagues on April 6, 2004, with the Montreal Expos.
Sterling Hitchcock was born on Thursday, April 29, 1971, in Fayetteville, North Carolina. Hitchcock was 21-years-old when he broke into the big leagues on September 11, 1992, with the New York Yankees.
Alex Cole was born on Tuesday, August 17, 1965, in Fayetteville, North Carolina. Cole was 24-years-old when he broke into the big leagues on July 27, 1990, with the Cleveland Indians.
Mark Mercer was born on Saturday, May 22, 1954, in Fort Bragg, North Carolina. Mercer was 27-years-old when he broke into the big leagues on September 1, 1981, with the Texas Rangers.
Cal Koonce was born on Monday, November 18, 1940, in Fayetteville, North Carolina. Koonce was 21-years-old when he broke into the big leagues on April 14, 1962, with the Chicago Cubs.
Harry Hedgpeth was born on Tuesday, September 4, 1888, in Fayetteville, North Carolina. Hedgpeth was 25-years-old when he broke into the big leagues on October 3, 1913, with the Washington Senators.
Moonlight Graham was born on Monday, November 12, 1877, in Fayetteville, North Carolina. Graham was 27-years-old when he broke into the big leagues on June 29, 1905, with the New York Giants.
Murphy Currie was born on Thursday, August 31, 1893, in Fayetteville, North Carolina. Currie was 23-years-old when he broke into the big leagues on August 31, 1916, with the St. Louis Cardinals.