Minnesota town celebrates Babe Ruth’s visit 90 years ago

It was 90 years ago that Ruth came to Sleepy Eye, MN as part of a 19-stop barnstorming tour of the western part of the country. It was just after the season and World Series had just wrapped up in 1922 and Ruth had had a challenging year with suspensions and battling commissioner Kennesaw Mountain Landis.  Along with fellow team member, Bob Meusel, Ruth visited towns such as Denver, Kansas City Omaha and Sioux Falls. Ruth loved barnstorming. It gave him the chance to promote the game he loved in smaller towns where the fans adored him, as well as an opportunity to make some lucrative extra income. Ruth and Meusel made a visit to Sleepy Eye in return for $2000 in gate receipts.   When Babe and and Bob stepped off the train coming from Omaha they were greeted by fans and a local school band and led them to Sleepy Eye Ballpark for a 3pm game.   The teams were primarily made up of baseball all-stars that were local to the mid-southern area of Minnesota.  Unfortunately, the weather was extremely cold with flurries and the expected crowd of thousands ended up being much smaller.  But the game went on and was a blast for those who attended.   Leo Fritz (who has now passed) was a young boy at the time, who played hooky from school that day to see the game.   In an interview years later, he recalled the game and said he got into a lot of trouble with his parents that night but he would have done it all over again if he could.

Bob Meusel Babe Ruth Sleepy Eye

Bob Meusel and Babe Ruth in Sleepy Eye, MN for a barnstorming game. Photo provided by Debbie Joramo, Director of the Sleepy Eye Historical Society.

In this era, Ruth’s visits to these small towns were often one of the highlights of the residents’ lives.  Sleeply Eye was no exception. Recently, in the spirit of nostalgia, baseball and fun, the town of Sleepy Eye decided to celebrate this notable date in their local history.  BRC spoke with Randy Krzmarzick, a primary organizer of the recent party, “Back in 1997, my friend Scott and I decided that the 75th Anniversary of Babe’s visit deserved recognition. On a beautiful fall day, a bunch of ball fans toasted the Babe with beer and hot dogs, both of which the Babe was known to enjoy. Everyone took turns hitting a couple, standing on the very spot where the Sultan of Swat stood in ’22.  This year, it was time to honor the Babe again, and really just celebrate baseball.”

Ruth’s daughter, Julia, recalls her father’s visit to Sleepy Eye, “Daddy and Bob each picked members of the town to be a part of their teams for the game. Daddy picked this big, strapping man to join his team. Well, it doesn’t sound like the gentleman had ever really played baseball before. But, when the guy when up to bat, he hit the ball so hard and so far that it went out into the woods well beyond the ballfield. Then he just stood there so Daddy said, ‘Hey pal, what are you doing? You hit a home run – run the bases!’ and the man replied, ‘I’m not going to run the bases, I’m going to go and buy you a new ball!'”

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