Question From a Fan: Babe’s Pitching Nemesis

Question From a Fan:  Babe’s Pitching Nemesis

We recently received a less-known Babe Ruth trivia question from one of BRC’s fans:

“I’m a reference librarian and have been unable to find an answer to a patron’s question. I’ve ransacked our books of baseball statistics and scanned several Ruth biographies, with no result. It has an urban legend quality about it.  The patron believes he read about this in Sport, in 1958, 1959 or 1960. A story sidebar concerned a relief pitcher whose otherwise mediocre career included 16 duels with Ruth, resulting in 14 strikeouts, one home run and…don’t remember the other AB. The patron remembers a quote from Babe himself, something like, “He knew where Babe buried the body.” This seems a bit too memorable, and as no other pitcher seems to have figured out Ruth, it ought to be better known.  Do you have any ideas or recollections on this? Many thanks in advance.”

The pitcher’s name was Hub Pruett. He was born in Missouri in 1900, and lived there until his death in 1982. His full name was Hubert Shelby “Shucks” Pruett. He played MLB from 1922 through 1932 for four different teams, but made his name while pitching against the Babe for the St. Louis Browns in 1922.

In that first season, Hub struck Ruth out 13 of the first 16 times they faced each other. At least, those are the numbers according to my quick review of their face-to-face battles. Finally, on September 17, 1922 at Sportsman’s Park in St. Louis, Babe walloped a home run over the right field bleachers of Pruett.  Against all other batters, Hub was just an average (if that) MLB pitcher. His career record was 29 & 48 while accruing a career ERA of 4.63.  He was able to retire Ruth by using the “fade-away” pitch which he learned from Christy Mathewson. Essentially, it was a “screwball” which he threw from three different release points. Babe just couldn’t figure it out.

Pruett used his MLB earnings to attend medical school, and became a doctor like his father. In turn, Hub’s son also became a doctor. The Pruett family still asserts that it all happened due to Hub’s interaction with Babe Ruth. Hub and Ruth never spoke on the field although Pruett later acknowledged that the Babe used to wink at him when they passed each other. Ultimately, when Babe Ruth was dying in 1948 and Hub Pruett was in New York, Hub visited him. Pruett thanked Ruth for creating the means by which he was able to pay for medical school since he probably would not have stayed on the Browns roster if not for his success against the Babe. Reportedly, Babe was highly pleased to learn of Pruett’s use of his MLB money and subsequent life as a practicing physician.

I know that it all sounds like fiction, but it really happened…so typical of Babe Ruth’s life.

 

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