People remember the home run records of 714 for his career and 60 in a season, the infamous “Called Shot” (True or not), his career .342 batting average, the large salary ($80,000 in 1930)and his other feats in the game. He is also remembered for eating copious amounts of hotdogs, drinking large quantities of beer and his large appetites in other, more personal areas. True fans remember his early career pitching exploits. Babe Ruth is remembered.
How many fans remember Hubert Shelby “Shucks” Pruett? I‘d venture to say, not many especially since his last appearance in a major league game was in September of 1932.
Hub Pruett (September 1, 1900 - January 28, 1982) was a left-handed pitcher who played professionally for the St. Louis Browns (AL), Philadelphia Phillies (NL), New York Giants (NL) and the Boston Braves (NL). His major league debut was on April 26th, 1922 and his final game September 20th, 1932. His career pitching record was 29-48 with an ERA (earned run average) of 4.63 and 357 strikeouts. He was 5’10 and weighted 165lbs - wore number 21. His nickname, “Shucks” came about because that was about the most “colorful” language that he’d use.
By all accounts, Hub was an ordinary left-handed pitcher that bounced around the majors with four teams for a seven year career over ten seasons. If you examine rosters through the years, most of baseball is made up of the “Hub Pruetts”. The average guy, that plays, reaches the end of the line and moves on with his life, either in baseball or some other pursuit. In Hub’s case, he used his baseball salary to put himself though college and medical school. He followed in his late father’s footsteps as a practicing physician, and his son and grandson also went into the profession, alas, without stops in the majors. I’d say without knowing the man, it was a life well spent. An interesting story as well. But lets look at what Hub did as a 21 year old rookie in 1922 in his encounters with the aforementioned George Herman Ruth.
In 1922 Babe Ruth was suspended by Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis for 39 days. Ruth’s infraction was breaking the rule that players who had played in the World Series were not allowed to “barnstorm” afterwards to make additional money (most players worked off season jobs up until the time of free agency) that players at the time were allowed to do. Ruth did it anyway. So his year didn’t start until over a month of the season had past. Ruth’s season’s stats were:
Games: 110 - At Bats: 406 - Runs: 94 - Hits: 128 - Doubles: 24
Triples: 8 - Home Runs: 35 RBIs: 96 - Walks: 84 - Strike Outs: 80
Batting Average: .315
Pretty good numbers for missing 44 games (he had two other suspensions that year). But here is how Babe fared against Hub:
On May 22nd Pruitt in relief stuck Ruth out the first time they met and walked him the second time. He got the “save.
On June 10th Pruitt in relief stuck Ruth out.
On June 12th as the starting and winning pitcher, he struck Ruth out three times and walked him once.
On July 12 Ruth hit a weak tapper to Pruitt and was put out at first 1-3. Ruth then proceeded to strike out three times, the last time with the bases loaded.
On August 25th, with the bases load, Pruitt was called on in relief and struck him out again.
Then on September 17th, Pruitt walked Babe his first time up, struck him out in the third inning, in the fifth Babe finally connected and hit a home run and finished off by hitting a single in the eight inning.
Babe Ruth hit .153 off Hub that year with a single, a home run, 3 walks and 10 strike outs. Not bad for a rookie. 12.5% of Ruth’s strike outs came at the left arm of Hub.
Hub’s magic against the Babe wore off in 1923 and 24. His career numbers as I mentioned weren’t Hall of Fame worthy, but he earned a living as a “journeyman” lefty.
In 1948, just a couple weeks before Ruth died, Hub visited with him and thanked him for “putting him through med school” as he felt the Browns kept him due to his success against Babe. Apparently he said, “If it wasn’t for you, no one would have heard of me.” Babe is said to have smiled and said, “If I helped you get through medical school, I‘m glad of it.” (1)
Both the stars and the ordinary players make up the rich history of baseball.
~ Coach Mike
1 - “Babe: The Legend Comes to Life” By, Robert Creamer, Simon and Schuester, April 1992