Green: Babe’s ghost befuddled by today’s World Series
The apparition arrived during the Void of October — that lull between the clinching of the baseball pennants and the start of the World Series. Five idle days and idle nights. Ideal for watching ballgames and for sitting in the rocking chair and listening to Joe Buck’s whining repetitions and Harold Reynolds attempts to make profound observations.
Instead there was silence. I didn’t realize then how golden it could be.
The apparition appeared in the middle of the night. It was human in shape, quite rotund, as I might imagine a ghost would look like at 3:12 in the darkest morning when my mind starts whirring uncontrollably fast.
“Sorry, to bother you, this is The Babe,” said a gravelly voice.
I recognized the apparition immediately. It was Babe Ruth, a visitation during this Void of October.
The apparition was adorned in one of Major-League Baseball’s hot-selling “Always October” hoodies. I think I grinned upon seeing Babe’s ghost wearing this new baseball fashion sported by Bruce Bochy and Ned Yost while their teams were clinching their pennants.
“What happened to the World Series?” mused the ghost of The Babe. “I’ve been waiting, waiting for them to steal some more World Series records. All of us here are tired of the wait.”
“Well, the playoffs ended quicker than Bud Selig reckoned,” I said in my drowsy post-midnight slur. “And TV wouldn’t let the baseball games begin until the big football weekend was over last Monday night. That’s the way it is nowadays. The network says when the World Series starts, not the major-domos of baseball.”
“Where I am, we’re all wondering about this “postseason” stuff?” said the The Babe. “All of us are wondering.”
“Who’s all of us?” I asked. Still groggy.
Gang’s all here
“The guys. You know. Cobb and Teddy Williams. Jackie, DiMag, Mickey and Gehrig and Musial. Hornsby, too, and John McGraw. Walter Johnson’s around sometimes. Campanella, too. We all got to the World Series when we finished first in the pennant races. I got in 10 of those World Series and my team won most of them.”
“Well, Babe, I don’t remember any of them myself,” I said, “but I kept reading about all your home runs and hits and even your pitching in the old World Series record books when you played for the Red Sox and Yankees.”
“That’s why I’ve come back here,” said Ruth’s ghost. “To find out what the heck happened to all those World Series record books. Not just my records. But Mantle’s, too. McGraw’s, too, although he was a tough old so and so.”
“You make me laugh, Babe,” I continued through my haze. “Those old World Series record books are out of date now. They’re probably covered with dust, hidden in the corner of a bookshelf in the basement at Cooperstown. Your World Series records are obsolete now — mushed all together in the postseason records Joe Buck keeps spouting over Fox every October.”
“You mean like all of us never really existed,” said The Babe, hurt. “You mean what we all did never counts for nothin’?”
“Sad, isn’t it,” I said. “And you never had the opportunity to play in anything other than World Series games. No division series. No league championship series. You might have hit a home run or two more. You might have even been able to play in a wild card game and hit a homer.”
“Whatsa wild card game?” the apparition sounded confused.
“Yeah, Babe,” I said. “They’re for teams that don’t win enough during the season. Not good enough to finish first. To give TV more postseason games to rave about.”
“Well, we just played 154 games and the teams that won the most in our league and over in the National, we played each other in the World Series,” said the ghost of Babe Ruth. “There was none of this playoffs stuff stuffed into our records. And America liked it. Remember when I called the home-run shot against the Cubs in ’32 and hit it out?”
“Read about it Babe,” I said, “and I know you were the biggest World Series star of them all, weren’t you, Babe?”
“Yeah?” said the ghost. “I hit 15 home runs in all my World Series. I thought that record would last forever. It was OK when Mickey Mantle took it away from me with his 18, he was a Yankee, but they took the Series record away from The Mick, too.”
“Shame, Babe,” was all I could say.
“We got some World Series movies where we are, and I recall this Joe Buck guy saying in a game a few years ago that Derek Jeter just passed Babe Ruth on the all-time postseason home-run list. That ticked me off. Postseason home runs! I like Derek a lot, he was a proud Yankee, but he only hit three home runs in all the World Series games he played. I hit three in one World Series games once, in ’26. And . . .”
“Nothing you can do about it now,” I had to explain. “We got this World Series going right now and TV is trying its best to make it exciting during another football weekend now.”
“Who’s in it again?” said The Babe.
“Kansas City and San Francisco,” said. I felt like dozing off again. “Two wild card teams, teams that finished second in the standings in the games from March to September.”
“Second?” The Babe responded, and I could tell he was angry. “When we finished second we were mad as hell about it all winter.”
“I understand,” I said.
The Babe was getting boisterous the angrier he became. He yelled: “They’re keeping all our World Series records together with those postseason records. They’re all lumped together like stuff in a sewer. Who’d they say got the home-run record now?
“For the postseason! Hang tough, Babe,” I said “I’ll go look it up.”
Somehow I managed to sleepwalk to the computer and looked it up online. Gee, I’m having this chat with Babe Ruth in the Void of October, and nobody will believe it. I found the record-holder for postseason home runs and tumbled back to bed.
“Manny Ramirez, Babe,” I told the apparition.
“How many?” came the gruff reply.
“Manny got 29,” I said.
“How many in World Series games?”
“Four, Babe,” I said.
“And he hit 25 in all the rest of the games before the World Series?”
“Yep,” I said. “Manny broke Bernie Williams’ postseason record about seven years ago.”
“Bernie Williams? Where am I now?”
“In seventh place, all time, Babe,” I said. “Postseason.”
“When I played,” said the ghost of Babe Ruth, “they called the World Series the Fall Classic.”
“Yeah, and now?” I wondered.
The Babe’s ghost spoke quickly before it faded away: “The Fall Farce.”
Jerry Green is a retired Detroit News sports columnist. Read his web-exclusive columns Saturdays at detroitnews.com.