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Fort Wayne Sports History: Ruth, Yankees make a visit

Babe Ruth

New York beats Lincoln Lifers behind Bambino blast

Monday, August 26, 2013 - 12:01 am

Editor's Note: This is the 14th in a series of excepts from the book "Fort Wayne Sports History."

May 6, 1927

In 1927 Babe Ruth and the New York Yankees play the Lincoln Lifers.

Fort Wayne has a fantastic baseball history, thanks in part to the Lincoln Lifers, a semi-pro team sponsored by Lincoln National Life Insurance Co. The squad regularly played exhibition games against Major League teams during the 1920s.

Maybe the Lifers' biggest game came against the Yankees' "Murderers' Row" squad that featured Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig. Ruth hit 60 home runs that season and Gehrig drove in 175 runs as the Yankees went on to win the World Series.

A standing-room-only crowd of more than 3,000 fans was on hand to watch the first-place Yankees who stopped off on their way to a series in Chicago.

The Lifers rallied to take a 3-2 lead in the top of the eighth inning before the Yankees tied it in the bottom of the inning.

The game was tied 3-3 in the 10th inning with a man on first when Ruth stepped to the plate for the fifth time. He had been held hitless in his first three at-bats along with a walk. With two strikes, Ruth belted the third pitch over the right field wall for a two-run home run that gave the Yankees a 5-3 win. As Ruth crossed home plate, he was mobbed by fans and members of both teams.

Legend says Lifers catcher Bruff Cleary walked to the mound before the final toss to inform pitcher Chuck Noel that "these fans came here to see Babe Ruth hit, not to see you pitch. So give them what they want and groove one."

That turned out to be the last season for the Lifers. A year later Fort Wayne rejoined professional baseball as the Chiefs played in the Central League.

The Yankees finished the 1927 season with a 110-44 record, sweeping the Pittsburgh Pirates in the World Series.

October 25, 1926

Also, in 1926, Babe Ruth plays an exhibition game with the Lincoln Lifers against the Kips.

There's an urban legend about Ruth hitting a home run into a passing train car, but there's no official record of it. Ruth did hit two home runs and played every position but catcher in the game as the Lifers won 11-1 at League Park.

For more information on the book "Fort Wayne Sports History," written by News-Sentinel sports reporter Blake Sebring, visit www.amauth.com or www.blakesebring.com.