Out of Reach of All the Glory

From 1927 to 1939, Wes Ferrell was a pitcher with Cleveland, the Yankees, and the Red Sox. In this interview he tells what it was like to face some of the great hitters as well as to stand in the batter's box.

I got to laughing so hard I just laid one right in there, and damn if he doesn't knock it back through my legs for a base hit.

I never threw at Ruth, though. You just didn't want to do that. He was baseball. What was it like pitching to him? Like looking into a lion's jaw, that's what. Hell, man, you're pitching to a legend. And you knew, too, that if he hits a home run, he's gonna get the cheers; and if he strikes out he's still gonna get the cheers. You were nothing out there when Ruth came up.

You look around and your infielders are way back and your outfielders have just about left town, they're so far back. And here you are, sixty feet away from him. You got great encouragement from your infielders too. The first baseman says pitch him outside, the third baseman says pitch him inside. They're worried about having their legs cut off. "Take it easy, boys," I told them. "I'm closer to him than you are, and I'm not worryin'." The hell I wasn't. Ruth could swivel your head with a line drive.

But I always had pretty good luck with Babe. He was a guess hitter, you know. I'd watch that right leg; it told me what he was looking for. Sometimes he'd have his back almost to the pitcher, with that right leg pulled around toward the catcher. That's when he was looking for curves or slow stuff. When he was looking for a fast ball he'd place that right leg differently. So I'd pitch accordingly to him. Ruth hit only three home runs off me in the seven years I pitched to him. And he never beat me a ball game.

After Babe had died, I went to an old-timer's game in New York. After the game, we all went to Toots Shor's restaurant for the shindig. Mrs. Ruth was there. I'd never met her, so I went up and introduced myself.

"You're Wes Ferrell?" she said.

"That's right." I said.

"Babe said a lot of things about you."

"What do you mean?" I asked.

'He'd come home and say how tough it was to get a base hit off you. It upset him quite a bit."

Well, that flattered me more than anything in the world.

I had my troubles with Roger Peckinpaugh, you know. But I always worked hard for him, same as any manager I ever pitched for. Starting, relieving, pinch-hitting; I was always on call, happy to do anything to help out the ball club. Hurts my arm today just to think about it.

There was this game against the Athletics, in 1931. It was supposed to be a home game for the Athletics, but there was no Sunday ball in Philadelphia at that time, so we caught the sleeper out of Philly on Saturday and went back to Cleveland. Connie Mack figured there was no sense bringing the whole team for one game, and he left some of his ballplayers home. So he was short of pitchers.

I forget who started for the A's, but we got him out of there in the first inning. Eddie Rommel came in and pitched the rest of the game—seventeen innings. We got about thirty hits off him. Johnny Burnett, our shortstop, set a record that game: he got nine hits. Alva Bradley, the Cleveland land owner, said later it was the most exciting ball game he ever saw. Well, I didn't think it was so damned exciting.

I relieved Willis Hudlin in the seventh and pitched right on into the eighteenth inning before they beat me with a bad-hop base hit. Jimmie Foxx got a single and then Eric McNair hit a line drive to left that took a crazy hop over Joe Vosmik's head. Jimmie came tearing around and I'm beat. I should've won it in the ninth, you know, but Eddie Morgan made an error at first on the easiest ground ball you ever saw and that tied it.

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