"We’ll never truly know if the gamble of moving Babe Ruth and his golden arm into the field, and into the batter’s box was really worth it. When those 9 players made the decision to fix The Series, the rest of us were left to wonder what might have been. The potential passing of the Chicago guard from Shoeless Joe to the Babe will never happen, and the Southside will never be the same."
Ruth could have been a Chicago Legend for a modest sum. (Photo courtesy of Sports Collector Daily. Click to Enlarge.)
The above is a quote from a newspaper article that was never written. It was never written in 1920, when 9 members of the Chicago White Sox were banned from baseball forever. Yeah, nine. It’s nine because had Charles Comiskey not been so cheap, the Southside would have had an entirely different identity. They would have had Babe Ruth. Not from the Boston Red Sox but before the Red Sox. Comiskey sent scout George Earl Mills to Baltimore, which was home to the top performing minor league Orioles at the time. Mills recommended a handful of names to Comiskey for purchase, among them was left hander George Herman Ruth. The O’s owner, Jack Dunn even extended a proposition to the Old Roman. $18,000 for Ruth and the rest of the handful of players. Eventually Ruth was isolated; $16,000 cash and The Babe would be a White Sox. How do we know this? A series of telegrams from Mills to Comiskey all saved and stored away by Mills’ wife Ethel reveal the efforts to strike out a deal for the baseball legend. “Will sell Ruth to Chicago Club for $16,000 cash.” Not that large a sum that could have perhaps saved the White Sox from the biggest scandal in the history of the game…or even robbed the game of its biggest and most influential player, depending on how things played out. Of course, if Comiskey was a little freer with his wallet the eventual 8 players that perpetrated the Black Sox Scandal probably would have been better paid in the first place, erasing their eagerness to score big with gamblers. $16,000. In today’s money that would be about $320,000. Organizations routinely dole out millions to unproven high school players in the hopes that they’ll just be on their major league roster someday. Of course, nobody knew that George Herman Ruth would become The Babe. Nobody knew that he would be the face of baseball for generations. And for a long time, nobody knew that he was almost on the Chicago White Sox.