Standing together, talking while waiting to be introduced to a crowd of almost 70,000 people -- many of whom traveled all day to see these stars make a triumphant return to the game -- were two of baseball's most revered and legendary stars.
One of the stars was worried about his friend's ability to get the ball over the plate any more - something the former star needed to hit a home run. He knew the enormous crowd came to see him hit one... "One last time!" The other legend wanted to make sure his friend got that home run, but he was worried too -- he worried about his old friend smacking a line shot right back at him on the mound and no longer being able to react fast enough to get out of its way!
The retired umpire for the big event was telling reporters in the Yankee Stadium Locker Room that when he called a game with the great pitcher, whose side-arm throwing motion delivered the ball so incredibly fast, he would shut his eyes when the ball came in! The catcher for the event was clowning around with the press, patting his bald head to the delight of the reporters and fans who loved him as long-time favorite.
That was the ballpark setting on that 23rd day in August of 1942, when the Babe came home to the "House that Ruth Built" and put on a baseball exhibition with his friend, the great Walter "Big Train" Johnson, and the great HOF umpire Billy Evans, who called the rookie debut games for both Ruth and Johnson when they broke into the Majors. Also in the event was Ruth's old buddy and teammate from the great Yankee '20s teams, the good-natured, smiling catcher Benny Bengough. All four were together again for one great cause: to headline one of the most famous Major League charity benefit events of all time, an event that raised over $80,000 for the World War II Army Navy Relief Fund.
Amazingly, Ruth hit a home run to the thundering delight of the deafening crowd which included Joe DiMaggio and all his fellow soon-to-be World Series champion 1942 Yankees teammates. And just as amazingly, a ball signed at this event has survived -- a ball signed by all of the participants on that great day.
This signed ball represents a great event for baseball and the fans... and an even greater day for the Babe (as this event was the last time the Babe hit a home run at Yankee Stadium) and for Walter Johnson, both together on the field again! This ball, with great Ruth (on the sweet spot) and Johnson autographs, is a part of a great moment in baseball's history. See a 1942 Fox Movietone Newsreel of the event with all four signers of the ball (Ruth, Johnson, Evans, and Bengough), and see close-ups of the signatures at www.memorylaneinc.com. The ball is Lot 831 offered in Memory Lane's Holy Grail Auction, which ends December 14th, 2006.