On this day in 1920, the New York Yankees major league baseball club announces its purchase of the heavy-hitting outfielder George Herman “Babe” Ruth from the Boston Red Sox for the sum of $125,000.
In all, Ruth had played six seasons with the Red Sox, leading them to three World Series victories. On the mound, Ruth pitched a total of 29 2/3 scoreless World Series innings, setting a new league record that would stand for 43 years. He was fresh off a sensational 1919 season, having broken the major league home run record with 29 and led the American League with 114 runs-batted-in and 103 runs. In addition to playing more than 100 games in left field, he also went 9-5 as a pitcher. With his prodigious hitting, pitching and fielding skills, Ruth had surpassed the great Ty Cobb as baseball’s biggest attraction.
Despite Ruth’s performance, the Red Sox stumbled to a 66-71 record in 1919, finishing at sixth place in the American League. New ownership took control of the club, and in early January, owner Harry Frazee made the decision to sell Ruth to the Yankees for $125,000 in cash and some $300,000 in loans (which Frazee reportedly used to finance his Broadway production interests). After the sale, the Yankees took over Ruth’s contract, which called for a salary of $10,000 per year. Aware of his value, Ruth had demanded a salary raise, and New York agreed to negotiate a new contract with terms that would satisfy their new slugger.
The deal paid off–in spades–for New York, as Ruth went on to smash his own home run record in 1920, hitting 54 home runs. He connected for 59 homers in 1921, dominating the game and increasing Yankee revenues to the point that the team was able to leave the Polo Grounds (shared with the New York Giants baseball team) and build Yankee Stadium, which opened in 1923 and became known as “the house that Ruth built.” Throughout the rest of the 20th century, the legacy of Frazee’s lopsided trade continued to hover over major league baseball, as the Yankees won 39 AL pennants and 26 World Series titles and the Red Sox went 86 years without a World Series win. In 2004, the Sox finally shook the “Curse of the Bambino,” coming from behind to beat the Yankees in the AL Championship and beating the St. Louis Cardinals to win their first Series since 1918.