Babe Ruth is pictured in 1919, his last year with the Boston Red Sox. Library of Congress photo
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BOSTON -- The Curse of Bambino wasn't a reality yet in the minds of the 31,000 fans who crowded Fenway Park for a double-header on Sept. 20, 1919. They were there to see Babe Ruth pitch and hit for "Babe Ruth Day."
Although the Bostonians didn't realize it, the day would be the final time Ruth played a home-game at Fenway Park in a Red Sox uniform. And it was a game sponsored by the local Knights of Columbus.
Ruth became a Knight earlier that year, joining Pere Marquette Council 271 in South Boston. The council enthusiastically participated in baseball, even having their own competitive team -- "fastest baseball team representing the Order in Greater Boston."
And they wanted to honor their brother Knight, the game's rising star.
According to the Boston Daily Globe, the council met on Sept. 9 to "perfect arrangements" for the occasion making "every effort" to get "every member interested in the testimonial to the king of sluggers."
That year, Ruth was on his way to becoming the king of sluggers. By late September, he was on pace to tie the single-season home-run record, which then was 27, held by Chicago White Stockings' Ned Williamson since 1884. But the sixth-placed Red Sox weren't poised to repeat as World Series champions as they squared off against the first-placed, and now infamous, White Sox in the double-header.
In game one, Ruth started as pitcher, as he did 15 times that season. But during the game, he wasn't electrifying, giving up three runs for a 3-3 tie going into the ninth inning.
But when he approached the plate as a hitter in the bottom of the ninth, with the game on the line, Ruth did what he did best that season: he hit a home-run.
It was a solo, walk-off blast -- the first of his career -- that sent the ball "sailing over the scoreboard to the right of the clock and through a window of a building across Landsdowne St." and tied the single-season home-run record.
Between game one and two, Pere Marquette Council's Grand Knight Arthur Leary presented Ruth and his wife with $600 in United States Treasury savings certificates. Both teams gathered alongside Ruth and his wife at home plate for the presentation.
Besides Ruth, other Knights present -- including Red Sox second baseman Mike McNally along with Eddie Murphy, Shano Collins, Hall of Famer Red Faber and John Sullivan of the White Sox -- were presented "fraternal charms."
Game two was less dramatic than the first. Ruth went one-for-three, getting an RBI double as the Red Sox went on to beat the White Sox 5-4. A few days later, he would break the single-season home-run record, ending up with 29. The next season, Ruth swapped his Red Sox uniform for New York Yankee pinstripes, kicking off the 86-year "curse" that ended in 2004.
Ruth would remain a member of Pere Marquette Council even after going to the Bronx Bombers and remained active with Knights throughout his life, including through post-season barnstorming tours, until his death in 1948. Knights of Columbus councils throughout the country would sponsor other games with the league's biggest stars to continue the growth of the sport.
Andrew Fowler is a writer for the Knights of Columbus in New Haven, Connecticut.