Eighty-six years ago, Babe Ruth came through Newark just before his final season — two months, actually — as a player. The Braves were barnstorming north in advance of their April 16 season opener against the Giants in Boston and stopped for an exhibition against the defending International League champion Newark Bears at Ruppert Stadium on April 7, 1935.
Coming off a 93-60 season, the Yankees’ affiliate jumped out to a 7-1 lead on a team that featured not only a 40-year-old Bambino at first base, but 42-year-old Rabbit Maranville at second. The Braves were managed by former Newark Peppers third baseman and manager Bill McKechnie.
Batting third, Ruth came up in the first inning with two outs to face knuckleballer Frank Makosky, a “Boonton kid who saw a lot of sandlot service in these parts,” according to Art McMahon’s writeup in the Passaic Herald-News.
The Great Man took a nasty swing at a low ball and sneered contemptuously at another low one, which went for a ball.
He wiggled his bat menacingly as the crowd implored him to put one out of the park. The fans were there as a polite welcoming committee for the Bears but they wanted to see Ruth drive one over the walls.
Babe stepped into Makosky’s next offering. He teed a long, loping drive into the right field stands. There was a mighty cheer as Ruth waddled around the bases. His blow would have been a homer in the Polo Grounds and a damn long single in the Yankee Stadium.– McMahon, The Herald-News, April 8, 1935, p. 16
It was the lone run Boston would get through the first five innings. Newark, on the other hand, scored four in the first and three more in the third to build a 7-1 lead. This team was no pushover, featuring 19 future major leaguers, including Dixie Walker and George McGuinn. That pair would combine for 12 All-Star appearances and a collective 65.5 bWAR in 30 seasons between them. Newark wouldn’t repeat as champions in 1935, finishing fourth in the eight-team International League with a record of 81-71, 10 games behind the first-place Montreal Royals. (The Braves, on the other hand would finish 38-115, dead last in the National League — 61 1/2 games behind the pennant-winning Cubs and 26 behind the seventh-place Phillies.)
Batting again in the third, Ruth took three balls from Bob Miller — a Bloomfield High School graduate — but wasn’t interested in a walk. He swung at a subsequent offering, lifting a lazy (though deep) fly ball to center field.
Ruth led off the sixth inning, also against Miller, and connected for what reports at the time said was the longest home run ever hit at Ruppert Stadium, a ball that flew an (unscientifically) estimated 500 feet that may have left the ballpark entirely.
He caught one of the Bloomfield boy’s fast balls and exploded it over a signboard in deep right field. Maybe the fans didn’t roar then. The Babe picked his way around the bases daintily. An army of photographers snapped him as he jogged across home plate. The fans were on their feet cheering as he trotted to the dugout. The Babe lifted his hat in salute and then barked something to his grinning mates. It was a friendly bark for the Babe was grinning too.– McMahon
The clout sparked the Braves, who scored seven runs that inning to take an 8-7 lead. Babe batted again and walked, then called for a pinch-runner, his day over after two homers, a deep flyout and the base on balls. He also made a sprawling play at first base to corral an errant throw and save an error on pitcher Larry Benton.
If Ruth’s second home run did travel the guesstimated 500 feet onto the street, it would have landed somewhere along Avenue K, the spot now between a semi trailer lot and one of the food manufacturers that has taken over the land where the stadium used to sit.
Ruth would only play 28 games that season for the Braves, hitting .181/.359/.431 with six home runs. His last game was on May 30 at Philadelphia, but the last three home runs he would hit came five days earlier in Pittsburgh. His final clout — the 714th of his career — sailed over the right-field rooftop of Forbes Field, clear out of the ballpark.