Babe Ruth Enlists in the National Guard

The most popular man in America, George Herman “Babe” Ruth, arrived with the New York Yankees in May of 1924 to play two games against the Washington Senators. Several days earlier, he had enlisted with the New York National Guard in a well-publicized event in Times Square – a large National Guard recruitment push.

Babe Ruth signs up for the New York National Guard
Babe Ruth signs up for the New York National Guard

Thanks Shorpy for these great Babe Ruth photos.

Babe Ruth salutes General John J. Pershing at the War Department
Babe Ruth salutes General John J. Pershing at the War Department

A number of articles were written about Ruth being in town. Here’s on from the Washington Post:

Babe Ruth’s batting average in artillery nomenclature is woefully weak. Recently he was recruited into a unit of the New York Guard and called at the State, War and Navy building yesterday afternoon to pay his respects to Gen. Pershing.

In a few minutes’ conversation with the Recruit Ruth it became apparent there is much hard work ahead for guard instructors if the mighty slugger is to become an artillery expert.

The Babe muffed on the question, “What is a caisson?” The expression on his face when the inquiry was made was as puzzled as when he has made a third strike.

This one is even more amusing. It’s from the Associated Press.

WASHINGTON, May 28, 1924 (Associated Press.) — Private Babe Ruth, recently acquired rookie of the New York National Guard, came to Washington today to report to his commander-in-chief, General Pershing. Anxious to appear in uniform, the Babe hustled around New York to find one big enough to fit him. He had no luck, so when the Yankees came to Washington he went to see the quartermaster-general about it. At 9 a.m. he was waiting to be outfitted from the stock extra large uniform sizes in preparation for his formal appearance at General Pershing’s office.

If you’ve ever seen the Cultural Tourism DC sign at Columbia Rd. and Wyoming Ave. NW (sign #13 on the Adams Morgan Heritage Trail), you will notice a photo of Babe Ruth in a military uniform which, until now, seemed very odd. Well, now you know the story behind it. Stop and check out that sign the next time you walk by it.

By the way, the Yankees were in town playing the Washington Senators in a doubleheader on May 28th (rain the previous day forced the twin bill). They split the series with Waite Hoyt and the Yankees beating our ace, Walter Johnson 7-4 in the first game (Ruth went 2 for 4 with two K’s) and the Senators, led by Tom Zachary beat the Yanks 6-1 in the second game (Ruth went 1 for 4 with one K). It was a Wednesday, so only 2,500 came to the first game and 4,000 were in the stands for the second game.

Incidentally, the Washington Senators won the American League at 92-62 in 1924 and went on to take the World Series over the New York Giants.

Oh, this is cool too, but it’s not from his National Guard enlistment. This was his World War I Draft Registration Card which I dug up at the National Archives … employed by Boston American, working at Fenway Park. Nice.

Babe Ruth World War I Draft Registration Card
Babe Ruth World War I Draft Registration Card

One last thing. If you haven’t been to Ruth’s birthplace in Baltimore, you should. It’s a great museum and they’re on Twitter (@BabeRuthMuseum).

About Tom

Tom founded Ghosts of DC on January 4th, 2012 as a blog to uncover the lost and untold history of Washington, D.C. He has lived in the city for over a decade and loves exploring every corner of the District.

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