6.6.2021 ~ archived

[originally published 8.27.2015]

Tremain Leading Babe Ruth by Safe Margin

Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig at West Point, 1927

This was a headline on the front page of the Itasca News on September 1, 1927.  It is evident that the editor was caught up in the exhilarating challenge between Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig for the home run championship, but who was John Tremain and what did he have on Ruth and Gehrig?

John Tremain (April 1857 – December 1929) was a well-known local muskie fisherman.  At the age of seventy-two, he had been catching trophy fish on the lakes of northern Itasca County for at least twenty years.  He and his family moved from Michigan in the spring on 1903, and by mid-summer his fishing success was recorded in the local papers, where it was noted at least once a season thereafter.

Babe Ruth (George Herman Jr. February 2, 1895 – August 16, 1948) was an American baseball player whose Major League career spanned 22 seasons, from 1914 through 1935.  He began his career as a left-handed pitcher for the Boston Red Sox, but achieved his greatest fame as a slugging outfielder for the New York Yankees.  He was one of the first five inductees into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1936.

Lou Gehrig (Henry Louis Gehrig, June 19, 1903 – June 2, 1941) was an American baseball player who played 17 seasons for the New York Yankees from 1923 through 1939.  In 1939, he was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame and was the first Major League Baseball player to have his uniform number retired.

The September 1, 1927 article in the Itasca News states, “John says he can get a muskie oftener than Babe Ruth can hit a home run, and just at the present time John has a lead of nine on Babe.” This statement is absolutely true.  On August 31 Babe Ruth hit his forty-third home run against the Boston Red Sox and John Tremain hauled in his fifty-second muskie while guiding for Mr. Freidmann of Chicago. 

John proudly proclaimed that of his total of 52 muskies, twenty-five of them have been over thirty inches long and two were 48 inches apiece.  According to the MN DNR, the oldest official record fish for the state was in 1929.  Had trophy fish been documented earlier, no doubt, John Tremain would be listed in a category or two.  As it stands, the record for the largest muskie was caught on Lake Winnibigosh in Itasca County in 1957.  It was 54 pounds with a length of 56 inches and girth of 27¾ inches.

One of the most enjoyable books I have read in a long time was One Summer America 1927 by Bill Bryson. It is hefty, 562 pages before the epilogue, bibliography and index, but  chock full of fascinating information about a forgotten summer when America came of age, took center stage and changed the world forever.

I have extracted some of the information he has gather on Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig and homeruns: “Ruth in 1927 was the best paid player in baseball and proud of the fact.  He had a three year contract at $70,000 a year…On his pay, newsmen calculated, Ruth could buy a new car every week or a new house every month.

“All the fans in all the cities were drawn by the same thing – a chance to see Babe Ruth in the flesh, and ideally to watch him swat a ball into the firmament.  That Ruth was locked in a seesaw battle with the youthful upstart Lou Gehrig for the home run championship brought the kind of excitement that made people crush their hats in distraction.  There had really never been anything like it.  At mid-August, Gehrig – impossibly, unprecedentedly – led Ruth by 38 homeruns to 36.  But Ruth came back with towering clouts in Chicago on 16 and 17 August to draw level.   Gehrig went one up again on 19 August against the White Sox, but Ruth matched that the next day in Cleveland to put them even again at 39. 

“By now people were practically having heart attacks.  On 22 August, Babe hit his fortieth, Gehrig tied him two days later.  Ruth hit his forty-first and forty-second on home runs on 27 and 28 August in St. Louis.  Gehrig came back with a three run shot in St. Louis on 29 August.  Two days later, back in New York against the Red Sox, Ruth hit the last home run of the month for either player.  Ruth had 43 home runs and Gehrig had 41.”

I also learned that Babe Ruth made a movie in 1927.  It was a silent, black and white baseball comedy called Babe Comes Home.  Produced by the First National Film Company, there are no known copies of the film in existence.  I did locate a short clip of Babe Ruth’s 60th home run in 1927 at www.youtube.com/watch?v=MOt0Tmwc2Rk.

While researching, I decided to check out the “Baby Ruth” candy bar.  It was not named for Babe Ruth and has a controversy all its own.  I can’t effectively condense the explanation from Wikipedia, so here is exactly what I found:

“Although the name of the candy bar sounds like the name of the famous baseball player Babe Ruth, the Curtiss Candy Company traditionally claimed that it was named after President Grover Cleveland‘s daughter, Ruth Cleveland. The candy maker, located on the same street as Wrigley Field, named the bar ‘Baby Ruth’ in 1921, as Babe Ruth’s fame was on the rise, over 30 years after Cleveland had left the White House, and 17 years after his daughter, Ruth, had died. The company did not negotiate an endorsement deal with Ruth, and many saw the company’s story about the origin of the name to be a devious way to avoid having to pay the baseball player any royalties. Curtiss successfully shut down a rival bar that was approved by, and named for, Ruth, on the grounds that the names were too similar.

“In the trivia book series Imponderables, David Feldman reports the standard story about the bar being named for Grover Cleveland’s daughter, with additional information that ties it to the President: ‘The trademark was patterned exactly after the engraved lettering of the name used on a medallion struck for the Chicago World’s Columbian Exposition in 1893, and picturing the President, his wife, and daughter Baby Ruth.’ He also cites More Misinformation, by Tom Burnam: ‘Burnam concluded that the candy bar was named … after the granddaughter of Mr. and Mrs. George Williamson, candy makers who developed the original formula and sold it to Curtiss.’ (Williamson had also sold the ‘Oh Henry! formula to Curtiss around that time.) The write up goes on to note that marketing the product as being named for a company executive’s granddaughter would likely have been less successful, hence their ‘official’ story.”

Deer River and Charles Lindbergh, Deer River and Babe Ruth.  I wonder what other famous connections our community might have.  There are rumors of Al Capone, Judy Garland and Teddy Roosevelt.  If you know something about them, or anyone else please contact me at reminiscewithchris@gmail or 218-244-2127.  I’d love to research your mystery!

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