Friday, November 20, 2020

An Early Photograph of Baseball at Franklin Field

 

Earlier this month, soon after Pro and College Football Hall of Famer Paul Hornung passed away, I was alerted to a stunning color photograph of the gridiron great taken during the 1960 NFL Championship Game. Shot the day after Christmas 1960, “The Golden Boy” is seen kicking a field goal for the Green Bay Packers in their losing effort against the eventual champion Philadelphia Eagles.

Besides skillfully freezing the action on the field in a perfectly composed image, the unidentified photographer captured an absolutely gorgeous setting. The location is the University of Pennsylvania’s Franklin Field, then the home of the NFL Eagles, and the majestic building in the background is Weightman Hall. Both structures still stand today.

I’m a baseball, not football, researcher, so when I first saw this exquisite, 60-year-old photo I immediately got to wondering if Franklin Field, with Weightman Hall as a magnificent backdrop, ever hosted a baseball game. I quickly found out that the answer is yes, as Penn’s baseball team played their home games there for decades after the stadium first opened in 1895. I then tracked down this gorgeous photograph of a baseball game being played at Franklin Field available at the University of Pennsylvania Archives:

The photo is ID’ed as “Baseball, Penn vs. Carlisle, 1907, action photograph” and dated to June of 1907. A quick perusal of newspapers from June of 1907 reveals that while the game was originally scheduled to take place on June 5, 1907, rain forced the teams to postpone their meeting for 10 days. The new date of June 15 meant that the contest would be the last of the season for both the Penn and the Carlisle Indian School varsity baseball teams. Brief coverage of the game made numerous newspapers, including this noted in New York Times:

 

Now take a look at this detail from the 1907 game action photograph showing Franklin Field’s scoreboard in right field foul territory:

I’ll call your attention to a few details:

  1. Note that Carlisle is listed at the bottom of the line score, suggesting they batted second. But in this era, it was not uncommon for scoreboards and newspaper accounts to list the home team at the top of the line score, even though they batted at the “bottom” of the inning.
  2. The scoreboard has numbers entered for 2½ innings, we know that the photo must have been taken in the bottom of the third with Penn at bat.
  3. The partial line score matches what we see listed in the New York Times for the first 2½ innings, thus corroborating that the photo does indeed show the Carlisle at Penn game of June 15.

The Carlisle Indians entered the game having won two of their last three games, but due to multiple rainouts those three contests were the only ones they had played over the previous two weeks. Meanwhile, the Penn Quakers (seen in their official team photograph below) were 17-15, but were riding a six-game losing streak.

The hand-written identifications on the photograph are a bit confusing and fail to give full names, so here is a clearer listing of who’s who:

  • Top row (left to right): W.J. Brady, Calet Sipple Layton.
  • Second row (left to right): James Graham Damon (student manager), Wilbur Donahue Twitmire, Oscar Sedgwicke Carter, John Blakeley (coach), Charles “Kid” Keinath, Rodney K. Merrick, Shunzo Takaki, Edward Biddle Clay.
  • Third row (left to right): Matthias Franklin “Matty” Fennell, William Taylor Webb, Frank Post Wilson, Gerrit Parmele Judd, Frederick Throckmorton Thomas, Walter Samuel Brokaw, Bertine Gillette Simpson.
  • Bottom row (left to right): Charles Parmenas Henry, Louis Van Zelst (mascot), Charles Taylor Brown, Sewell Hopkins Corkran.

A couple of players seen in this team photo had short minor league careers, including Wilbur Twitmire and Matty Fennell. But one individual pictured above actually made the big leagues: 12-year-old team mascot Louis Van Zelst (mistakenly labeled as “Van Zandt” on the photograph).

Van Zelst, who four years earlier had suffered an injury that resulted in a hunchback, later served as the mascot of the powerhouse Philadelphia Athletics from 1909 through 1914, over which time the club won four pennants and three World Championships. Here he is (at bottom right) with the Athletics as they took the field at the Polo Grounds for the 1911 World Series.

In March of 1915, Van Zelst passed away of Bright’s Disease at the age 20, and (coincidentally?) the Athletics dropped to last place in the American League. They would not reach the post season again until 1929.

Two other Penn players seen in the 1907 team picture deserve special mention:

  • Charles “Kid” Keinath was a multisport star at Penn. Beyond baseball, he quarterbacked the 1908 National Champion football team (though there is some controversy about what team should be recognized as champions for that year) and was a four-time All-American basketball player. You can learn more about Keinath in an excellent article at the Philadelphia Sports Nation web site. And here he is with the 1908 Penn football squad:

  • Shunzo Takaki starred at Penn in baseball, football, gymnastics, and tennis. According to historian Bill Staples Jr., the native of Tokyo “is believed to be the first person of Japanese ancestry to play baseball for a mainland U.S. college.” You can learn more about Takaki at Bill’s stellar blog site.

Returning to the contest of June 15, 1907, I was unable to track down a box score of the game, so it is difficult to state for certain which players on either club participated in the matchup. However, as seen in the New York Times clipping above, the batteries were Fennell (p) and Brown (c) for Penn, Garlow (p) and Wauseko (c) for Carlisle.

Southpaw Matty Fennell was generally recognized as Penn’s top pitcher. And his catcher, Charles Brown, was also a founding member of the Penn wrestling team, grappling at 135 pounds for the Quakers.

Carlisle pitcher William Garlow, seen winding up on the mound in our June 15 Franklin Field photo, played baseball, football, and lacrosse at Carlisle. He also apparently had a four-year minor league baseball career. Here he is pictured in his Carlisle football uniform:


The Carlisle catcher was listed as Wauseko, but this was a misspelling of Wauseka, an alias used by Emil Hauser. Like his batterymate, Hauser also played football at Carlisle and dabbled in minor league baseball. The image below shows Hauser after he left Carlisle to attend and play football for the Oregon Agricultural College (now Oregon State).


It seems likely that the first baseman seen in the Franklin Field photo is Carlisle’s William Newashe. As a member of the school’s 1911 football team, Newashe participated in one of the most celebrated college football games in history: Carlisle's stunning November 11 victory over Harvard at Harvard. In this photo of the legendary Carlisle team, Newashe can be seen in the second row, third from left:


The second baseman in the photo of the Quakers vs. Indians game may have been William Pappan, the school’s second sacker for most of the season. However, according to school records, Pappan was expelled less than week before the game, so that identification is very problematic.

In the following photo, Pappan can be seen seated in the third row from the top, second from left:

As for the right fielder in the Franklin Field photograph, a good guess is that it is Joe Twin, who played the position for Carlisle in 1907 regularly. Just a few weeks before the game, the school newspaper, The Arrow, published an “essay written by Joe Twin, the ‘Foxy’ right fielder for the Indians.” You can read it here.

It’s tempting to think that Carlisle legend Jim Thorpe, who starred in just about every athletic endeavor that one could imagine, was playing for the Carlisle Indian varsity team at the time the Franklin Field photo was taken. But it appears that the future Olympic gold medalist and major league baseball player did not make the varsity baseball squad until the following season. In 1907, his baseball activities were limited to playing for a school team called the “All-Giants,” as announced in The Arrow of April 26, 1907:

Finally, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the name of Carlisle’s baseball team: Glenn Scobey Warner. That’s right! College Football Hall of Famer “Pop” Warner was head coach of the Carlisle baseball team. Take another look at the 1911 Carlisle football team photo above. That’s Warner in the top row, third from right, with Jim Thorpe in the second row, third from right. 

Monday, September 28, 2020

An Illustrated Guide to “Headin’ Home,” Babe Ruth’s First Feature Film


On September 5, 1919, Red Sox pitcher-turned-slugger Babe Ruth hit his 25th home run of the season. In newspapers the following day, it was reported that the 24-year-old baseball star had tied the single-season home run record set by Washington’s Buck Freeman back in 1899. Few paid attention to the fact that the actual record-holder was Ned Williamson, who clouted 27 round-trippers for the old Chicago White Stockings of the National League back in 1884. But Ruth made headlines for a different reason on September 6, signing a movie contract for a whopping $10,000 — twice his annual salary with the Boston ball club.


Salt Lake City Tribune, September 7, 1920

In late October, a month after he broke Williamson’s record and set a new single-season mark with 29 home runs, Ruth and his wife Helen boarded the Santa Fe Limited bound for Los Angeles, the star of the diamond anticipating stardom on the silver screen. He also famously proclaimed that he wouldn’t return to Boston unless the club gave him a brand new contract.

As it turns out, Ruth spent most of his time in Southern California playing ball in front of crowds rather than playing a character in front of a movie camera. And when he did return to the East coast, it was as a member of the New York Yankees, his sale being announced just a few days after the New Year.

As reported in the Chicago Daily Tribune of January 25, 1920:

Ruth isn’t with any moving picture company. He hasn’t been with one for over a month. The company brought him to Los Angeles all right, intending to feature him in a picture, but after a struggle of some weeks gave it up as a hopeless job and let him go. He’s played some Sunday ball games and pulled down $100 or so for each appearance, but it didn’t take the movie boss long to decide he was impossible in that game.

While Ruth’s first brush with motion pictures proved to be a bust, just months after making his debut with the Yankees, the Bambino once again signed a movie contract. On July 19, 1920, the very day Ruth hit his 30th homer, thus topping his previous season’s home run mark, newspapers reported that the undisputed “Home Run King” had been awarded a deal to star in a film titled “Headin’ Home.” Five days later, just prior to the start of a July 24 game against his old Red Sox teammates, Ruth made it official, signing the contract in a ceremony at home plate.

The deal was generally reported as calling for $100,000 and Ruth himself often promoted that figure, but the actual salary was for half that amount, with $15,000 up front and $35,000 to come later. Alas, Ruth never did see that second installment.

Unlike the West coast attempt at capturing the Babe on film, this movie was to be shot during the playing season and near the New York City area. In fact, even before Ruth signed the contract, filming of scenes not involving the Bambino had begun. But with Ruth in the fold, shooting would begin in earnest in mid-August, when the Yankees returned to New York from a 19-game, 19-day road trip.

The Movie

For the rest of this blog post, I’ll be examining “Headin’ Home” in detail, referencing scenes of interest and relating the stories behind them. If you have never seen the movie, or it has been a while, I highly suggest watching it again, then reading the blog for a “deep dive.”

Fortunately, watching the movie is a breeze. It is featured on a two-DVD compilation of early baseball movies made available by KINO International titled “Reel Baseball.” Faithful readers of “Baseball Researcher” may recall that I’ve earlier delved into another movie on “Reel Baseball” called “How the Office Boy Saw the Ball Game,” which contained baseball footage from 1906.

Another version of “Headin’ Home,” lower in quality and significantly shorter than KINO version, is available (at a much lower quality, but for free) at archive.org. The two versions differ slightly from one another, with some scenes missing from each, though I recommend the KINO version which, at around 73-minutes in length, is the more complete. I’ll alert the reader regarding the few scenes missing from that version when they come up.

To that end, both the KINO and archive.org versions of “Headin’ Home” are missing the full introductory cartoon credits. However, you can see much of what is missing in the first few seconds (00:08 – 00:18) of this YouTube video. The rest of the YouTube video is essentially random excerpts from the movie.



While I will generally walk through the movie in the order that scenes appear, I will jump around here and there in order to fully cover a behind-the-scenes story, discuss a shooting locale, or otherwise complete a thought. However, in order to help those interested in taking a closer look at these scenes, whenever I include a still from the movie, I will note the time code as found in the “Reel Baseball” version.

Also, throughout this guide, I will be mentioning numerous locations relevant to the movie. Where appropriate, I will link the noted location to a Google Map so you can see where the site is today.

The Men Behind the Movie


Time: 00:12


Adam Kessel (left) and Charles Baumann

Adam Kessel and Charles Baumann were veterans of the motion picture business. They helped finance Mack Sennett’s Keystone Studios in 1912 and signed Charlie Chaplin to his first movie contract the following year. Though the duo hadn’t been involved in producing movies for some three years, in July of 1920 they returned with the bang, signing of Babe Ruth, through the Yankee Photoplay Corporation (unaffiliated with the New York Yankees baseball club), producing the six-reel feature film “Headin’ Home.”

Today, other than Babe Ruth, the only name associated with the film that has stood the test of time is that of Raoul Walsh, the movie’s production supervisor.


Raoul Walsh

Walsh (no relation to Christy Walsh, who acted as Ruth’s agent starting in 1921) went on to bigger and better things, directing such classics as “Objective Burma” with Errol Flynn (1945), “They Drive by Night” (1940) and “High Sierra” (1941) both starring Humphrey Bogart, and “The Thief of Bagdad” with Douglas Fairbanks (1924). Incidentally, Ruth paid a visit to what remained of the set for “The Thief of Bagdad” when he barnstormed in Southern California following the 1924 season:


National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum

Contemporary sources disagree as to just who directed “Headin’ Home.” Some state that Walsh was the director, while others give the nod to the otherwise forgettable Lawrence C. Windom. The previous year Windom directed a movie titled “Wanted: A Husband,” a flick that starred the 34-year-old actress Billie Burke. Burke later starred in such films as “Dinner at Eight” (1933) and the popular “Topper” series (1937-1941), but today is best remembered as Glinda, the Good Witch of the North, in “The Wizard of Oz” (1939). She also later lived in The Ansonia, the famous 17-story apartment building that was home to Babe Ruth when he first moved to New York City:

Bugs Baer


Time: 00:17

The silent movie’s title cards, today often referred to as “intertitles,” were written by Arthur “Bugs” Baer, a well-known humorist, sportswriter, and cartoonist. Baer became a longtime friend of Ruth, wrote shtick for some of the Bambino’s vaudeville appearances, and was an honorary pall-bearer at the Babe’s funeral in the summer of 1948.


Arthur “Bugs” Baer

Baer’s playful wit is evident in many of his title cards, and he often gives a nod to stories of the day.


Time: 01:00

For example, the above card was used to introduce movie goers to the star of the film, Babe Ruth. Baer’s word play was especially timely as the League of Nations, founded in January of 1920, was less than a year old when the movie was shot. The League remained an important worldwide organization until the late 1930s, but in 1946 it was replaced by the United Nations.


Time: 20:05

Later in the movie, when Babe tried to break up a quarrel between a barber and his wife, Baer referenced the Fourteen Points, the principles for peace negotiations outlined by President Woodrow Wilson in his January 1918 speech to Congress.


Time: 22:01

Here Baer compared the barber’s garlicky pasta (more about that later) to the Chicago White Sox infield. It should be remembered that over the prior three baseball seasons (1917 through 1919), the White Sox had captured a pair of American League pennants thanks in great part to a stellar infield that included first baseman Chick Gandil, second baseman Eddie Collins, shortstop Swede Risberg, third baseman Buck Weaver, and catcher Ray Schalk. It was not until late in the 1920 season that rumors of a number of members of the club (including Gandil, Risberg, and Weaver) intentionally losing World Series games the previous year would come out into the open, resulting in the 1919 White Sox being dubbed the “Black Sox.”


Abe Attell

Speaking of the Black Sox scandal, according to an article in the September 24, 1920, issue of Variety, Abe Attell, a former boxing champion who served as intermediary between the crooked White Sox ballplayers and World Series fixer Arnold Rothstein ...

... has fortified himself with a bankroll of at least $100,000. It has been printed here before that Attel [sic] was bounding cubes for several runs in his factor, but that the gross reached the six figures was not generally thought until the former featherweight champion commenced to make investments. One of his best was placing $20,000 in the Babe Ruth film “Headin’ Home.”

A story in the Boston Post two weeks later put Attell’s movie investment at $25,000. Whatever the sum, it appears that money from (or at least gamblers involved in) the Black Sox scandal helped fund “Headin’ Home.”


Missing title card time: approximately 01:00:35

The above title card, missing from the KINO version of “Headin’ Home,” but found in the version at archive.org, reads “Babe signed a hundred year contract for more money than Ponzi could promise.” The card should appear at about the one hour mark in the KINO version, as a lead-in to the scene in which Babe signs his big league contract.


Charles Ponzi

Not only is this reference to a Ponzi scheme humorous, it was particularly timely, as Charles Ponzi’s shenanigans were first exposed in late July of 1920.


New York Times, July 27, 1920

The headline above comes from the New York Times of July 27, 1920, the day the Ponzi story first broke and just three days after Ruth signed to star in “Headin’ Home.”


Time: 55:56

While Baer’s title cards add a great deal to the charm of the movie, they were not without their faults. Just about an hour into the film, when Babe leaves his home in Haverlock, Baer mistakenly refers to the destination as Hillsdale, when it should have read Highland.


Boston Globe, February 24, 1917

Incidentally, while Baer is often credited as dubbing Ruth “The Sultan of Swat,” the nickname was actually first applied to Honus Wagner back in 1917 by Grantland Rice. The name didn’t last with Wagner, but when applied to Ruth, it stuck.

And ... Action!


Time: 00:41

The movie starts with scenes shot at New York’s Polo Grounds, home to the Yankees from 1913 to 1922. Here we see Babe Ruth (in the foreground at right) lead a contingent of Yankees out of the clubhouse in center field.

Note that the players are seen wearing black armbands on their left sleeves. On August 16, 1920, the Yankees’ first day back from their extended road trip, Cleveland’s Ray Chapman was hit in the head by a pitch delivered by Yankees’ pitcher Carl Mays. The shortstop died the next morning. For the rest of the season (and throughout the World Series) the Indians donned mourning bands in memory of their much-beloved teammate. But what is often overlooked in the tragic story is that the Yankees and numerous other clubs (both in the American and National Leagues) also wore similar armbands. Even the Yankees head trainer Doc Woods (with his unique jersey featuring his job title on the front) wore an armband:


Time: 00:54

About half a minute later we get a brief glimpse of on-field footage:


Time: 01:31

Babe Ruth is walking off the diamond and towards the Yankees dugout. An opposing player seen in the foreground is wearing stockings with a thick, colored stripe.

As documented at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum’s “Dressed to the Nines” online exhibit, only two big league clubs in 1920 wore stockings with a single, dark stripe with white or gray both above and below the stripe: the Boston Red Sox and the Philadelphia Athletics. But the Athletics wore stockings with a thin stripe, thus this player must be a member of the Red Sox. We’ll have to wait until the very end of the movie before we can learn more about this footage.

The Cast


Time: 01:06

Here we get a glimpse into the Yankees dugout at the Polo Grounds and are treated to an up-close view of Babe Ruth, who not-so-coincidentally plays a character known quite simply as “Babe.”


Time: 01:48

After being introduced to Babe, the audience meets the narrator of the story, Eliar Lott, who weaves the (tall?) tale over the course of the movie.

Get it? Eliar Lott?

Portrayed by William J. Gross, an 82-year-old veteran of both stage and screen, Lott reminisces in “Forrest Gump” fashion, telling the tale to a hapless fan seated next to him at the Polo Grounds.


Time: 01:51

Here the title card introduces the fictional town of Haverlock, the birthplace of Babe’s character and a thinly veiled nod to Haverstraw, New York, where most of the outdoor scenes for the movie were shot.


Time: 02:05

The movie then cuts to a shot looking northeast over Haverstraw, with the Hudson River in the background. Here’s a more modern view of the village:

At the time, Haverstraw’s population was just over 9,000, while today it numbers around 12,000.

It is not clear why Haverstraw was chosen as the location for the small town scenes. One possibility is that just prior to production of “Headin’ Home,” a movie titled “The Stealers” (1920) had been filmed there and the townsfolk were amenable to future movie companies returning for shoots.


Christy Cabanne

The director of that movie was Christy Cabanne (pronounced “CAB-a-nay”), a significant figure in the motion picture industry of the 1910s and 1920s. Cabanne was an assistant director under D.W. Griffith for two important films, “The Birth of a Nation” (1915) and “Intolerance” (1916), and he is one of five men credited as directing the original version of “Ben Hur” (1925). Cabanne directed Shirley Temple in her first credited role in a feature film, “Red-Haired Alibi” (1932). And in “The Stealers,” he directed a young Norma Shearer, also starring in her first credited feature film role.

Alas, no copies of “The Stealers” exist today, which is unfortunate as it would have been fun to compare exterior scenes from that film with those in “Headin’ Home.”


Time: 02:15

Margaret Seddon played Babe’s mother, and though 47 years old at the time, she was relatively new to the silver screen. Years later she had bit parts in some big name movies, including “David Copperfield” starring W.C. Fields (1935), “Mr. Deeds Goes to Town” starring Gary Cooper (1936), and “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” starring Charles Laughton (1939).


Time: 02:45

Frances Victory played Pigtails, Babe’s foster-sister. This was her only film, though she did have a brief stage career as a child actress. Sadly, the dog who played Herman is uncredited.


Time: 03:33

James A. Marcus played Cyrus “Si” Tobin, the owner of the local bank and father of Babe’s love interest. The 53-year-old Marcus was a favorite of Raoul Walsh’s, having been featured in many of his films, including “The Scarlet Empress” with Marlene Dietrich (1934) and “A Tale of Two Cities” with Ronald Colman (1935). Here is Marcus with Gloria Swanson in Walsh’s “Sadie Thompson” (1928):

And speaking of Gloria Swanson, here’s Ruth with the famed screen star (along with tennis great Bill Tilden) in October of 1926, three all-time legends in one photograph:


Time: 03:48

Ruth Taylor played Mildred Tobin, the object of Babe’s affection. Taylor had a very minor film career and should not be confused with a different actress of the same name who had a mildly successful career from 1925 to 1930 and starred as Lorelei Lee in the original, silent movie version of “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes” (1928).


Time: 03:40

21-year-old Ralf Harolde made his film debut as John Tobin, the son of Cyrus and brother of Mildred. Harolde went on to fashion the most successful film career of anyone in “Headin’ Home,” landing roles in movies such as “I’m No Angel” with Cary Grant (1933), “The Sea Wolf” with Edward G. Robinson (1941), and “Murder, My Sweet” with Dick Powell (1944). He may be best remembered for his portrayal of Dr. Milton Ranger in the pre-code classic “Night Nurse” (1931) starring Barbara Stanwyck, Joan Blondell, and Clark Gable. Harolde’s final movie appearance came in “A New Kind of Love” (1963) starring Paul Newman. The film happens to feature a two-minute baseball-related scene that I discuss in my blog post titled “Baseball in ‘A New Kind of Love.’” It’s wonderful that baseball played a role in both the first and last movies in which Harolde appeared.


Time: 09:09

Walter Lawrence plays Tony Marino, the town barber and manager of the Haverlock baseball team. Lawrence, whose cinema claim to fame was an uncredited role in “Citizen Kane” starring Orson Welles (1941), is seen here pouring liquor into a bottle labeled “Bay Rum,” a typical aftershave of the era.

Prohibition began early the previous year with the ratification of the 18th Amendment on January 16, 1919, but the teeth behind the amendment, the Volstead Act, was not passed until October 28, 1919. Perhaps this is why the barber is hiding his hooch, or perhaps he is simply trying to avoid having his wife catch him drinking.


Time: 10:07

Harry Knight, the local team’s new pitcher, was played by William Sheer in what turned out to be the last appearance of his brief film career. Five years earlier, Sheer had a role in Raoul Walsh’s “The Regeneration” (1915), a flick that coincidentally featured James Marcus and a 27-year-old Anna Q. Nilsson. A dozen years later, Nilsson (seen in a publicity still below) starred opposite Ruth in his only other major role in a feature film, “Babe Comes Home” (1927).

Other actors featured in the “Headin’ Home” included:


Time: 31:24

Ann Brody as Tony Marino’s wife. The above still comes from a sequence about 30 minutes into the film, in which the barber’s wife is seen cleaning various bottles in her husband’s barber shop. The two bottles at right are labeled “Bay Rum” (this is the one that we earlier saw Tony use to stash his alcohol) and “Witch Hazel.”

Happily, as seen above, I was able to find a modern photograph of bottles that appear to be from the very same set.


Time: 11:58

Charles Burt (also known as Charles Byer) as Haverlock’s new pastor, Dave Talmadge.


Time: 16:25

Ricca Allen as Almira Worters, an older woman with a secret love for Babe.


Time: 04:48

George Halpin as Doc Hedges, the hapless dog catcher.


Time: 44:01

Sammy Blum as Jimbo Jones.


Time: 15:04

And Tom Corcoran as Deacon Flack.

The Train Station


Time: 09:52

In this scene, the Haverlock townsfolk come out to the train station to welcome Harry Knight. The pitcher steps off the train, walks over to the eager crowd, and promptly plops down his luggage bearing the initials “T.C.” Just what “T.C.” stands for is a mystery, but it certainly doesn’t stand for Harry Knight! I can only assume that the movie makers paid very little attention to this level of detail, but can’t help but wonder if the luggage actually belonged to actor Tom Cameron.

This scene (as well as a few subsequent train station scenes) was shot at the railroad station in Valley Cottage, New York, located about five miles south of Haverstraw and pictured in the image above.

A Missing Scene

At about 10:50 into the KINO version of “Headin’ Home” there is missing a brief and relatively unnecessary sequence involving Babe and Pigtails. Thankfully, the scene can be found in the version at archive.org. Here are the key moments:

The above title card then sets up the next scene, in which people are decorating the interior of the church. This ends the missing section.

Babe and Mildred Meet on the Street


Time: 12:31

For a brief moment, Mildred is seen walking in front of a distinctive low wall with a brick and stone building in the background.

The building was the Fowler Library, located on the corner of Main Street and Allison Avenue and today the home of the Village Branch of the King’s Daughters Library:

Note the identical brickwork and alternating-sized stonework, a style that is found in a number of other Haverstraw buildings, including many seen in the movie.


Time: 12:35

Babe greets Mildred in a sequence that was also specifically shot for a publicity still and turned into a lobby card. (Note the small boy seen at far left, surreptitiously looking on.)

My best guess is that this building was on the north side of Main Street, just west of the library. If so, it might be the same building that now is home to the First Christian Church of the Good Shepherd at 79 Main Street. Today the exterior of that building has plastic siding, but the Main Street door seems to be in the same spot as that seen in “Headin’ Home,” as is the opening where Mildred and Babe meet.

The Bank Building


Time: 13:00

In this scene, Harry Knight enters Cyrus Tobin’s bank to go to work as a cashier. The building was actually the Peoples’ Bank of Haverstraw and one can still see it at the intersection of New Main Street and Broadway. As the First National Bank of Haverstraw was located on the opposite corner, the location was (and still is) known as “Bank Corner.” Today, the beautiful building houses a convenience store.

Babe’s Adventures Delivering Ice


Time: 13:19

Babe is supposed to be delivering ice to the church for the Old Home Week celebration, but he gets sidetracked and ends up playing a game with five other men. The game was a now-obscure, but then very popular playground pastime known as Hole Ball, Roll Ball, Pot Ball, Cap Ball, Roly Poly, as well as a number of racially offensive names such as African Infant, Black Baby, and Nigger Baby.

Here are the rules of the game, according to Chandler’s Encyclopedia from 1898:


Chandler’s Encyclopedia, 1896

Note that an important part of the game was to throw the ball at an opponent, either during play or as a form of punishment after one of the participants was eliminated. The name “Nigger Baby” was not only applied to this game, but also to a game popular at fairs and carnivals in the late 19th and first half of the 20th centuries. For example, in the summer of 1886, the Chicago Tribune described some games played at a picnic for the local Butchers and Grocers Clerks Association:

Of course, there were the shooting-gallery and the “nigger baby” ball-rack, a man or woman being awarded or punished with a villanous [sic] cigar for every “baby” knocked over with a base-ball. Some of the girls created no little laughter by their funny attempts to throw a ball straight.

The term “nigger baby” even found its way into the lexicon of baseball itself, as a synonym for a pitched ball that hit a batter. For example, in the August 15, 1915, issue of San Francisco Examiner, sportswriter Al C. Joy described action from a Pacific Coast League game between the Salt Lake City Bees and San Francisco Seals as follows:

... With one out in the fourth, [Bees pitcher Jack] Killalay tossed up the nigger-baby ball and it smote [Seals shortstop Roy] Corhan somewhere in the neighborhood of the spare ribs. He rambled to first base and remained there while two batsmen lifted flies to outfielders. And then he caught up with Killalay in the vicinity of third base and there were remarks.

But back to the movie, in this scene we see that there are six holes in the ground, but there are just five players. As the game required that there be one player for each hole, the group of young men recruited Babe to be that sixth player.

Later we see one of the players roll the ball into the hole assigned to Babe. Once it does, Babe grabs the ball as the rest of the players scatter. When Babe attempts to throw the ball at an opponent, he misses his target, accidentally breaks the window of a nearby business, and sheepishly slinks away.

In the middle of this scene, in the “Reel Baseball” version of the film, there is a cut to a brief, eight-second sequence in which we see Cyrus Tobin and Harry Knight in front of the Tobin home. It is my belief that this sequence is out of place (perhaps long ago spliced back into the wrong location in the film after some minor damage), as it makes more sense as taking place after the next scene.


Time: 14:29

As Babe continues with his ice delivery, he once again has his attention diverted, this time as he passes the local baseball diamond. The same young men with whom Babe played Hole Ball are now playing baseball.

The small park was known as Eckerson Field (sometimes called “Eckerson’s Field”), but at the time it was often referred to as “the Polo Grounds,” an especially ironic nickname given that Ruth’s Yankees played in the “real” Polo Grounds some 25 miles to the south. The quaint ballpark with its simple grandstand was located at the current site of Haverstraw Elementary School, just north of the intersection of Lincoln Street and Maple Avenue.


Time: 14:32

The house in right center field, seen here directly behind (and partially obscured by) Babe’s head, can still be found at the corner of Partition and Ridge Streets:

The small grandstand of the park is shown during this same scene in a shot looking south from center field.


Time: 14:41

Today, the shot would be obscured by the elementary school.


Time: 15:33

As Babe continues on his way to the church, he passes the Tobin home as Pastor Talmadge, Cyrus Tobin, and Harry Knight look on. This is where I believe the previously mentioned mis-spliced sequence should have been placed.

In 1920, this house at 44 First Street (one long block south of the Fowler Library) was occupied by the family of William and Camille Welch.

The house still stands today. Note that the large bay window and distinctive iron fence seen in the above modern-day photo are identical to that seen in the “Headin’ Home” still.

The Church Exterior


Time: 15:38

Here we see Babe finally arriving at the church with his much-diminished block of ice. But the camera set-up for the shot is curious. Why is the tree taking up a large portion of the frame? And why does Babe ultimately enter the church by going down the side walkway? And for those paying close attention, why do the front windows of the church feature Stars of David in the glasswork?

The reason why is that we are seeing not a church, but the Sons of Jacob Synagogue that still stands at 37 Clove Avenue in Haverstraw. Though very much altered, the building still exists today.

The synagogue’s wood siding, lower brick-work, stairway, and windows in the postcard are identical to those seen in the still. Even the tree at left is the same as seen in the movie. It seems likely that in the film this very tree was used to obscure the more prominent Stars of David, one just above the front door and a larger one in a circular window even higher up.

What remains a mystery to me is why the film makers used this synagogue as a stand-in for the church and went to the trouble of obscuring its exterior, when there were numerous actual churches in town that could seemingly do the job more simply.

The Church Interior and Babe’s Bug Bite Part I


Time: 15:53

Babe enters the church carrying the ice in his left hand. For those paying special attention, the rest of the scene is shot in such a way as to quite purposefully avoid showing Ruth’s right hand.


Time: 16:34

Here his right hand is partially hidden behind a ladder.


Time: 17:12

And here it is concealed underneath some colorful bunting.


Time: 18:06X

And near the end of the scene his right hand is covered awkwardly by his cap.


Time: 18:53

But later, outside the church, his right hand is displayed prominently.

What gives?


St. Louis Globe Democrat, August 28, 1920

In late August, Ruth’s right hand was bitten by a bug. Some sources blame a mosquito, others a wood tick, still others called out a chigger. Whatever the culprit, the wound became infected, and on Friday, August 27, doctors operated on the hand. Apparently the surgery was unsuccessful (or complications ensued), and so on August 30 a second operation was performed. This last bit of knife work must have done the trick, as Ruth was back playing ball on September 2.

The injury did not stop Ruth from working on the film, but it did cost him six games with the Yankees: two against the White Sox, three against the Browns, and one against the Red Sox. And while the half-dozen games didn’t adversely affect the Yankee (they went 4-2 during Babe’s absence), it’s likely that the accident deprived him of a couple of home runs. Still, the slugger ended the season with a whopping 54 homers.

Contemporary sources differ on where Babe was when he was bitten, but all agree that the incident took place while Ruth was filming, not playing ball or otherwise biding his time. As his right hand appears to be fine in the outdoor scenes shot in Haverstraw, it is safe to say that the injury only became an issue afterwards, when most of the indoor scenes were shot at the Biograph Studios. Still, it seems likely that the bite itself occurred in Haverstraw.

The Barber Shop


Time: 19:49

Soon after Babe leaves the church, he tries to break up an argument between Tony Marino and his wife in front of the barber shop. A close examination of the barber pole in this movie still matches well with that seen in the following vintage postcard that shows a view west down New Main Street.

At right is the Peoples’ Bank building, but on the left side is the barber pole. Here’s a detail from the postcard:

The pole appears to be just outside the third building on the south side of New Main Street, the one with the slightly yellow-tinted exterior.

A walk down this side of street today reveals that this building at 7 New Main Street is now home to the “Neighborhood Discount 99¢ and Up” convenience store.

The storefront has changed quite a bit. It is almost all glass now, and the front door, formerly positioned at the center of the storefront, is now located at the far left.


Time: 25:54

But various features seen in a still from approximately six minutes later in the movie match well with the area today. Not only is the slope of the sidewalk similar, but the doorway to the right of the barber shop, with its two steps, looks to be a good match.


Time: 01:05:53

Near the end of the movie, Doc Hedges runs to the barber shop to tell Tony Marino that Babe has come home. Here we can see a bit more of the lettering on the front left window.

At the bottom of the window are the last letters of a word “ORIAL,” followed by the word “PARLOR.” Assuredly this is the phrase “TONSORIAL PARLOR,” a rather dated synonym for “barber shop.”

Above these words are the last letters of an arched word or words: “NO.” Most likely this is the name of the proprietor of the tonsorial parlor. It matches nicely with “Tony Marino,” but of course that is the name of a fictional character. Or was the name Marino chosen because it fit the visible ending of the name for the shop ... or is that giving too much credit to the movie makers who made numerous continuity and consistency errors throughout the film?

A careful examination of census records from 1920 shows that there were actually a pair of barbers in Haverstraw whose last names ended with the letters “NO”: Antonio Viggiano and John Serafino. Perhaps this shop belonged to one of the two?

Babe’s Home and Babe’s Bug Bite Part II


Time: 20:36

Like most every indoor scene, the sequence in which Babe, his mother, Pigtails, and Herman the dog are seen eating at home was filmed not in Haverstraw, but at the Biograph Studios. As was commonly their practice with other production companies at the time, Biograph rented out their facilities to the Yankee Photoplay Corporation.

Many modern-day sources state that these studios were located in Fort Lee, New Jersey, but by 1920 Biograph had long since left that site, their headquarters at 807 East 175th Street in the Bronx having opened in 1913. Here are the Bronx studios as seen in a Sanborn Insurance map from 1921:

Today the studios are long gone, with a new Department of Sanitation building occupying the site.

As we first saw in the interior church scene, here again the film director has Ruth hide or otherwise obscure his injured right hand.

Here he is seen straightening his tie, with only his left side visible to the camera:


Time: 22:47

And in this shot we see that his hand is awkwardly placed below the table as he eats with Pigtails and Herman the dog:


Time: 20:45

But when Babe gets up from the table we briefly see his heavily-bandaged right hand: 


Time: 22:42

Babe’s Bug Bite Part III

Careful examination of other scenes in the movie also reveal Babe’s bandaged hand. These include:

When Babe and Almira Worters meet at the church festival:


Time: 23:42

Seconds later when Babe accidentally spills food on Harry Knight:


Time: 23:55

About half a dozen minutes later, in a scene in which Knight refuses to play on the same team a Babe, we see a small bandage on the back of Ruth’s right hand:


Time: 29:45

Perhaps this scene was shot soon after the bite, before the wound became infected. Or it is possible this scene was filmed much later, when Babe’s hand was nearly healed.

Nearly 50 minutes into the movie, when Babe prepares to leave for Highland, an interior scene at his home also suffers from the director’s need to awkwardly hide Ruth’s injured hand. A “stand in” hand is used to show Babe leaving his $2 advance behind:


Time: 49:26

Otherwise it is more of the same, as the camera almost exclusively shows Ruth’s left side and, when not, Pigtails is positioned to obscure his right arm:


Time: 49:39

Near the end of the movie, an extended interior scene in which Babe is reunited with his mother and sister is carefully choreographed in order to deal with Babe’s injured hand. As before, Pigtails spends much of her time holding (and hiding) Babe’s right hand, but this time Babe’s suitcase is used as a cover:


Time: 01:07:46

At the end of the scene, Babe prepares to leave. Pigtails covers his injured right hand while Babe puts his hat on with his left hand ... but he’s put it on backwards, so he quickly and inelegantly turns it around with his one good hand and tries again.


Time: 01:07:59

Why wasn’t this “take” simply scrapped and the end of the scene reshot? The answer is almost assuredly twofold: there was little time and little money.

Even though Ruth was paid an exorbitant amount of money to take part in the movie, it is abundantly clear that film was produced on a very low budget. No doubt the philosophy of those making the movie was not to worry about putting out a high-quality film, but to create a serviceable flick starring the biggest celebrity around ... and get it done in time for a September opening! As we will see, even without reshooting scenes, they weren’t quite able to pull off that last goal.

Stereotyping

A few scenes in “Headin’ Home” depict long-held racial and cultural stereotypes.

In a short sequence earlier in the movie in which Harry Knight reveals himself to be a crook and a gambler, a Black porter is seen eyeing Knight’s dice, falling into the racial stereotype of the African American as a gambling addict.


Time: 11:39


Time: 11:34


Time: 11:37

I have been unable to identify this actor, but would love to hear from anyone who is can definitively recognize him.

And in a pair of scenes midway through the film, the barber Tony Marino is stereotyped as a garlic-obsessed Italian. First he is upset that his wife fails to add enough garlic to his spaghetti.


Time: 21:37


Time: 21:51

Then, while singing in the Volunteer Firemen’s Quartette at the church, his breath becomes unbearable for his fellow singers.


Time: 23:12

Babe’s Mother Has a Dream Sequence

A very brief dream sequence occurs when Babe’s mother gives her boy a pep talk and imagines him playing in the big leagues.


Time: 30:39

The few seconds of footage was shot at the Polo Grounds and Babe is seen wearing an armband on his left sleeve. Thus we know that the action must have occurred after August 18, the date that the Yankees first donned the memorial markings for Ray Chapman.

Two additional clues help determine the exact date of the game:

  • The catcher wears stockings with a single, dark thin stripe; and
  • There is a large crowd in attendance.

As we’ve already discussed, only two big league clubs wore stockings with a single, dark stripe: the Boston Red Sox and the Philadelphia Athletics. But the Red Sox wore stockings with a thick stripe and their last game in New York that season occurred on July 26, weeks before the Chapman tragedy took place. Philadelphia, however, played three games in New York after August 18: two games on Labor Day, Monday, September 6, and a contest the following day, September 7.

The first and third games of the brief series attracted only 10,000 fans. But the second game on Labor Day saw 30,000 in attendance (some papers even reported figures over 35,000), a crowd that much better matches what we see jamming the stands behind Ruth.

The Parade before the Big Game

Meanwhile, Haverlock prepared for the big game against Highland, which incidentally was (and is) a real town located just four miles north of Haverstraw. In order to film two clubs in action at Eckerson Field, an actual game was arranged to take place on Sunday morning, August 22, at 9:30 a.m. Why the early start time? Because Babe had to finish shooting in time to get back to New York and a 1 p.m. game at the Polo Grounds.


Rockland County Times, August 21, 1920

It must be remembered that in 1920 there was hardly any bigger celebrity in the country than Babe Ruth, and here he was in the small town of Haverstraw, for one and all to see. For all intents and purposes, the day was a holiday in the village.

Half an hour prior to the scheduled start of the game, a parade was held (and filmed) in which the actors, the ball clubs, the town’s folk, and many visitors from out of town participated.


Time: 32:30

The gathering of thousands began in front of the United States Hotel (seen in this vintage postcard), located at the corner of First and Main Streets, just across from the Fowler Library. Today the site is occupied by the Haverstraw Post Office.

Leading the parade was Professor George C. Glassing’s Brass Band, a local contingent of musicians led by a 54-year old barber (not professor) whose shop was located at 40 Broadway, just two blocks north of Bank Corner.

The parade to the ballpark begins and the throng starts marching forward.


Time: 35:23

It made for a good camera shot, but in actuality the procession is heading in the wrong direction, down Front Street and, if they didn’t stop, into the Hudson River.

In the above lobby card, we see Babe, Pigtails, and Herman the dog, as they prepare to walk to the ballpark. However, something is wrong.


Time: 35:27

Above we see a still from the same scene in the film, with the trio as they are about to take part in the parade. Pigtails is at left and Babe at right. Babe holds a bag in his right hand and drags a pair of bat bags with his left. All of this is the exact reverse of what is shown in the lobby card. In fact, careful examination of the buildings on Main Street in the background of the lobby card show that they are also flipped. Here’s a comparison of the locations of three buildings from 64 through 72 Main Street with a reversed version of the lobby card. Note that the facades of the buildings (though now colored differently) match well with those seen in the lobby card.

And, as a final confirmation that the image on the lobby card has been accidentally reversed, throughout the movie Herman the dog is seen with a dark patch over his left eye, but just the opposite is the case in the lobby card.

At the Ball Field

After the previous scenes were shot, the entourage made their way to Eckerson Field, where the parade was filmed marching in from center field.


Time: 36:06

According to local news coverage, four separate cameras were used to capture the action, “two of them great complicated affairs with more wheels, angles and devices than a submarine sounding horoscope on a battleship.”

Far in the background two tall buildings can be seen. At left is the steeple of St. Peter’s Roman Catholic Church. It doesn’t appear to have changed over the last century:


And near the center of the frame is the distinctive cupola of St. Peter’s School and Hall.

The building no longer exists, but the vintage postcard above shows what the original building looked like.

As the parade continued, the players for Haverlock eventually marched past one of the four cameras. Here we see the players’ jerseys, with an “H” on their right chest and a diamond-shaped symbol on their left sleeve.


Time: 36:19

The symbol matches that long-used by members of the Knights of Columbus, and indeed the part of the Haverlock club was played by the Haverstraw Knights of Columbus baseball team.

Though Ruth had become a member of the Knights of Columbus the previous year (Pere Marquette Council 271 of South Boston), it is doubtful that he pulled any strings to get them involved in the game. In fact, the overriding reason that both clubs were chosen to participate was that they were the only completely uniformed teams in the nearby area.

The role of Highland, the other uniformed club, was filled by the Highland Hose Company, a team that confusingly hailed not from Highland, New York, but from Nyack, located 10 miles south of Haverstraw.


Time: 36:30

Just prior to the beginning of the ballgame, we see a number of disabled children seating themselves on the third base side of the field.


Time: 37:00

These are youths from the New York State Hospital for the Care of Crippled and Deformed Children in nearby West Haverstraw, the facility depicted in this postcard from 1920:

Though the movie makes no attempt to weave their story into the film, it is appropriate that these young boys were included, as Babe had a genuine affection for children, most especially those who were underprivileged or disadvantaged. In another lobby card for the movie, we see Ruth on the diamond at Eckerson Field showing his baseball bat to these same children:

Today, the State Hospital is known as the Helen Hayes Hospital, a physical rehabilitation facility still located in West Haverstraw and named for the famous actress who was a longtime resident of Nyack and whose daughter Mary died of polio in 1949.

Despite fans being charged 50 cents to attend the game and another half dollar to sit in the cramped grandstand, it is likely that Eckerson Field never saw a crowd of this size.


Time: 37:30

With Professor Glassing’s Brass Band in the background, Babe steps up to the plate. Crouching behind home for Haverlock was the regular catcher for the Haverstraw K. of C. team, Bert Arlington. Behind him, taking on the umpiring duties for the game was Homer Lydecker of Nyack.


Time: 37:36

After the game, Ruth posed for a photograph with the entire Haverlock/Haverstraw team.

Standing (left to right) are Jack Anderson, Frank Hessian, Al Schnaars, James Finegan (manager), Ruth, Richard Shankey, Victor Shankey, Jack Scully, John Cook, Thomas Shankey, Martin Hurley, and Vincent Lynch. Seated (left to right) are Walter Bedell, Bob Arlington, William Bogasky, and Bert Arlington.

Babe Breaks His Bat

Note that in this still Babe holds his bat as he sometimes did during his career, choking up about an inch or two:


Time: 37:46

However, in the climax to the ball game, in the ninth inning with the score tied 14-14 and Babe at the plate, we see him choking up to a ridiculous extreme:


Time: 42:44

This is because the movie prop staff had partially sawed through Ruth’s bat near the middle. By gripping the bat just above the cut, he could swing and miss without the bat snapping in two. But for this scene, after swinging and missing, Babe feigns frustration and slams the bat on the plate, with the wood easily breaking at the cut.


Time: 42:49


Time: 42:49

The shenanigans were all done in order to set up a scene echoed 64 years later in the movie “The Natural.” In that 1984 film, Roy Hobbs whittles a bat from a tree limb, names it “Wonderboy,” and uses it with great success while playing for the New York Knights. When Roy’s bat breaks at a critical moment at the end of the season, Knights bat boy Bobby Savoy gives the slugger a bat that the youngster had similarly fashioned by hand. Roy takes the bat, dubbed “Savoy Special,” and clouts the pennant-winning home run.

In “Headin’ Home,” after Babe’s bat is broken, Pigtails gives her big brother the bat that he had been whittling for the first 40 minutes of the movie. Babe returns to a normal grip, takes a pitch, then smashes the next delivery to deep center field, a majestic home run that ultimately shatters the newly dedicated church window that had been donated by Cyrus Tobin.

While this prodigious blast was just a work of fiction, during a batting exhibition for fans that morning, Ruth hit a number of towering home runs. As described in the local Rockland County Times of August 28, 1920, “Ruth met one of [pitcher Vincent] Lynch’s throws right in the center, seemingly without great muscular effort and the ball sailed gracefully away landing on top of the home of Constable Peter A. Reilly on Partition Street, hitting the peak of the roof and bounding over into the street.” Census records from 1920 show that Peter Reilly lived at 11 Partition Street, down the right field line.

I was able to track down Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps of Haverstraw from 1921 (just a year after filming took place) and was happy to find a page showing the location of the small grandstand at Eckerson Field (see bottom center):

By making a reasonable estimate of the distance between the grandstand and the baseball diamond as seen in the movie footage, I was able to estimate the location home plate on modern maps of Haverstraw.

By my calculations, this would mean that Constable Reilly’s home was some 350 feet from home plate. However, we must remember that the ball hit the roof of the two story structure. Generally, a fly ball comes down at about a 45 degree angle and thus if the roof is some 20 feet above the ground, we should add another 20 feet to the distance in order to give report a projected home run distance. That is, the distance from home plate to the location a ball would land at ground level if unhindered by obstructions such as ballpark seats or, in this case, a rooftop.

In short, the ball Ruth hit that landed atop Constable Reilly’s house traveled an estimated 370 feet.

Incidentally, the following year Lynch pitched professionally for the Class D Martinsburg (WV) Mountaineers of the Blue Ridge League. But as far as fame was concerned, the young pitcher topped out when he surrendered this long ball to the Bambino.

Another of Babe’s home runs “landed on the shed in the rear of the Kigler house on Broadway and rolled in the kitchen, where Mrs. Spiegel was at work preparing the Sunday dinner.” The Kiglers lived at 65 Broadway, also down the right field line (and perhaps even in foul territory?!), and the rear of the house was approximately 375 feet from home plate.

These approximate distances of 370 and 375 feet are impressive, but a third home run described in the newspaper is rather astounding, “the ball falling in Frank Smith’s yard on Ridge Street.” Smith, a foreman at a local brick factory, lived at 8 Ridge Street, in deep right center field, a distance that was some 465 feet from Eckerson Field’s home plate!

While these distances are estimates, they are still telling of Ruth’s tremendous strength and ability. Today, home runs of 370 to 375 feet happen all the time, but a 465-foot shot by a current star would certainly warrant coverage on MLB Tonight.

Sure, since the advent of Statcast in 2008, there have been nearly 170 home runs that have traveled at least 465 feet. But it misses the point to compare the distance of Ruth’s home run to any of those hit today. You must put this exceptional show of power into perspective by understanding the time in which it was hit. The simple truth is that other than Babe Ruth, nobody was hitting home runs of this nature in 1920. Nobody. And no one was even close.

The Chase through Haverlock (and Haverstraw)

After homering to win the game for the rival Highland team, Babe is chased off the field and a lengthy chase scene ensues.


Time: 45:12

In the stills above, Herman the dog and Doc Hedges are seen turning the corner next to a home.

Later Babe follows in their footsteps:


Time: 45:22

The brick building he rounds was the home of the Kistner family and is located at 28 Middle Street. Though it is now painted a rich, dark red, numerous features are identical to the way it appeared a century ago.

Eventually Babe ends up back at the United States Hotel and fends off the frenzied crowd with his baseball bat.


Time: 47:42

In the background is another building that still stands today, the home of Wilson and Frances Milburn at 8 First Street. Could the two individuals seen at the bottom left of the above still from “Headin’ Home” be the Milburns?

Here’s what the home looks like today:

Babe is ultimately saved when Pastor Talmadge calms the mob, and moments later the Highland manager gives his new slugger an advance on his salary:


Time: 48:57

The observant numismatist will note that Babe received a total of two dollars. The coins in his hand matching these:

Clockwise from top: a Morgan silver dollar (reverse), a Walking Liberty half dollar (reverse), a Standing Liberty quarter (obverse), and another Standing Liberty quarter (reverse).

Another Missing Scene

Around 49 minutes into the KINO version of “Headin’ Home” a small portion of a scene in which Mildred Tobin and Harry Knight meet in front of the Tobin home is missing. There is a missing title card:

The other missing clip is a brief kiss:

The Babe in New York City


Time: 56:10

In this scene, Babe arrives at a train station in New York City. One might suppose the movie makers would have chosen to shoot on location at either Grand Central Terminal or Penn Station, but instead they opted for the 138th Street Station at Park Avenue and 138th in the Bronx. Not only was it less crowded, but it was significantly closer to their home base at the old Biograph Studios.

Alas, this gorgeous Richardsonian Romanesque structure, located just about a mile south of Yankee Stadium, no longer stands today.

While I have not been able to identify every building that appears in “Headin’ Home,” the church seen in the scene in which Babe consoles John Tobin remains a particularly frustrating challenge.


Time: 59:32

There is no question in my mind that this was an actual church, as there were simply no large-structure sets manufactured for this film. Additionally, the general architectural style and the chi-rho symbol in the background corroborate that this was a church.


Time: 59:33

Almost assuredly the church was located in the New York City area and, as suggested by the earlier use of the 138th Street Station, perhaps in The Bronx. If anyone can pass along a photograph that definitively matches this structure, you’d certainly make my day.

Mildred Has a Dream Sequence

When Mildred Tobin thinks about Babe, there is a cut to a brief dream sequence, this one showing Babe at bat at the Polo Grounds.


Time: 01:01:10

We know that the shot could not have been taken earlier than 1920, Ruth’s first year with the Yankees. Furthermore, the catcher’s stockings each have a thick, dark stripe, a feature that we have already learned is indicative of the Red Sox uniform. Already we have whittled down the possible dates that the footage was shot to one of the 11 games the Red Sox played in New York in 1920.

Now compare the movie still with this well-known photograph of Babe Ruth trotting home after one of two home runs he hit against the Red Sox on June 25, 1920:

In both images the umpire appears to be the same fellow. Even minute details of his clothing and equipment match well. There is little doubt that he is the same fellow.

Some quick research reveals that the home plate umpire for the June 25, 1920, game at the Polo Grounds was Ollie Chill. And thanks to retrosheet.org’s extensive umpire game-by-game data, I was able to determine that Chill umpired home plate just twice in 1920 when the Red Sox played the Yankees at the Polo Grounds: June 25 and June 27. In both games, the Red Sox catcher was Roxy Walters and the on-deck batter (seen in the foreground of the movie still) was Bob Meusel. But was the footage taken the same day as the photograph or two days later?

Contemporary newspapers reported that the June 25 game had an attendance of 20,000 fans, while the game of June 27 had 30,000 in the stands. Now take a look at the left field bleachers. In the photograph they are only partially full, but the bleachers in the movie still are jam packed. It seems likely we are seeing footage from the June 27 game, but one more action sequence near the very end of the movie will make this supposition nearly a certainty.

Babe’s Home

Outside the family home in Haverlock, Pigtails picks up the mail that includes a letter from Babe saying that he’s “Headin’ Home.”


Time: 01:02:15

The house where Babe, his mother, and his sister live has appears numerous times in the film, but this movie still provides one of the best views of the structure.

The house is located at 9 Van Houten Street (just a minute’s walk southwest of Cyrus Tobin’s home at 44 First Street) and was then occupied by Delia Tamsen and her family.

Happily, the home can still be seen today, though in the ensuing years it has been significantly modified. First, there is what looks like the addition of an enclosed porch off the wing seen directly behind Pigtails. This addition is large enough that it now covers the original front door. The wing of the house that formerly had that front door has also been modified, as it now extends further to the right than it had before. Still, the “L”-shaped layout of the house, the roof various roof lines, and the pathway from the mailbox to the old front door remain basically the same.

A Problem

Two years have passed and Babe has made it in the big leagues. In the scene below, Deacon Flack, Cyrus Tobin, and Jimbo Jones take a look at a newspaper detailing Babe’s stellar exploits on the diamond.


Time: 01:02:30

We next see the newspaper from the point of view of the three men.


Time: 01:02:31

There’s a lot here, but before delving into the details we must first ask ourselves if what we are seeing is a real newspaper or a manufactured movie prop. The same question was a critical part of my research into an unexpected baseball mystery in the movie “The Maltese Falcon” (1941) starring Humphrey Bogart.

As in “The Maltese Falcon,” it is quickly apparent that the newspaper is not a prop. If it were, the fabricated paper would feature a much more dynamic headline about Babe. But here the headline of interest takes up just a small portion of the frame.

Now that we can be assured that we are seeing a real newspaper, we can delve into the various visual clues to see what we can learn.


The headline at center states that Babe hit a pair of homers and the Yankees won 3-0. Going through each game played by the Yankees in 1920, I could find only two dates in which the Yankees won by the score of 3-0: August 28 vs. the White Sox and September 27 vs. the Athletics. But, as you may recall, Ruth did not play on August 28 due to his bug bite. That leaves the September 27 game, and on that day Ruth did indeed hit two home runs. This information implies the newspaper dates from the day after the game, September 28, or possibly a late edition from September 27.

Regarding the headline having to do with the Giants and a word starting with “Boec,” I suspected that this was likely the last name of a ballplayer. Following that assumption I found that the only big leaguer whose name starts with letters “Boec” is Tony Boeckel, a third baseman who played with the Pirates and Braves over a understandably forgettable six-season big league career.

Arguably, the highlight of Boeckel’s ball playing days came in the second game of a September 28, 1920, doubleheader at the Polo Grounds, in which his solo homer in the top of the ninth gave the Braves a 3-2 win and eliminated the Giants from the pennant race. This explains why we see the words “Giants” and “Boec[kel]” in the same headline. Again, this corroborates a newspaper date of September 28 or possibly a late edition of September 27.

Turning our attention to the headline with the words “Comiskey” and “Proof,” you will recall that the Black Sox scandal did not break until late in the 1920 season. This headline is undoubtedly related to the news that, as reported in the New York Times of September 28, 1920, White Sox owner Charles Comiskey “received word that Billy Maharg had told newspaper men in Philadelphia that White Sox players approached him before the world series last year and told him it had been ‘fixed’ for Cincinnati to win.” Yet again, all signs point to a newspaper date of September 28 or a late edition from September 27.

Finally, what of the cartoon seen at the top of the frame?

It’s a cell from a comic strip titled “Bringing Up Father,” created by George McManus. This popular strip, also known as “Jiggs and Maggie,” ran for nearly 90 years: from 1913 to 2000!

In light of the previous three clues, it seemed likely that this syndicated comic strip was published in newspaper on either September 28 or September 27, 1920. Indeed, I found it in a number of papers on September 28 ... and not in any editions on September 27. Here’s one from the El Paso Herald, complete with the month and day (9-28) as noted by George McManus in the final cell:

While I have been unable to track down the exact newspaper as seen in the movie, I have been able to definitively date the newspaper in the movie still as Tuesday, September 28, 1920.

But this poses a problem. In order to understand this problem, we need to learn a bit more about the debut of “Headin’ Home.”


In July of 1920, longtime boxing promoter Tex Rickard signed a 10-year lease on Madison Square Garden, this in the day when the indoor venue was located at the northeast corner of 26th Street and Madison Avenue:

Rickard did so in hopes that that New York would reinstate boxing, but there were delays in doing so.

On Friday, September 3, in an effort to recoup some of his losses, Rickard paid $35,000 for the rights to debut “Headin’ Home” at the Garden for an exclusive eight-day run.

Not only did Rickard pay a hefty sum for exclusive rights to the movie, but he also laid out a good deal of money prepping the Garden for the debut. He constructed what was, at the time, the world’s largest movie screen: 27 × 36 feet. And in order to project the film on such a large screen, he had a special movie projector built with what was, at the time, the world’s most powerful projector lens.

At the movie opening at Madison Square Garden, in front of an estimated crowd of some 6,000 movie-goers, Lieutenant James Tim Brymn and his Black Devils Band provided musical accompaniment for the film and performed the recently published song “Oh! You ‘Babe Ruth.’” You can listen to a modern rendition of the ditty here:


And while Ruth was unable to attend the event (the Yankees were on the road at the time), a special appearance was made by boxing champion Jack Dempsey, who less than two weeks earlier had KO’ed Billy Miske to retain his world heavyweight title.

But as noted above: There is a problem.

The date the movie debuted at Madison Square Garden was Sunday, September 19. There is no question that this is when the movie was first shown. It was heavily promoted for days beforehand and on the following day multiple newspapers recounted stories of the premiere.

But we’ve already determined that at least one scene in the movie (that which shows the newspaper) was shot no earlier than September 28.

How can this be the case? I can think of just two possible answers:

  • In the late summer of 1920, in or around New York City, there was, in fact, a time machine; or
  • The film that debuted on September 19 was not the version of the film is available today.

While I find the first possibility intriguing, I believe the second is more likely.

My best guess is that the movie editing process took longer than expected. However, as Rickard had invested $35,000 to debut “Headin’ Home” on September 19, something called “Headin’ Home” had better be projected at the Garden that night. That something, I believe, was a not-quite-final version of the movie.

More Action at the Polo Grounds

After Deacon Flack, Cyrus Tobin, and Jimbo Jones read the newspaper account of Babe’s on-field heroics, the movie makers include a scene to illustrate Ruth’s batting prowess.


Time: 01:02:41

The footage here is remarkably similar to that used for Babe’s mother’s dream sequence some 30 minutes earlier in “Headin’ Home.” In fact, the footage was taken at the very same game. This is corroborated by overlaying the dream sequence still from 30:39 with this later still from 01:02:41. 

Especially convincing is the fact that the fans in the background are clearly the same.

By the way, keen-eyed viewers will note that Babe has white tape on his right wrist. However, the tape-job was not related to Babe’s bug bite, as that injury was to his hand, not his wrist. In fact, off and on throughout his career, Ruth had his wrist taped.

For example, here he is in 1921:

And in 1923:

Incidentally, as I note in my blog post titled “Uncorking the Truth,” it is possible that this latter image shows Ruth with a “Quadrabuilt” bat, a four-piece bat that was later deemed to be illegal.

Just moments after the movie still from 01:02:41, Babe connects with the pitch, runs down the baseline, and rounds first base, as the pitcher looks forlornly toward the outfield.


Time: 01:02:44

This gives us two important clues:

  • Babe has certainly hit safely; and
  • The pitcher is a tall, right-handed pitcher, with stockings and a jersey that clearly match that worn by the Philadelphia Athletics at the time.

The season of 1920 was the first to feature Athletics jerseys with an elephant on the front, and the only one in which the elephant was depicted standing on all four legs. Here’s a photo taken in 1920 of Athletics players Johnny Walker, Tillie Walker, and Frank Walker (no, they’re not related) wearing jerseys that are identical to that worn by the lanky pitcher in our movie still:

Earlier we noted that there were three possible dates for the game: two on September 6 and one on September 7. We used the size of the crowd to help pinpoint the action as coming from the second game on September 6, but now we can corroborate this conclusion by paying attention to the clues above:

Ruth failed to get a hit in the first game played on September 6, but as we now see him safely reaching base, we can eliminate that first game:

  • And we can also eliminate the September 7 game, as the Athletics pitcher that day was Dave Keefe, who at 5’9” in height was most certainly not the pitcher seen above.
  • In the second game played on September 6, Ruth collected a pair of walks, a sacrifice fly and a double, his only hit of the day. As reported in the next day’s New York Tribune, Ruth’s “longest hit of the day was a two-bagger to deep right field in the first inning of the second tilt.”

The pitcher for Philadelphia that game was right-hander William Jennings Bryan Harriss. At 180 pounds and 6’6” in height it’s no wonder his nickname was “Slim.” In fact, Harriss was the tallest pitcher in the league at the time.

In summary, the action we see in this brief scene is of Ruth hitting a first-inning double off Slim Harriss in the second game played on September 6, 1920:


New York Times, September 7, 1920

Babe Returns to Haverlock

After Babe returns to Haverlock, he meets up with various locals from his past. Here he bumps into Deacon Flack and, within seconds, Flack hits up Babe for $13.75, the cost to repair the memorial church window.


Time: 01:06:04

Missing from the KINO version of “Headin’ Home” is this title card found in the version at archive.org:

Babe’s Mother Has Another Dream Sequence

Once again, Babe’s mother dreams of her son’s success. This time the dream sequence is a shot of fans leaving the field at the Polo Grounds. For years at the Polo Grounds, when a game ended, fans left through exits in the outfield, creating a swarm of humanity on the field.


Time: 01:08:23

Here we see fans (and the occasional ballplayer) heading toward right center field. At right we see a group of Athletics players, with the standing elephants on their jerseys. It seems likely that this is the aftermath of the games of September 6, 1920.

Babe Proposes to Mildred

Babe heads to the Tobin house intent on proposing to Mildred. In a humorous sequence, Babe’s mission is interrupted, first by John Tobin and then by Cyrus. But the latter intrusion is cut short in the KINO version of “Headin’ Home.” Here are a few stills from that missing scene:

Cyrus takes Babe to a back room:

It turns out that the old man has a still of his own:

The two men share a drink, with Cyrus downing his glass in one long draw while Babe looks on, astonished. Eventually Babe finishes his glass and shows his approval of the drink by sticking out his tongue:

Haverlock Heads to the Polo Grounds

In the final scenes of the movie, we return to Eliar Lott, who finishes telling his tale to the fan next to him, informing him that all of Haverlock is at the ball game, cheering for Babe to hit a home run.

We see Mildred in the grandstand, with a marking on the wall in the background that reads “15 9”:


Time: 01:11:12

And we see Cyrus Tobin and Pigtails in the same box seats with the same marking on the wall behind them:


Time: 01:11:30

This map of the upper grandstand of the Polo Grounds shows the special boxes in the front row, overlooking the field:

 

Here’s a detail: 

In section 15 (on the first base side of the stands) there are nine boxes (1-9). Thus, this scene was actually shot at the Polo Grounds in box 9 of section 15 in the upper grandstand.

Babe and His Teammates


Time: 01:11:49

In the above shot, Babe and his teammates are seen in the Yankees dugout at the Polo Grounds. Each player is wearing a black armband, and the careful observer will notice that Babe also has white tape on his right wrist, just as was seen in earlier footage of the September 6 game. It seems reasonable that this short sequence was also taken that same day.

Careful perusal of the players allows us to identify a few of interest.

At far left is Jack Quinn, who in 1920 was 36 years old, but would go on to be a full-time pitcher well into his 40s, even leading the league in games finished (and saves, for what that’s worth) in 1931 and 1932 at 48 and 49 years of age.

Just to the right of Quinn and leaning on the dugout steps is Chick Fewster, whose armband carries a special irony. Less than half a year earlier, on March 25, Fewster was hit in the head by a ball delivered by Brooklyn’s Big Jeff Pfeffer during a spring training game. Fewster was knocked cold for 10 minutes, suffered a fractured skull and a concussion, and lost his ability to speak for a few days. It was eventually necessary for doctors to operate, removing part of his skull and a blood clot. Amazingly, he came back to play in early July of 1920 and continued his career in the majors and minors for the rest of the decade.

Aaron Ward, on the bench and just to Ruth’s left, is an often overlooked player who was a key infielder for the great Yankees teams of the early 1920s. His .417 average in the 1923 World Series led all Yankees regulars in their first-ever World Championship.

Fred Hofmann, on the dugout steps at far right, was a perennial back-up catcher for nine big league seasons, but his professional playing and coaching career ran from 1916 through 1951, after which he scouted for the Browns/Orioles organization.

Babe Homers to Win the Game ... But Not Really

The final sequence features the Babe at bat.


Time: 01:12:30

His uniform does not include a black armband and the catcher has stockings with a thick, dark stripe. This is reminiscent of footage we saw near the very beginning of the movie.

In fact, if we overlay the early movie still from 1:31 and this later movie still from 01:12:30, features in the background match quite well.


Not only was the camera in the exact same spot for both shots, but many of the fans (pay special attention to heads and hats) appear to be in nearly identical spots. As determined earlier, this footage comes from a Red Sox-Yankees game at the Polo Grounds in 1920. But this end-of-movie sequence provides even more footage from which to cultivate three important clues.

First, the Red Sox pitcher is right-handed:


Time: 01:12:29

Second, we see that Ruth connects with the ball and heads to first, clearly having made a safe hit:


Time: 01:12:41

Third, we see Ruth running home and looking back over his shoulder, a clear indication that he scored, but is still interested in the action on the base paths:


Time: 01:13:00

Taking a look at all 11 games that the Red Sox played at the Polo Grounds in 1920, and taking into account these three clues, I was able to eliminate some dates because Ruth faced only left-handed pitchers, some dates because Ruth didn’t get a hit, and some dates because Ruth failed to score. Ultimately, only four games remained possibilities: May 2, June 26, June 27, and July 25.

Now let’s turn our attention to the footage from the overhead camera.


Time: 01:12:43

The situation clearly shows men on first and third as the batter begins sprinting towards first base. In one uninterrupted shot, we see the batter make it all the way to third base, as both runners score. The camera angle makes it difficult to determine if the batter was Babe Ruth, but play-by-play data from the season makes that a moot point. Only once during the 1920 season did a Yankees batter hit a triple with men on first and third. That event, the very one captured in this footage, took place on June 27. Happily, this is one of the dates that had remained a possibility.


New York Tribune, June 28, 1920

Who hit that unique triple? Babe Ruth. In fact, Ruth’s only hit that day was the triple, and thus both the overhead and field level cameras captured the same event at the same time.

Ruth’s triple came in the eighth inning, scored teammates Aaron Ward and Wally Pipp, and knotted the score at 5-5. The next batter, Bob Meusel, doubled to right field, scoring Ruth. This is the play we saw in which Ruth scored and looked over his shoulder in order to see to see where Meusel ended up.

But the movie makers wanted to show Ruth homering, so they edited these two plays (Ruth tripling and Ruth later scoring) in such a way as to make it appear to the casual observer as if it were a single play: a home run.

Right after Ruth scores, we see the players run off the field (towards the center field clubhouses), implying that Babe had hit a walk-of homer.


Time: 01:13:06

Missing from the KINO version of “Headin’ Home” is a brief but important scene.

Fans are seen swarming the infield:

And Babe wades through the crowd with Pigtails by his side:

This scene was certainly not shot after the June 27 game against the Red Sox, because at that time Ruth had not even signed his movie contract and so how could he be paired with Frances Victory as Pigtails? Instead, the scene was shot at the one game in which all the actors were at the Polo Grounds: the contest against the Athletics on September 6.

The final clips, also missing from the KINO version of “Headin’ Home,” are of the multitude of fans leaving the ballpark ...

... and the end title.

“Headin’ Home” Strikes Out

Adam Kessel and Charles Baumann pushed hard to promote the movie, but “Headin’ Home” never became the hit that the duo had bet on.


Variety, August 13, 1920

The movie ran off and on throughout the country for a few years. In fact, it played at Smalley’s Theater in Cooperstown as late as May of 1922, some 14 years before Ruth himself would travel to the upstate New York village to help christen the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum as one of its first five inductees. But, ultimately the film failed to make money, and less than two months after the movie opened, Ruth’s attorney, David W. Kahn, filed an involuntary bankruptcy petition against the Yankee Photoplay Corporation, claiming the $35,000 still owed Ruth. Additionally, Biograph Studios claimed it was owed $1,062 for rental of its studio. As far as I can tell, neither Ruth nor Biograph received another cent.

Reviews

So the movie didn’t make money. But still it was a critical success, right? Well, not really. Most every review said just about the same thing:

  • The New York Tribune called the story “weak, disjointed and unconvincing ... but Babe’s work is excellent throughout.”
  • The Brooklyn Daily Eagle opined that “were it not for the fact that Ruth is the star, the film would attract very little attention.”
  • And Variety reported that “the story as a story is ridiculous and isn’t convincingly acted. It couldn’t hold the interest of any one for five seconds if it were not for the presence of the great athlete. He, and he alone, makes it worth five minutes of anybody’s time.”

In short, the reviews for the movie were poor, but for the Babe they were glowing.

Movie Memorabilia

From lobby cards to publicity stills to baseball cards, “Headin’ Home” was heavily promoted when it debuted in the fall of 1920. Today these various forms of ephemera are much sought-after collectibles. Here is just a selection of some of these items:

Researchin’ “Headin’ Home”

I first watched “Headin’ Home” back in 2011, and while I’ve grown to really like this silly, corny, quirky movie, I’ve always really loved researching it. This guide to the movie was the result of countless hours scouring old newspapers, flipping through vintage images, walking the streets of Haverstraw, and watching the movie ... over and over and over. I’d like to thank all the generous folks who have helped me with my research along the way, including Jerry Accomando, Larry Kigler, Jane Leavy, Jacob Pomrenke, and Peter Scheibner.