January 11 – Happy Birthday Loren Babe

Thumbnail image for loren-babe-1953-yankees-2.jpgThe Yankees have three “Babes” that I know of on their all-time roster. The first and most famous, of course, was Babe Ruth. Then there was Babe Dahlgren, the guy who replaced the legendary Lou Gehrig as the Yankees’ starting first baseman, in 1939. The third Yankee “Babe” was Loren Babe, who’s birthday we celebrate today. Unfortunately for him, he didn’t resemble the original Babe when he was trying to hit big league pitching but if you put a Dodger hat on the guy pictured on the left, you could easily have mistaken him for the great Sandy Koufax.

Loren Babe had the misfortune of being a 24-year-old third base prospect when the Yankees already had a young Gil McDougald and Andy Carey on their big league roster. Born in Pisgah, IA, on January 11, 1928, Mr. Babe got into 17 games as a Yankee during the 1952 and  beginning part of the ’53 seasons. Loren’s bat did play a very significant role in Yankee history. I read Jane Leavy’s book about Mickey Mantle, entitled The Last Boy. It contains the most detailed account I’ve ever read of Mickey’s historic home run off of the Senators’ Chuck Stobbs in Washington’s Griffith Stadium, on April 17, 1953 (See illustrative photo below-not a photo of actual home run.) When Mantle hit that monster he was using a bat he borrowed from a teammate. That teammate was Loren Babe. Nine days later, the Yankees sold Babe to the Athletics but Mickey kept his bat.

That missing bat may or may not help explain why Loren hit just .224 in 103 games for Philly and ended up back in the Minors and eventually, back in the Yankee organization. He then went into managing, scouting and coaching. He was on the Yankees’ big league coaching staff in 1967. He was diagnosed with colon cancer in 1983 while working for the White Sox organization. Needing just eight weeks more of employment to qualify for MLB pension benefits, Chicago put Babe on their coaching staff after Charley Lau, who was serving as the team’s hitting coach, graciously offered to step aside. In a tragic and ironic twist, Lau was also diagnosed with cancer and died just five weeks after the disease took Babe’s life.

Babe shares his birthday with this former Yankee pitcher.

Mantle.TapeMeasure.jpg

Loren Babe’s Yankee regular season and MLB lifetime statistics.
Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1952 NYY 12 25 21 1 2 1 0 0 0 1 4 4 .095 .240 .143 .383
1953 NYY 5 18 18 2 6 1 0 2 6 0 0 2 .333 .333 .722 1.056
2 Yrs 120 426 382 37 85 18 2 2 26 1 39 26 .223 .298 .296 .594
NYY (2 yrs) 17 43 39 3 8 2 0 2 6 1 4 6 .205 .279 .410 .689
PHA (1 yr) 103 383 343 34 77 16 2 0 20 0 35 20 .224 .300 .283 .583
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 1/11/2014.

5 Comments

Not sure whether that’s the proper photo for the Mantle home run. Stobbs was a lefthanded pitcher, so Mantle would have been batting righthanded, and my recollection is that the ball was hit to left field. The path shown by the broken line indicates a hit to center.

I believe Larry is correct.

Thanks Larry & Rich. Good observations on the photo and I don’t know the answer. I believe the photo came from a Washington DC newspaper’s account of the home run and was reproduced in Leavy’s book. One possible explanation is that the negative for the photo was reversed so that everything shown is rendered exactly opposite. I just don’t know but I will look into it some more and let you know what I find.

The negative could not have been reversed. If it had been, so would have been all the lettering — Bohemian in the beer ad, Longines on the clock, etc. Photo is not in Leavy’s book, and the descriptions in the book (e.g., Mr. Boh’s mustache extending over the word beer on the scoreboard) don’t exactly match what you see in the photo.

You’re right about photo and the home run. Mantle hit it right-handed and the photo in this post is not reversed. I did discover the picture was used originally for illustrative purposes only but I’m not sure who created it or why.

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