Only One Pitcher In Baseball History Has The Illustrious Distinction of Being Part of Not One but Two “Called Shot” Home Runs.
By Scott A. Rowan
Some people are remembered for what they did to others, while some are remembered for what others did to them. Unfortunately for Guy Bush, he became the latter.
Raised in Aberdeen, Mississippi, Bush was one of the best- dressed players on the Cubs squad and always drove an expensive car. With a toad-like hop to his delivery and a Southern drawl, Bush stood out from both other pitchers and the rest of his teammates. He was also the only Cub ever acquired in exchange for a jug of corn whiskey and $1,200.
During 12 seasons with the Cubs, Bush, nicknamed “the Mississippi Mudcat,” had a career record of 152–101 and recorded at least 15 wins for seven consecutive seasons, helping the Cubs win the pennant in 1929 and 1932.
The secret to Bush’s success was an ointment applied to his arm by team trainer Andy Lotshaw. Bush dutifully reported to Lotshaw for his special treatment before each game he pitched. Reporters and fans asked Bush about the secret liniment, but the right-hander never gave up the secret. Why? Because he didn’t know it himself. Lotshaw refused to tell the superstitious pitcher what the dark liquid was. The tactic worked: Bush recorded 18, 15, 16, and 19 wins, respectively, from 1929- to 1932. Frustrated at coming oh-so-close to 20 wins four years in a row, the Mississippi Mudcat asked fans to send him four-leaf clovers to improve his luck. The next season, he went 20–12.
Lotshaw continued to rub the mysterious dark liniment on Bush’s arm until the pitcher was traded to the Pittsburgh Pirates after the 1934 season. It was only then, when Bush needed to tell the Pittsburgh trainer what the liniment was, that Lotshaw was forced to admit the truth: the magic substance was nothing more than warm Coca-Cola.
While that “special ointment” made for a funny story, what wasn’t amusing to Bush was the fact that he was at the heart of not just one supposed “Called Shot” home run, but two, both by the same hitter—none other than baseball’s biggest star of all time, Babe Ruth.
Ruth’s “Called Shot” home run in Game 3 of the 1932 World Series was, as we’ve already proven, not really a “called shot” but rather a series of coincidences that Ruth, who loved the attention, never bothered to publicly correct as he aged. But the verbal assaults and insults the Cubs threw at the entire New York Yankees squad, and Ruth in particular, have never been questioned. One of the most vocal Cubs was Bush, whose Southern voice made it easy to distinguish his taunts from the other players’. It was Bush who Ruth supposedly replied to after the second strike, reminding the Mississippi Mudcat that Charlie Root still needed to get a third strike past him—just before belting his unforgettable home run into the stands.
Bush was fortunate to be in the dugout rather than on the mound that day. But karma has a funny way of reminding us of our past misdeeds. The superstitious Bush should have remembered that when he faced Ruth years later for what would become Ruth’s second “Called Shot,” still honored by Pittsburgh fans decades later.
Ruth’s career came to an end in 1935. He played for the Boston Braves during his final season. On May 25, the Braves played at Pittsburgh’s Forbes Field with Red Lucas starting for the Pirates. Lucas lasted only one out into the first inning, giving up a two-run homer to Ruth in the opening frame. Pirates manager Pie Traynor immediately called for a relief pitcher—Bush. In the third inning, Ruth stepped to the plate and faced the pitcher for the first time since the 1932 World Series, when the Mississippi Mudcat and others had called the dark-skinned hitter such foul names that he and his teammates earned a rebuke from Commissioner Landis himself. The Bambino belted a home run, his penultimate career homer.
Karma wasn’t through with Bush, however. Traynor left the right-hander in the game until the seventh inning, when Ruth came to bat once more. “[Ruth] pointed to a group of old guys clapping for him and said he’d put it
“[Ruth] pointed to a group of old guys clapping for him and said he’d put it over the roof,” Pittsburgh fan Paul Warhola, who was at the game, told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
And that is precisely what Ruth did; the final home run of the Bambino’s career, his 714th, was the first home run ever to clear the 86-foot high roof in right field at Forbes Field, as well as his second of the day off the Mississippi Mudcat and his third that day overall.
Bush is the only pitcher in history to be a part of not just one “Called Shot” home run, but two, both by Ruth. Adding insult to injury, Bush is now remembered not for his service as a workhorse pitcher for the Cubs for years, but as the pitcher who surrendered Ruth’s final two home runs.
The lesson appears to be simple: don’t taunt a tiger or you just might get swatted—not once, but twice.
Jerome Holtzman and George Vass, The Chicago Cubs Encyclopedia (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1997), 236.
John Snyder, Cubs Journal (Cincinnati: Emmis Books, 2005), 236.
Rick Shrum, “Parting shots: Two local men recall being witness to Babe Ruth’s final three home runs,” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, May 10, 2006, http://www.post-gazette.com/stories/sports/pirates/ parting-shots-two-local-men-recall-being-witness-to-babe-ruths-final-three-home-runs-433325/.
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