Rare footage of Babe Ruth’s and Lou Gehrig’s barnstorming tour

Back in 1927, teammates Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig went on a barnstorming tour in California. With their teams the Bustin’ Babes and the Larrupin’ Lou’s they visited several towns and cities in California and in other states.

In those days, MLB players did not earn the exorbitant amounts of today. Babe Ruth may have been the sole exception as he earned $70,000 per year, in those days a lot of money. But the majority of the MLB players had to work in the off season to make ends meet.

And that is where the barnstorm tour comes around the corner. Until the move of the Dodgers and the Giants to California, the most Western MLB city was Saint Louis. So baseball fans living West of of St. Louis, never had a chance to see any MLB stars playing the game. Babe Ruth’s business manager Christy Walsh, saw a lucrative opportunity to take his slugger and a group of baseball stars on a coast-to-coast tour, performing exhibitions in cities and small towns that would otherwise never have had that opportunity.

According to Tom Shieber of the Baseball Hall of Fame, the barnstorming tour was agent Christy Walsh's idea, and it split locals between Ruth's team, the Bustin' Babes, and Gehrig's Larrupin' Lou's. In places like Fresno, which had a large population of Japanese descent, players from a local Japanese-American All-Star team were used

The tour consisted of 21 games over three weeks and reached cities like Providence, Sioux City, Denver and up and down the California coast. Even though he was a superstar with the Yankees, Lou Gehrig would earn more money in those three weeks than he made all season with the Yankees, so you can imagine the waiting list of players itching to be included on the tour. 

Two teams were formed: The Bustin’ Babes and the Larrupin’ Lou’s. Quite often both teams used players from local teams as well. The teams became so popular that they even played with local sponsor names like Ruth’s Piggly Wiggly vs. Lou’s Denver Buick when the team played in Denver.

One famous picture from the barnstorming tour featured Gehrig and Ruth among a team of Japanese-American All-Stars at a stop in Fresno, California in 1927 
Local Fresno players next to the two Yankee stars

Part of the tour were regular hospital and orphanage visits, so children could get an autograph of their heroes.

Until two years ago, the footage below was the only known moving material of the event. This footage was filmed in Fresno.

But in 2018, the footage below was discovered in the Japanese-American National Museum in Los Angeles. The footage itself was known but no one ever realized that it was about the 1927 barnstorming tour of Ruth and Gehrig. 

In the first seconds, you see Babe Ruth passing by followed by a Lou Gehrig at-bat. 

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