Former Detroit Tigers pitcher Elden Auker wrote in his book that the only major-league player he knew of before he played baseball was Babe Ruth. Even the subtitle of the book is, “A Lifetime of Memories From Striking Out The Babe to Teeing It Up With The President.”
There is no verification that Auker ever struck out Ruth. In his book, he said it happened in 1933 after he entered the game as a relief pitcher in the third inning. In Auker’s first appearance against the Yankees, he did enter the game in the third inning. Babe Ruth sat out that game.
Auker pitched against the Yankees twice that season, and Ruth did not play in either game. OK, maybe he mixed up the seasons. In 1934, Auker pitched against the Yankees five times. Here is a recap of those five games:
May 5, 1934: Ruth grounded out the first time he faced Auker and homered in the second meeting.
May 18, 1934: Ruth singled and walked against Auker.
June 16, 1934: Ruth singled in his only at-bat against Auker.
July 14, 1934: Ruth grounded out, homered and singled in three at-bats against Auker.
September 19, 1934: Ruth did not play.
That’s it. Auker faced Ruth just eight times, and Ruth was 5-for-7 with two home runs and a walk. The only times Auker retired Ruth were on two ground outs, unless the historical play-by-play is wrong.
However, we’re not going to hold it against Auker, whose book was published in 2001 – 68 years after the alleged strikeout of Ruth.
However, there was a day in 1937 when Auker hit like The Babe, and this one is verified Auker had three career home runs, and two came on August 14 in the first game of a doubleheader against the St. Louis Browns at Navin Field in Detroit.
Auker pitched a four-hitter in a 15-1 win. After a sacrifice fly in the third, Auker led off the sixth inning with a home run off Nig Lipscomb, a rookie second baseman who was being used as a pitcher to give the bullpen a rest in the blowout. An inning later, Auker hit a three-run shot off Lipscomb to give him five RBIs.
“Part of the beauty of baseball is that on any given day even a banjo hitter might just swing the bat with more power than one of the greatest sluggers in the history of the game,” Auker wrote in his book.
Auker was not making another reference to Ruth. He was writing about teammate Hank Greenberg, who had hit 26 home runs that season going into the doubleheader. The Tigers pounded the Browns in the second game, too, so St. Louis again turned to Lipscomb to rest toe bullpen.
Greenberg faced Lipscomb two times in the first game. He grounded into a double play and popped out to second base. In the second game, Greenberg 2-for-3 with a walk before Lipscomb entered the game. Greenberg finished 2-for-5, so it’s clear that he was hitless in two at-bats and finished the say 0-for-4 against the rookie.
“After it was over, I went up to Hank in the clubhouse and said, ‘Here, you want these two home runs of mine? I don’t need them,’ ” Auker wrote in his book.
Greenberg finished with 40 home runs in 1937. Auker never hit another one for Detroit.