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The Day in Sports | COUNTDOWN TO 2000 / A day-by-day
recap of some of the most important sports moments
of the 20th Century: JULY 13, 1934

Ruth's 700th Home Run a 3 Million-to-20 Shot

July 13, 1999|EARL GUSTKEY | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Fifty-four years ago today, Lenny Bielski earned an easy $20.

Bielski, a Detroit youngster, was on the sidewalk outside Navin Field's right-field fence. Inside, 21,000 were on hand on a Saturday afternoon, hoping to see something that has happened only twice this century.

They hoped to see a major leaguer, Babe Ruth, hit his 700th home run.

Ruth hit it in the third inning, and Bielski emerged from a wild scramble with the ball.

Meanwhile, as Ruth left home plate to circle the bases, he began yelling: "I want that ball! I want that ball!"

Ushers were dispatched to find it. Bielski was brought into the park, given a twenty-dollar bill for the ball, and was permitted to watch the rest of the game from a box seat.

Later, it came out that Bielski was stiffed. After Ruth's 500th and 600th home runs, the New York Times reported, the ball catchers got $30 each.

And of course, one must wonder about Bielski's net worth today had he kept the ball. Maybe he could have bought the Tigers.

Whatever, it was a landmark achievement in a career that had only 14 home runs left. At the time, Lou Gehrig and Rogers Hornsby were the only other major leaguers who had hit 300 home runs.

Today, 83 have hit more than 300, and 15 have hit 500.

Also on this date: In 1963, Cleveland's Early Wynn, 43, became the 14th pitcher to win 300 games. It was also his final major league win. . . . In 1954, nationally syndicated sportswriter Grantland Rice died at 73 of a stroke. . . . In 1996, Cigar, running wide and carrying 130 pounds, won the Arlington International for his 16th consecutive victory to tie Citation's record.

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