Babe Ruth? Tom Meany? Apocryphal?
Dear Quote Investigator: A humorous story is told about the renowned baseball slugger Babe Ruth. He was negotiating his salary during the depths of the economic depression and was told that the amount he had requested was outlandish because it exceeded the remuneration given to Herbert Hoover who was the U.S. President. Ruth replied:
What’s Hoover got to do with it? Besides, I had a better year than he did.
I have not been able to find solid support for this tale. Is this anecdote accurate?
Quote Investigator: The earliest evidence known to QI was published in a 1947 biography titled “Babe Ruth: The Big Moments of the Big Fellow” by Tom Meany who was a New York sportswriter with a multi-decade career. Meany provided this description. Boldface has been added to excerpts: 1
Those writers who were closest to Ruth attempted to convince the slugger that this was no time to hold out, with millions unemployed and thousands on the point of actual starvation. How much did Babe want, anyway?
“Just what I’ve been getting for the last two seasons,” explained Ruth with what he thought was a great show of patience, “$8o,ooo.”
“$8o,ooo a year! In these times!” expostulated one of the writers. Don’t be silly, Babe. Why that’s more than Hoover gets for being president of the United States.”
“What the hell has Hoover got to do with this?” demanded the Babe. “Anyway, I had a better year than he did.”
The above citation was identified by top researchers Bill Mullins and Stephen Goranson. Librarian specialist John Van Hook of the University of Florida, Gainesville obtained scans. This entry also incorporates some of the excellent citations located by premier investigator Barry Popik. 2 Thanks to all of them
Contemporary newspaper reports indicate that Ruth negotiated a two-year salary contract that paid $80,000 in 1930 and 1931. In 1932 he obtained $75,000 for his services. Interestingly, in 1933 he was willing to accept $55,000. Thus, if the tale was true then the disagreement probably occurred circa 1932. However, the first known account was published in 1947 which was rather late.
Here are additional selected citations in chronological order.
- 1947, Babe Ruth: The Big Moments of the Big Fellow by Tom Meany, Chapter 10: The First Cut, Quote Page 139, Published by A. S. Barnes, New York. (Verified with scans; great thanks to John Van Hook and the University of Florida, Gainesville library system) ↩
- Website: The Big Apple, Article title: “I (Babe Ruth) had a better year than he (President Hoover) did”, Date on website: June 06, 2013, Website description: Etymological dictionary with more than 10,000 entries. (Accessed barrypopik on December 22, 2014) link ↩