Babe Ruth Signs for Three Years At the Toss of a Coin

January 31st, 2013

Babe Ruth had been coming to Hot Springs National Park, Arkansas, since his first training camp in 1915, so it was no surprise that the Bambino was in town on March 5, 1922 when he entered into contract negotiations with Colonel T. Huston, the co-owner of the New York Yankees.

Ruth was coming off the best season of his career. The previous year, 1921, he hit 59 home runs, batted .378, had a slugging percentage of .846, and led the Yankees to their first league championship. The Babe’s previous contract had paid him $10,000 per season for three years and had been signed with Boston before he moved to New York.

Colonel Huston met with Ruth at The Eastman Hotel at 8 p.m. that night and they could not reach an agreement on the new contract. They had narrowed down the amount and were both in the same range when discussing salary. Ruth wanted $52,000 a year for three years and Huston wanted to pay him $50,000 a year for three years with a two-year option. After much discussion and still no agreement the Babe offered to toss a coin for the salary figure. The Colonel was all for it but asked that Ruth wait until he had a chance to run it by his partner the co-owner and president of the Yankees, Colonel Jacob Ruppert. Ruth went back to his hotel to wait.

Colonel Huston immediately hit the telephone line after Ruth departed and put in a call to Ed Barrow, the Yankees business manager, to see if Ruppert would agree to the coin flip. Barrow, who was in New York City, then had to contact Ruppert who was in Tarrytown, N.Y. This almost certainly took some time given the telephone service in 1922. Ruppert agreed to settle the deal by a flip of the coin so Colonel Huston sent for the Babe who arrived back at The Eastman Hotel at 11 o’clock that same night.

Ruth arrived and before he could remove his bear-rug overcoat the Colonel had sent a half-dollar piece flying into the air, at the same time warning the Babe to call it. “Tails” bawled Ruth and when the coin finally came to rest under an easy chair “tails” faced the Colonel and the Home-Run King. “That ends it, Babe,” said the Colonel. “I’m glad it’s over and proud to have you a Yankee for the next three years.” The coin flip did not take five minutes time. The Babe was now making $1,000 per week.

The New York Yankees officially announced from Hot Springs that same night that they had signed Babe Ruth to a three year contract with the option for renewal. They did not reveal the terms of the contract but the press suspected that he would be getting at least $50,000 for his work with the Yankees next year along with a $500 bonus for each homerun that he hit. That bonus would be worth $29,500 to Ruth if he just matched his homerun total from the year before. No wonder Colonel Huston upon announcing the new deal referred to the Babe’s new salary as “worthy of a railroad president!”