Diamond Heroes On The Links

When Baseball’s Spring Training Becomes Training For Golf

Babe Ruth’s introduction to golf came as a 21-year-old pitcher with the Boston Red Sox. Yet it wasn’t until he became a Yankee, and the subsequent spring training trips to St. Petersburg, Fla., that the Sultan of Swat really caught the bug for the royal and ancient game.

As part of an ongoing series of monthly photo essays from the USGA Museum & Archives, this month’s topic—timely because of Major League Baseball getting under way again—focuses on the affection (some might say affliction) baseball greats had for the game. In particular, we look at how golf helped a few of these Hall of Famers during their off-time in preparation for the baseball season.

Each picture featured here is from among the 500,000-image collection of the USGA Photo Archives. Additionally, two are featured artifacts from the Museum collection: a personalized golf ball used by Ruth and a baseball card featuring slugger Ted Williams fishing alongside his pal, Slammin’ Sammy Snead. There’s even a surprise photo of The Haig himself, Walter Hagen, in a Detroit Tigers uniform.

 

Ted Williams and Sam Snead fishing, their favorite other sport

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“Ted Williams and I were friends and spent many a day involved in our favorite other sport: fishing…We used to argue about which sport was more difficult…Williams always thought golfers were soft - nobody said “boo” on the golf course. The ball was just sitting there waiting for you to hit it… I told him golf was harder because you have to play all your foul balls.” - Sam Snead, The Game I Love

 

The back of a baseball card featuring Sam Snead and Ted Williams

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The back of a baseball card that featured golf legend Sam Snead and Ted Williams fishing in Florida.

 

Ty Cobb, baseball's legendary 'Georgia Peach'

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The fiery Ty Cobb, aka “The Georgia Peach,” had a post-baseball rivalry with Babe Ruth, culminating in his capturing the “Ruth Cup,” a trophy signifying his victory over Ruth in the best of three matches. Cobb put a high value on this prize: he kept it above his fireplace, right next to his Baseball Hall of Fame plaque.

 

Mickey Cochrane, left, with former Yankee outfielder-turned-pro-golfer, Sam Byrd

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Hall of Fame catcher Mickey Cochrane, left, a powerful force both at the plate and behind it, is pictured with former Yankee outfielder-turned-pro-golfer, Sam Byrd, at the 1939 U.S. Open at Philadelphia C.C. Byrd posted a 71 in the second round to make the cut, and finished tied for 16th with a 292, 12 strokes back of champion Byron Nelson. Byrd’s check for the week was $66.67.

 

The immortal Dizzy Dean at the 1937 Miami Biltmore Open

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Jay Hanna “Dizzy” Dean, star pitcher for the St. Louis Cardinals and one of the most colorful ballplayers of the 1930s is shown here in a promotional stunt for the 1937 Miami Biltmore Open. As a means of encouragement for top golf pros looking to capture part of the $10,000 purse, Dean said, “Pick out a tee like this one that holds the most chances!” At the time there were no restrictions on tees.

 

Joe DiMaggio on the links at Half Moon Bay with head pro Moon Mullins in 1978

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Ever the striking figure on the field and off, Joe DiMaggio is pictured on the links at the Invitational at Half Moon Bay Golf Links, in Half Moon Bay, Calif., in 1978, with head pro Moon Mullins. Of all the baseball players Sam Snead played with, “DiMaggio had the most talent for golf,” he wrote. “He carried a nine handicap and could shoot 73… I told him he could be a scratch player if he wanted. He said, ‘No, I’ll just take my nine.’”

 

Lou Gehrig on the links in 1932

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The disease that shortened Lou Gehrig’s baseball career also robbed him of the opportunity to retire to the links. By the time of this 1932 photograph, Gehrig had taken up golf under the tutelage of George Hughes, teaching professional at the Green Meadow Country Club in Rye, N.Y.

 

Jimmy Foxx at the Bay Shore Golf Course in Miami Beach in 1934

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“The Man Who Puts Them In The Bleachers Takes One Out Of The Sand,” is how this 1934 shot of power-hitter Jimmy Foxx at the Bay Shore Golf Course, in Miami Beach, was headlined by one wire service of the day. Foxx, twice league MVP, was the strength of the Philadelphia Athletics' lineup and won Triple Crown in hitting in 1933.

 

Lefty Grove enjoyed golfing during the AthleticsÕ spring training jaunt in 1933.

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Going by ERA titles, with nine, Lefty Grove he was one of the most effective pitchers in baseball history. As a golfer, he enjoyed the game during the Athletics’ spring training jaunt to Fort Myers, Fla., in 1933, as a way to relieve the boredom of the training grind. One reporter at the scene said of Lefty, “He seems to be getting as much satisfaction out of his drive as striking out a batter.”

 

(L to R) Tris Speaker, Billy Burke, Tommy Armour, and Babe Ruth

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In 1935, (from left to right) Tris Speaker, Billy Burke, Tommy Armour and Babe Ruth get together to take part in the True Temper Open at the Acacia C.C., in South Euclid, Ohio. Ruth and fellow Hall of Famer, Speaker, who spent much of his career in the shadow of Ty Cobb, “stole the show” according to news reports of the day. Ruth tallied an 85 that day.

 

Walter Hagen in training camp for the Detroit Tigers in 1934

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Phil Mickelson is only the most recent golfer to indulge his baseball dreams. This caption is from a 1934 wire photo of The Haig: “From Links to Diamond. Walter Hagen, golf champion, pictured as he dons a Detroit Tigers uniform and worked out with the Tigers at their training camp at Lakeland, FlaÉ The Tigers represent Walter’s home city, Detroit, and he is showing his civic pride by working out with them.”

 

Connie Mack of the Philadelphia Athletics, at spring training in 1931

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Connie Mack led a dynasty with the Philadelphia Athletics from 1929-31, and managed the team for 50 years. He’s shown here taking a momentary respite from his duties, as the most victorious manager in baseball history, at Mount Plymouth, Fla., during the 1931 preseason camp.

 

Babe Ruth, circa 1934, on a putting green in St. Petersburg, Fla.

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In St. Petersburg, Fla., circa 1934, Babe Ruth finds nirvana on a putting green just 15 minutes after stepping off a train prior to spring training. Ruth was known to get in a few rounds of golf while preparing for the season.

 

Babe Ruth's personal Spalding Dot golf ball

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This golf ball, a 1930s Spalding Dot from the collection of the USGA Museum, is imprinted on both sides with “BABE RUTH” in block letters. It was made especially for Ruth as his affinity for golf grew toward the end of his baseball career.