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Misleading Headline Helped Cement Babe Ruth ‘Called Shot’

There’s good news and bad news when it comes to filtering Babe Ruth‘s infamous “called shot” second home run in Game 3 of the 1932 World Series through the prism of 21st century digital journalism.

BabeRuthBookCoverPer an interview with author Ed Sherman in the New York Post, the good news is that if this had all happened today, the conversation Ruth had at the beginning of the following season with WMAQ Chicago broadcaster Hal Totten – during which he explained that he was noting one more strike left, not where he was going to hit the ball – would have quickly gone viral and put an end to some foul fall-classic spin.

The bad news is that like today, “click bait” headlines were something editors relied on to try and get the attention of readers:

The phrase “called shot” was supposedly invented by New York World-Telegram reporter Joe Williams, who wrote, in that day’s nighttime edition, “…On the occasion of his second round-tripper [Ruth] even went so far as to call his shot.” His editor took the phrase a step further, headlining the piece, “Ruth Calls Shot As He Puts Homer No. 2 In Side Pocket.”

This weekend, Dylan Farrow pointed the finger at Woody Allen via a shocking New York Times op ed. And in the humble opinion of this author, most of subsequent Web coverage was as shoddy as the way Williams and his editor handled the Ruth homer. Sherman’s book publishes February 18.

[Jacket cover courtesy: Lyons Press]

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