How Babe Ruth Introduced New York Times Readers to the Double Eagle

The golf term "double eagle," meaning 3-under par on a single hole, goes back to the early part of the 20th century. We've found it in print in American publications at least as far back as 1920. But it was a while longer before it appeared in the New York Times. And when "the Grey Lady" finally did use "double eagle" in an article, it wasn't an article about a golf tournament or famous pro golfer. It was an article about Babe Ruth.

Ruth is one of the most famous athletes of all-time, and, arguably, the greatest baseball player of all-time. He began his Major League Baseball career in the 19-teens with the Boston Red Sox, and while with Boston picked up a golf habit that he enjoyed for the rest of his life. His fame exploded after he was traded to the New York Yankees and began blasting home runs at rates never seen before (and rarely since).

But the Babe (golf legend Babe Zaharias got her nickname from his) might have liked swatting golf balls even more than swatting baseballs. And in 1934, the New York Times finally decided to use "double eagle" in its pages in a story about Ruth's golf game.

Ruth liked to spend summers in Florida, where he would golf most every day. In February of 1934, he was in Florida getting ready for Spring Training with the Yankees. And on February 10, 1934, Ruth played golf at Jungle Country Club in St. Petersburg. That was a course Ruth knew well — he is believed to have played it more than 100 times. (The Jungle Country Club closed in 1944.)

On February 11, 1934, the New York Times ran a story with the headline, "Ruth Gets Double Eagle On Links in Florida." And that was the first time the golf scoring term "double eagle" appeared in the Times. It was 14 years after the earliest print use of the term that we've been able to find. (Nobody ever accused the Times of being liberal in its adoption of new language.)

It was a brief story, just two paragraphs. Ruth was playing the 17th hole, a 471-yard par-5. He hit a 250-yard drive, followed by a 220-yard 2-iron. That approach shot hit the green and rolled straight into the cup for the double eagle.

In the 1920s and 1930s, when he was at the height of his fame, Babe Ruth was undoubtedly the most-famous golfer in America. So famous he managed to get the staid New York Times to allow a term into print for the very first time.

Popular posts from this blog

Ryder Cup Captains: The Full List