Babe Ruth’s “called stroke” in the 1932 World Series at Wrigley Field might not have happened if it had not been for another unscheduled move.
This photo is the subject of a new book by Aurora native Jack Bales, “The Chicago Cub Shot for Love: A Showgirl’s Crime of Passion and the 1932 World Series”, published by The History Press.
On July 6, 1932, Violet Popovich, 21, a former Earl Carroll Vanities backing vocalist, shot 24-year-old Cubs shortstop Billy Jurges in Jurges’ room at the Carlos Hotel in Chicago.
Popovich was dating Jurges and said if “it wasn’t love at first sight, it was pretty much the second.” But Jurges later said he enjoyed being “single, running and having a lot of fun.”
The Cubs were to play the Phillies at Wrigley Field. Jurges and Popovich were staying in rooms on different floors of the hotel, located near the Sheffield Avenue baseball stadium.
That morning, Popovich visited his room, Room 509, and told him that she wanted to get back together, but he said he wanted to focus on winning the pennant.
After she asked for a glass of water, he left the room. By the time he returned, she had pulled a gun from her purse. The two fought and she fired three shots, hitting Jurges in the right side and left hand, while injuring her left arm.
Popovich told police she intended to harm herself, but then confessed to her sister-in-law: “I was very angry and wanted to kill him.”
Evidence indicated that Popovich had been involved with other players, including Kiki Cuyler, and Dodgers wide receiver and future White Sox manager Al Lopez, who warned Jurges of his “bad reputation”.
Jurges and Popovich both recovered, but the case reached a Chicago courtroom, where Judge John A. Sbarbaro, a Cubs fan – at the behest of Jurges, who did not want to pursue the case – dismissed the case.
The scandal fell into obscurity, although Popovich briefly took advantage of it by appearing as a singer in a Chicago burlesque theater as Violet Valli, “The Girl Who Shooted For Love,” supported by a chorus of “Bare Cub Girls”.
Bales, who wrote, “Before They Were Cubs: The Early Years of Chicago’s First Professional Baseball Team,” said the shooting indirectly led to Ruth’s “called stunt”.
Due to Jurges’ injury and the dismissal of player-manager Rogers Hornsby, the Cubs have signed former Yankees infielder Mark Koenig. When the Cubs won the National League pennant, his teammates denied Koenig a full share of the World Series money. Among the negative votes was Jurges, who argued that Koenig had not played all season.
Bales said: “The point is that in 1932 Billy played 115 games and Mark Koenig only played 33 games, although he played really well.”
Koenig’s snub angered the American League champion Yankees who razed the Cubs from the dugout, while writer Shirley Povich wrote: “The Cubs’ greed has propelled the Yankees to new heights.” The conflict came to a head in Game 3 when Ruth allegedly pointed at the center pitch at Wrigley Field and called her shot.
Bales, a retired librarian from the University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg, Va., Gathered some fresh material and also spoke with Jurges’ daughter and grandson and Popovich’s nephew for better understanding.
Jurges’ daughter Suzanne Price told Bales she knew about the shooting, but “It was never mentioned in our house.”
Bales has said he has come to pity Popovich, but does not apologize for his behavior.
âAll she wanted was a great relationshipâ with a baseball player. “She certainly didn’t have it at home.”
Popovich was the product of a broken home caused by an abusive father and spent five or six years of his childhood in an orphanage.
“She even had to testify in court against her father,” he said.
In the book, Jurges appears as an enigma. An intense competitor and an excellent defensive player, he is portrayed as someone primarily concerned with his profession.
Cubs first baseman Phil Cavarretta once said, âBilly Jurges would come out, play hard, go through a brick wall for you. “
The shooting had an eerie echo when Ruth Ann Steinhagen shot and killed the Phillies’ Eddie Waitkus at the Edgewater Beach Hotel in Chicago in 1949.
Author Bernard Malamud may have had one or both shoots in mind while writing “The Natural”.
Waitkus and Jurges found themselves teammates with the Cubs in the late 1940s. In fact, Waitkus played in Jurges’ last championship game.
Bales said he received a positive reaction to the book from the families of Popovich, who died in 2000, and Jurges, who died in 1997.
Jurges’ grandson, Bill Price, told Bales: “I will be buying copies for various friends and family. I hope I personally push the title to the top of the New York Times bestseller list. “