Muddy Ruel picked up his nickname as a boy, improvising a messy game using a mud ball. He became one of baseball’s most diversified participants, ranging from star catcher to assistant to Commissioner Happy Chandler. He had a law degree from Washington University, and was admitted to practice before the U.S. Supreme Court.
Small but durable, the 5’9″ 150-lb Ruel caught over 1,400 games and was a steady clutch hitter. Ruel platooned with Truck Hannah in New York, became an everyday catcher with the Red Sox in 1921, and was Washington’s first-stringer from 1923 to 1928. Batting over .300 three times, his high was .316 in 1923. Ruel led AL catchers in putouts, assists, double plays, and fielding three times each.
In the 1924 World Series, he helped Walter Johnson to his first Series victory; in the twelfth inning of the final game, Ruel hit a foul pop, which Giants’ catcher Hank Gowdy, stumbling over his mask, dropped. Given a second chance, Ruel doubled, and scored the winning run.
Ruel was the Tigers GM before joining Chandler’s staff, and field manager of the 1947 Browns after leaving it. Ruel’s most painful baseball memory came as a young Yankee catcher in 1920. He watched in horror as Ray Chapman froze while Carl Mays‘s submarine pitch hurtled toward his head. The thud of the ball and the struggle of the doomed player to regain his feet haunted Ruel. He said Mays was blameless, and believed Chapman lost sight of the pitch.