Christy Walsh — Baseball’s First Agent
When you think of baseball agents, some fairly vivid pictures may appear. You may think of Scott Boras, the super-agent, capable of putting fear, panic, and loathing into any GM….or you might think more of a caricature such as “Arlis$$, played by Robert Wuhl, Bob Sugar of Jerry Maguire fame (played by Jay Mohr) or Ari Gold from Entourage (played by Jeremy Piven).
However, did you know that the first baseball agent was Christy Walsh. Walsh was an ambitious go-getter who also created a highly successful syndicate of ghost writers for baseball’s biggest stars, coining the term “ghost writer” in the process. Walsh, in many ways, was a pioneer in the public relations field.
One of Walsh’s most heralded PR feats was to get a team of doctors to administer tests to Babe Ruth to determine whether The Sultan of Swat possessed any extra physical or psychological advantages. The results were reported in a Popular Science Monthly article — Why Babe Ruth is Greatest Home-Run Hitter and subsequently picked up by the New York Times. Never mind that the science was flawed or, at a minimum subject to other interpretations, the publicity was priceless. 
About Walsh’s ghost-writing syndicate, Jonathan Eig, in Luckiest Man wrote:
The athletes and writers were hapy. The readers were happy. Objective journalism was the only casualty. By making the jocks and reporters partners, Walsh compromised a lot of solid reporters, turning them into fawning propagandists. As baseball soared in popularity, thanks largely to Ruth, Gehrig, and the new media, baseball writers were in demand. Newspapers, magazines, and even motion picture producers were clamoring for baseball stories.
Later on Walsh, became sports director of the 1939-1940 World’s Fair in New York City and, in the early 50s, authored a book– Baseball’s Greatest Lineup– and published an All-American sports calendar.
In December 1955, Walsh died in North Hollywood, CA, at the age of 73
Walsh’s Early Years and Meeting the Bambino
Walsh, a lawyer by training, was drawn to New York city by the glamour, glitz, and opportunity. He took a job in the newspaper industry and eventually in advertising for Maxwell-Chalmers automobiles. Walsh was fired from that job and took that as a sign to move onto to another field. Walsh originally started with the idea of ghost writing show business names, but soon switch to sports. And who better to represent then the Babe.
Walsh staked out the Ansonia Hotel, where Babe and his wife were staying. He wasn’t having any luck cornering Ruth so he came up with a plan to impersonate the bellhop to deliver beer and ice to Ruth’s room. When he was successful in gaining access to the Bambino’s room, he told Ruth about his plan to make money via ghost writing. Ruth was intrigued and agreed to meet Walsh the next day in Penn Station. 
At least there were no money worries. Ruth, his second wife, Clarie, and their two daughters had invested well, thanks to the astute counsel of his shrewd agent-turned-money-manager, Christy Walsh, who had first met the ballplayer in the early 1920s after breaking into his apartment disguised as an ice man. Back then, Ruth blew through dollars like candy, tipping $100 for a 35-cent ham sandwich and loaning his teammates wads that he would never again see. Walsh, with the help of Claire, set up a trust fund for the family, gave Ruth a budget, and wrote him $50 checks wherever he needed cash. The system worked–cutting down on Ruthian spending habits, and granting him financial security for life. 
Walsh had appealed to Ruth by promising him $1,000 on the spot and a percentage of future sales, without the Bambino having to lift a finger–money for nothing. To make good on the monetary promise, so his check wouldn’t bounce, Walsh went directly to the bank to borrow the money to pay Ruth. 
Ghost Writing Syndicate
Walsh, in his short memoir, Adios to Ghosts, describes first getting Ruth to sign a contract for ghost writing:
Mrs. Ruth stands nearby and gives me my first close-up of a mink coat; a luxurious, bulging wrap which probably set her man back a cool five thousand. While she obligingly diverts the autograph addicts, I spirit Babe through an iron gate, produce a badly wrinkled contract in the form of a short, informal letter and without question, he inscribes “George Herman Ruth” in the correct spot and I go in search of a ghost to do the writing. 
Prior to signing Babe, Walsh had ghost written an article for World War I ace Eddie Rickenbacker describing the 1919 Indianapolis 500, won by Howard Wilcox. Walsh and Rickenbacker split the profits of about $800. . Over time, Walsh eventually built a ghostwriting syndicate with writers such as Ford Frick, Damon Runyon, and Gene Fowler representing the top players of the game including Ruth, Ty Cobb, Dizzy Dean, Rogers Hornsby, John McGraw, and Walter Johnson.
Johnson was pursued by Walsh into the Pullman’s washroom of a train station in New Haven, Connecticut to sign up for the syndicate. Big Train received a $1,000 immediate payout and made $7,000 eventually from the venture. 
Shirley Povich, in a 1924 column appearing in the Washington Post, describes Ruth’s failed plans as to cover the 1924 World Series.
My neighbor in the press box, according to the seating plan was to be, of all people, Babe Ruth. He had signed on to cover the World Series for the Christy Walsh Syndicate. That sort of thing was commonplace for the game’s big stars. They would be provided a press box seat, along with a ghostwriter and a telegraph operator, and never set their pen to paper.
But minutes before the game, the word had come over the wires that Ruth had suffered an appendicitis and had been rushed to Emergency Hospital. His ghostwriter also dismissed himself for the day
When Christy Walsh arrived and was told about Ruth’s absence, and why, he bellowed quickly, “Get me an operator!” Walsh took Ruth’s seat and began to dictate” “Washington , D.C., October 1, by Babe Ruth, paragraph, quote. As I lie here, in Washington’s Emergency Hospital, as a native New Yorker my heart is with the giants, but as an American Leaguer, it is my duty to root for the Senators.” And so it went. 
Barnstorming: The Bustin Babe and The Larupin Lous (see picture at top right)
In 1927, to supplement his income Babe Ruth & Lou Gehrig went on a 21-game cross-country tour. Ruth got $2,500 per game while Gehrig got a flat fee of $10,000 ($3,000 more than his yearly salary. In an effort to keep costs down, the rosters were filled out by a Negro league team–The Brooklyn Royal Giants–and by local players.
To satisfy the crowds, Ruth and Gehrig led off each inning for their respective teams. When Ruth hit one over the fence, it wasn’t unusual for hundreds of young boys to race onto the field and accompany the Bambino around the bases. It was organized pandemonium. And Ruth loved it. 
Fans didn’t care about the competition. They wanted home runs and autographs. In Trenton, they got what they came for. Ruth homered to right field in the first inning. As soon as the ball cleared the fence, he was mobbed by screaming children who burst from the stands. The Babe waddled around the bases with children wrapped around his legs and clawing at his arms. In the third inning, he homered again. Again, he was mobbed. Finally when he hit his third home run in the seventh inning, the fans stormed the field and refused to return to their seats. Walsh ushered his men to the train. .
For more information on the barnstorming tour’s stop in Trenton, see http://agatetype.typepad.com/agate_type/babe-ruth/
-  Kiss ‘Em Goodbye by Dennis Purdy
-  Walter Johnson: Baseball’s Big Train by Henry W. Thomas
-  All Those Morning …At the Post by Shirley Povich and Children
-  Big Bam: The Life and Times of Babe Ruth by Leigh Montville
-  A Great Day in Cooperstown by Jim Reisler
-  Luckiest Man: The Life and Times of Lou Gehrig by Jonathan Eig
-  Adios to Ghost by Christy Walsh