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The truly fantastic would be if this Ruth probably unrelated to Babe Ruth completed his long shot journey to Yankee Stadium, signed as an undrafted free agent 65 years and a day after the Bambino's No. 3 was retired by the Yanks. "If we could try to find him a number with a '3' in it, that would be pretty cool,'' said Rob Cucuzza, the Yankees home clubhouse manager. "It would be cool to hear his name being announced 'Ruth, now pitching.' '' A member of Cucuzza's staff hung the plain, temporary "Eric Ruth'' nameplate above the 26 year old's locker. Ruth has only been at Steinbrenner Field a handful of times this month, just in case an extra pitcher was needed. Babe Ruth (Photo: AP file) So far, Ruth has yet to appear in a oakley jawbone earsocks game. "I haven't thought about it, but maybe I should put more thought into it,'' a smiling Joe Girardi said of being the first Yankees manager since Joe McCarthy in 1934 to put a Ruth into the game. "I will think about that now.'' But Ruth's road from tiny Harleysville, Pa.,and Winthrop University (inSouth Carolina) to Class AAA Scranton Wilkes Barre one level away from the Bronx is remarkable in itself. "I've got a reliever, Eric Ruth, who deserves a chance to play pro ball,'' Winthrop pitching coach oakley racing jacket vs jawbone Clint Chrysler told his friend Scott Lovekamp, a Yankees scout. "It was not just a favor. It was kind of a good fit,'' Lovekamp said. The Yankees were filling out minor league rosters with some undrafted pitchers and they liked Ruth's dominating college stats, and his fastball could touch 92 mph. Last season, Ruth combined with four clubs to post a 5 1 record and 3.20 ERA in 24 games eight starts and pitched to a 1.69 ERA over his final 12 appearances. "He seems to be taking advantage of every opportunity,'' Lovekamp said. "He's exceeded expectations, I give him a lot of credit. We had no (bonus) money in him and he's hung around for a lot of years. "Hopefully, he gets another opportunity to pitch in big league camp," he said. "He's got a sneaky little fastball.'' But to Lovekamp and others around the Yankees, the name "Ruth'' hasn't stood out when referencing the 6 foot, 195 pound righty. "I'm sure if he was in big league camp (all spring), there'd be more talk,'' Cucuzza said. Other than the Babe, no one with the last name of Ruth has ever played before or since in baseball history. Perhaps the closest was an American League catcher of the 1960s and '70s named Phil Roof. But just seeing the Ruth name in the Yankees clubhouse might be unique to Eric Ruth. The old fashioned metal lockers of Ruth's day would have borne the No. 3 alone. "That's the one they wound up sending to Cooperstown,'' Appel said. As a Yankees player so named, Eric Ruth gets a few comments about it here and there, "but not as much as you'd think,'' he said. Ruth'sname doesn't even stand out in Harleysville. "My neighborhood is off Ruth Road. There's a lot of Ruths where I'm from,'' he said, though there has been nothing genealogically to tie his roots to the Babe.

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