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Babe Ruth - Baseball Legend

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An Introduction to the Legends of Baseball | Hank Aaron | Yogi Berra | Ty Cobb | Joe DiMaggio
Lou Gehrig | Rogers Hornsby | Mickey Mantle | Willie Mays | Stan Musial | Cal Ripken Jr
Jackie Robinson | Pete Rose | Babe Ruth | Ted Williams | Cy Young | The Baseball Hall of Fame

I have only one superstition. Touch all the bases when I hit a home run.
-Babe Ruth

Babe Ruth was possibly the best baseball player of all time, and certainly its biggest star. His influence on the game was enormous, both for his teams and for the sport as a whole.

Babe Ruth's career was altogether an incredible feat. No player has ever brought so much attention to baseball as Ruth did. He established a number of records as well, many of which have been broken by now but the tally is still impressive. His career home run record of 714 lasted from 1935 until broken by Hank Aaron in 1974. He owned the single season home run record from 1919 until Roger Maris passed him in 1961, but the record currently belongs to Barry Bonds at 73. There are a number of other important records preserved at the Babe Ruth Birthplace and Museum in Baltimore, Maryland.

Babe Ruth had a great love for children and children loved him. His own neglected childhood could well have contributed to this. He always helped children in need, and rarely turned down a request to visit or help orphans and sick children. He helped his boyhood boarding school, often donating his time and efforts.

His Life and Career

Babe Ruth was one of baseball's great pitchers and hitters. No other player has made such an impact on the sport as Ruth. He made the sport very popular and brought a great deal of money to the Leagues and teams. Although many are of the opinion that Ruth was the best player who ever lived, baseball historians debate this, but no-one questions that Ruth was an outstanding player.

Early Life

George Herman 'Babe' Ruth Jr was born 6 February, 18951 in Baltimore, Maryland. His parents worked hard and essentially ignored him, leaving him to raise himself. Young George often skipped school to play baseball. He was not an orphan, despite popular belief, but was certainly neglected. At the age of seven, he was enrolled in a boarding school called St Mary's Industrial School for Boys, and his custody was signed over to the Xaverian brothers, the Catholic missionary order who ran the school. He was equally neglected in the school, and his family never came to see him.

During this time, he began to regard the schools main disciplinarian, Brother Mathias, as a father figure. He gained support and encouragement from him which helped guide him through a difficult childhood. Brother Mathias was a very positive influence and would later lead Babe Ruth to develop into a caring, philanthropic person. Most importantly, at St Mary's baseball was a popular game, and Ruth played it as a matter of course. He performed extremely well in hitting the ball, as well as being good at fielding and pitching. By the time he was 19 years old, he was showing the signs of becoming a great player, and attracted the interest of major league scouts.


On 27 February, 1914 Ruth signed a contract with the Baltimore Orioles and went to their Spring Training in Florida. The Orioles were in the International League at the time, making them a minor league team. Jack Dunn, the manager of the team, had to become his legal guardian to let him play, since custody technically still belonged to his boarding school.

Jack Dunn was known to pick up young talent to bring to his team. Other players called Ruth 'Dunn's new Babe' and nicknamed George Ruth as Babe2. The name stuck. He pitched his first game on 22 April, 1914 against the 'Buffalo Bisons'.

So Ruth played in the minor leagues for about five months until he was sold to the Boston Red Sox of the major leagues because of financial difficulties at the Orioles. His Major League debut was as a pitcher against Chicago on 11 July, 1914.

Unfortunately, Babe was of little immediate use to the Red Sox, as he wasn't yet a spectacular pitcher, just average. They sent him to gain more experience with the Providence Grays, a minor league team in the International League. He led them to an International League Pennant and the Red Sox quickly recalled him.


By 1916, Ruth was a starting pitcher for Boston and did very well. In fact, he was the best pitcher in the American League in 1916. He won 23 games including nine shutouts.

The Red Sox went to the World Series that year, led by the stellar pitching of Ruth. They beat Brooklyn four games to one and had the title of World Champion. Finally, Ruth's great ability was beginning to show.


It should be noted that up until 1918, Ruth had no official place in the lineup. Pitchers simply didn't and his pitching was considered better than his hitting. Harry Hooper, a fellow Boston player asked manager Ed Barrow to put Babe Ruth in the lineup and as an outfielder.

Barrow naturally said no. Ruth was the best left handed pitcher in the American League, and moving him from that position seemed absurd. Finally, after impressing the manager, on 6 May, Ruth was moved to first base and given a place in the regular lineup. He occasionally pitched still though. In fact Babe broke records in the 1918 World Series by pitching 29 innings without runs scored against him, a record that stood for 43 years.


By 1919, Ruth only pitched 17 of 130 games and basically ended his pitching career. He was more valuable in the hitting lineup. As an outfielder, Ruth did fairly well, but 1919 was a great year for the Babe's hitting. He set his first season home run record that year with 29 homers. He had a batting average of .322 and brought in a total of 114 runs.

In the 1919 season, Ruth's star really started to shine. His magnificent batting made baseball, and the Red Sox specifically, very popular. Huge crowds were attracted to his games. This was also around the time when he became much heavier. It didn't affect his playing much, as he was still muscular. Ty Cobb is supposed to have said that he 'ran okay for a fat man'. He was still a great base runner though.


He became a star in Boston and earned a reputation as a good slugger. But the teams owner had huge financial difficulties. In December of 1919, Ruth was traded to the New York Yankees because of a lack of funds. The Yankees reportedly paid the Red Sox $125,000 and loaned them another $350,000 for his contract. This trade is supposed to have cursed Boston, and is well known as 'The Curse of the Bambino', being the cause of Boston never having won a World Series since the Babe left them.

In New York, the nickname of 'Bambino' became popular because of the large Italian population there. Before his arrival, the Yankees were a rather unpopular, unsuccessful team. After his arrival, he helped bring them to the top of the Major Leagues. Ruth was always at the beginning of the batting order, usually followed by Lou Gehrig3, who was sometimes considered his 'sidekick'.

Ruth immediately inspired the Yankees and became an even greater player. He posted a new Home Run record with 54 and his average that year was .376. Pitchers were afraid of the Bambino, and he was walked 150 times, many times intentionally.


If his performance in 1920 was impressive, the 1921 season was fantastic. He did even better in runs scored, runs driven in and somehow beat his home run record for the third year in a row taking it up to 59 homers. He led the Yankees to the American League Pennant and their first World Series appearance, against the rival New York Giants. They lost.

Unfortunately, the 1921 World Series appearance would create problems for him. Major League Baseball rules didn't allow World Series players to play in exhibition games during the off-season and Ruth was suspended for six weeks in 1922 for violating this rule.


1922 would be a difficult season for Ruth. After he came off of suspension in the first six weeks of the season, he was made the Yankee Captain. On May 25, he was thrown out of a game for arguing with an umpire and climbing up the stands to confront a heckler. Later, Ruth would say 'I didn't mean to hit the umpire with the dirt, but I did mean to hit that bastard in the stands.'. That year, he would be suspended three times for arguing with umpires.

His performance fell off a bit this year for a number of reasons. He had less time on field. His wife moved away from Babe, as she didn't like the life of a sports star. He indulged himself more and more in liquor and food. He finished the year with 35 home runs and a batting average of .315. These were all very impressive to a normal player, but it was not at a par with his usual performance. It was the first time since he was given a regular place in the lineup that he didn't capture the season home run title.

In the 1922 Series, the Yankees lost and Ruth only managed to get on base twice in 17 at bats.


1923 was a great season for Ruth. Yankee Stadium opened up April 4, 1923, and Babe hit the stadium's first home run and helped them defeat the Red Sox 4-0 in the opening game. This stadium became known as 'The House that Ruth Built' to show how much Ruth contributed to the team. It was widely agreed that the extra crowds he attracted had paid the construction costs on the stadium.

By the end of the season, he was named the American League Most Valuable Player with an amazing .393 batting average. The Yankees, led by Ruth and Gehrig won the World Series that year for the first time.


1925 was a season of disappointment. He was diagnosed with intestinal abscess while he was in Spring Training and missed much of the season. Additionally, Ruth had to serve a fine for insubordination. He only played 98 games that year and the Yankees did not do very well, finishing in seventh place. He finished the season with a disappointing .290 batting average.


In 1926, the Yankees and Babe rebounded from their slump in the previous year. Ruth led the league in five major categories, walks (144) runs (139) bases covered (365) home runs (47) and RBI (146). The Yankees went to the World Series again, and Ruth hit four home runs in the games. They failed to capture the championship however.


1927 was one of the best years for the Yankees ever. Lou Gehrig, Tony Lazzeri, Bob Meusel, Babe Ruth, Earle Combs, Mark Koenig and Joe Dugan formed a great group still famous as 'Murderer's Row'. Each of the first four ran in 100 or more runs that year. The Murderer's Row swept the Pirates in the World Series that year.

It was a great individual year for Ruth as well, because it was when he hit a record 60 home runs, which would not be broken until 19614.

However, Lou Gehrig won the American League Most Valuable Player Award, because baseball rules at the time prevented anyone from winning the MVP title more than once. This was controversial, since this was arguably Ruth's best year.


By 1928, Babe Ruth was becoming confident with his hitting, and an even bigger baseball icon. He told Popular Mechanics that he could hit 100 homers in a season if he felt like it. He would never break his record of 60 homers in 1927.

In the opinion of some, Babe Ruth peaked in 1927. 1928 seemed to be the start of a decline.


1929 was the first season when the Yankees assigned numbers to their players. Ruth was third in the batting lineup, so he was assigned to be number three. The Yankees would later retire number three on 13 June, 1948. It was the very first number that the Yankees retired.

By 1929, Babe and his wife Helen were separated, but couldn't divorce due to their religious beliefs. This year, Helen died in a house fire and a few months later Babe married actress Claire Hodgson only a day before the Yankees' opening game. He hit a home run out of the stadium for his new bride on his first at-bat.

This year, the Yankees manager, Miller Huggins died. Ruth wanted to be the manager while still playing. Instead, Joe McCarthy was chosen, a manager whom Ruth did not get on well with. He would struggle with his aspirations to manage a major league team for several years.


In 1930 and 1931 the Babe was at the peak of his earnings. In both seasons, he was paid 80,000 dollars a year - rather more than the President of the United States earned. When asked to comment, Ruth said, 'So What? I had a better year than he did'.


1931 was a great year for Lou Gehrig. Ruth was still an icon, but Gehrig truly had his best season in 1931. They tied that year for home runs for the first time.


Through his whole career, his most famous home run and perhaps his most famous moment was the fabled 'Called Shot'. It occurred in the fifth inning of the third World Series game of 1932. This game happened to be against Chicago, whose fans hated him. In that game on 1 October, he (supposedly) correctly predicted that he would hit a home run. Fans saw him point his bat to one part of the outfield, clearly indicating a home run. He also said this to team mates before his hit.

There are different accounts of his hit. Legend says that he pointed with his bat to the area where the ball went, but many accounts debunk this theory. The best that historians can determine, he did point with his bat, but didn't point to a specific place. There was very little evidence of this at all, only personal accounts until some film of the event surfaced in 1994 showing that he probably pointed to the Chicago fans. In any event, the Yankees won the World Series of 1932 and the 'Called Shot' has attained near-mythical status.


In 1933, Ruth's power began to slow. He noticed this, and threatened to quit if the Yankees didn't make him manager. Executives had some doubts about Ruth's ability to manage and offered him a position to manage a minor league team. He refused, and the Yankees did too.

In 1932 and 1933, Babe had received offers to manage the Red Sox, but remained at the Yankees because of his loyalty to the team and New York.


In 1934, Boston offered him a chance to manage the team if he played for one season. They said that he would have the opportunity to do this after their manager's contract ran out in 1935. Boston had little intention of giving him the position, but just wanted him for the drawing power.


In 1935, Ruth resigned from the Yankees and started the season as a Boston Brave. When it became clear that the Braves had no intention of letting him manage, he gave up and on 25 May, Babe hit his last home runs. He hit three home runs during that game, and then played his last game on 30 May, 1935.


He still tried to get to manage a team, but he was never given an opportunity. In 1936, he was included among the first five inductees into the Baseball Hall of Fame. In 1946, he developed throat cancer and became very ill. 27 April, 1947 was declared 'Babe Ruth Day' across the USA and Japan. On 13 June, 1948 he made his last appearance at Yankee stadium on the 25th anniversary of its opening. The Yankees retired his number 3 jersey, and that day was the last time Babe ever wore it. On 16 August, 1948, he died from throat cancer.

Today, he is among the most honoured baseball players and the most honoured athletes of all times. In 1999 The Associated Press named Babe Athlete of the Century and The Sporting News has named him the Greatest Player of All-Time. Many groups and places in baseball are named for him, such as the Babe Ruth League.

Home Runs

Home runs were perhaps his greatest claim to fame. Incredibly, he seemed able to hit a home run on command, sometimes as a gift to someone or whenever he was particularly motivated. Baseball had never seen anyone like him, and he had no equal. No one of the time could believe his home run hitting, let alone match it. Perhaps the only person that could rival Ruth as an overall player was Lou Gehrig, his friend and team mate.

In eight years, Ruth broke four home run records and three of them were his own. In 1927, he hit the golden number of 60 homers, and his career record of 714 home runs was also a record. It took almost 40 years until these records were broken. Of course, today the home run records are higher, but in the 1920s, baseball players didn't hit as many home runs, and 60 was an incredible number.

Career Statistics

Hitting Statistics

GamesAt-Bats HitsDoublesTriplesHome RunsRuns RBIBatting Average
  2,503  8,3992,873    506  136      7142,1742,213        .342

Pitching Statistics

WinsLossesGames PlayedGames StartedComplete GamesShutoutsInningsWalksStrike Outs
  94   46       163       148          107     17 1,221  441     488

1Until he was 40 years old, Ruth himself, along with several others, actually thought his birthday was on 7 February.2Interestingly, his face developed into something of a Baby's face, which is where some people think the name came from.3Gehrig was the star first baseman for the Yankees, so Ruth was moved to other positions.4Roger Maris, who took his record, hit 61 in 162 games. Babe Ruth had hit his 60 in 154 games.

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