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Babe Ruth

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George Herman Ruth
(The Bambino; The Sultan Of Swat)

Inducted into Hall of Fame in 1936.

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Contents

[edit] Introduction

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"I had a better year than he did." - Babe Ruth, on being asked why he was demanding a salary higher than that of President Herbert Hoover
"I wish him all the luck in the world. He has everybody else, including myself, hopelessly outclassed." - Home Run Baker talking about Babe Ruth in 1921

Babe Ruth is not only the most famous but the greatest baseball player of all time. He ranks #1 on the Black Ink test and #1 on the Hall of Fame Standards test. While most people know he was a truly great hitter, fewer are aware that he ranks in the top 20 all-time as a pitcher in both winning percentage and ERA.

As a slugger he is unsurpassed. His record 54 home runs in 1920 were more than twice the all-time major league record of 24, and three times the American League's (16). When he retired early in 1935 his 714 homers were four hundred ahead of then runner-up Lou Gehrig. His record stood for thirty-nine years till passed by Hank Aaron in 1974, and he still holds the record for the highest lifetime slugging percentage.

Ruth's feats were so great his last name was turned into an adjective - "Ruthian" - to describe performances of heroic proportion. On its own, it is synonymous with excellence, as in describing a great as "The Babe Ruth of Cricket". Known for huge appetites of all kinds, he was larger than life on and off the field, very popular with children and extremely outgoing with everyone from royalty to bleacher bums.

[edit] Biographical Information

[edit] Difficult youth

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Babe Ruth was born in downtown Baltimore, MD where his father owned a series of saloons. One of them stood in what is now center field at Orioles Park at Camden Yards. With his mother in poor health and his father working long hours at his business, young George was left to run around some of the tougher parts of the city, around the docks and the waterfront streets, and by the age of of six, he was a "pre-juvenile" delinquent. With his parents unable to look after him properly, Ruth was placed in St. Mary's Industrial School for Boys shortly after he turned seven, in what was in effect a Catholic reform school on the outskirts of the city. There he was taken under the wing of one Brother Matthias, a Canadian-born priest who taught him both to read and write, and to play baseball. Ruth spent his entire childhood at the school, playing on its baseball team as he became older. He played everywhere on the field, but drew attention as a left-handed pitcher and started playing with local semi-pro teams in the summer of 1913. That is where Jack Dunn, owner of the minor league Baltimore Orioles spotted him and offered him a contract with the team for the following season.

[edit] Minor Leagues

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Babe Ruth began his minor league career as a pitcher for the International League's Baltimore Orioles in 1914. He went to training camp with the team in South Carolina that spring and faced Major League hitters for the first time: in two outings against the Philadelphia Phillies, he gave up only two unearned runs in seven innings, then he pitched a complete game victory against the Philadelphia Athletics. Yet he was still a very raw ballplayer and lacked all social skills. Former Boston Red Sox shortstop Freddy Parent, who was a player/coach with the team, worked to teach him professional ways. Things were not going well for Baltimore however: the team was losing money because of the creation of a team in the Federal League, the Baltimore Terrapins who competed with the Orioles for attendance. Parent still had contacts with the Red Sox and told them about a few good players who could be available for cash, Ruth chief amongst them. On July 9th, he, pitcher Ernie Shore and catcher Ben Egan all headed for Boston in return for $30,000.

Ruth made his first Major League appearance on July 11, 1914, less than five months after leaving St. Mary's. He was credited with a 4-3 win over Cleveland. However, he did not pitch much over the next few weeks and on August 18th was sent down to the minor league Providence Grays who were in a fight for the International League pennant.

In 46 minor league games, Ruth only hit a single home run. It came on September 5, 1914, while Ruth was in the middle of pitching a one-hitter for Providence on the road in Toronto. The blast was a three-run homer off Walt Johnson. Overall in the minor leagues, Ruth went 23-8 for Baltimore and Providence, striking out 139 and walking 101 in 245 innings. At the plate, he hit .231/~.285/.438 with 10 triples in 121 AB. He tied for 21st in the IL in triples, unusual for a pitcher, and was second in the league in victories, one behind Providence teammate Carl Mays. He finished fifth in strikeouts.

He returned to Boston for the final week of the 1914 season. On October 2nd, he pitched a complete game victory over the New York Yankees and obtained his first major league hit, a double.

[edit] Pitching excellence

Babe Ruth married Boston waitress Helen Woodford after the 1914 season - a sign that he had already started hanging around watering holes and enjoying the good life during his short stay in the city over the summer. He found a permanent spot with the team for the 1915 season and had a very solid year, running a 13-1 span between June 1 and September 2 and ending the year at 18-8 with a 2.44 ERA. The Red Sox were the class of the American League that season, thanks to a great five-man starting rotation. As a result, he was not used as a pitcher in that fall's World Series against the Philadelphia Phillies which the Red Sox won 4 games to 1; his only appearance was as an unsuccessful pinch-hitter in Game 1. Even at this early stage of his career, Ruth's managers realized that he was a much better hitter than the average pitcher, and would occasionally use him to pinch hit, but it would take a few years until this secondary strength was fully exploited.

Ruth took another step forward in 1916, winning 23 games with a league-best 1.75 ERA. He pitched 9 shutouts that year, which is still the record for a left-hander in the American League (although it was tied by Ron Guidry in 1978). The Red Sox returned to the World Series and this time defeated the Brooklyn Robins 4 games to 1. In Game 2, Ruth pitched a remarkable 14-inning complete game, winning 2-1.

With this remarkable success, Ruth's behavior started to take a turn for the worse. His late-night excesses and partying habits became legendary, and he started getting into regular arguments with umpires. The most famous of these was on June 23, 1917. Ruth opened the game by throwing four straight balls to the first Washington Senators batter he faced. He got into an argument with home plate umpire Brick Owens and was promptly ejected. He then stormed off the mound, while delivering a glancing punch to Owens as he walked past him. He was suspended for 10 days and fined 100 dollars for his behaviour. Meanwhile, on the field, his former Baltimore teammate Ernie Shore made perhaps the greatest relief appearance in history: the runner on first base was caught stealing, and Shore retired the next 26 men he faced in order. For a long time, this was a considered to have been a perfect game (there was even a special note in the official rules to that effect), but it is now only counted as a combined no-hitter, the only one in the history of the major leagues when one of the pitchers involved did not record any of the game's outs.

In spite of that blip on his record, Ruth had another excellent year overall in 1917, ending the year with a 24-13 record and a 2.01 ERA. He recorded 6 shutouts and completed 35 games, a total that has only been exceeded once since, by Bob Feller in 1946.

[edit] Two-way star

By that time, not only had Babe Ruth established himself as the best left-handed pitcher in the American League, he was also seen as one of the best sluggers in the game. He had led the Red Sox with four home runs in 1915 (the AL leader, Braggo Roth hit 7, but in almost 300 more at bats); his slugging percentage that season would have been the highest in baseball's three major leagues, had Ruth had enough plate appearances to qualify for the title. In 1916, he hit a home run in three consecutive games - tying a record of the time - and then in 1917 he hit .325, easily the best batting average on the team, besting Duffy Lewis' .302. For all that, except for a few pinch hitting appearances, Ruth was solely a pitcher, and when he was on the mound, he always batted ninth in the order. This would change in 1918.

With the United States' entry into World War I at the end of 1917, baseball began losing a large number of players to the war effort, either through enlistments, or players being compelled to work in war plants. The Red Sox were feeling the pinch and on May 6, 1918, with regular first baseman Dick Hoblitzel injured, manager Ed Barrow inserted Ruth's name in the line-up as the Red Sox' 1B, batting sixth in a game against the Yankees. Ruth went 2 for 4 with a home run, then on May 9, batting in the cleanup spot, he went 5 for 5 with three doubles and a triple while pitching a 10-inning complete game yet was saddled with a 4-3 loss. Ruth felt that if he was going to play the field full time, he should be relieved of pitching duties, and threatened to quit the team. Barrow resolved the dispute temporarily by offering Ruth some bonuses related to his hitting performance, and from late July to early September, he played every day, taking his regular turn in the starting rotation, and playing in the outfield and at first base when not on the mound. No matter where he played, he was was both one of the league's best pitchers, and its greatest hitter. The season ended early because of the war effort and related low attendance, but Ruth owned a 13-7, 2.22 record as a pitcher, and hit .300 with a league-leading 11 home runs and a .555 slugging percentage in 317 at bats. It remains the greatest two-way performance in the history of Major League Baseball.

The Red Sox won another pennant that season and faced the Chicago Cubs in the World Series. Wary of facing Ruth as a hitter, Cubs manager Fred Mitchell used only left-handed starting pitchers in the Series, keeping his bat out of the starting line-up, but couldn't get away entirely from the Babe. Ruth started Game 1 and pitched a 6-hit shutout. He then extended his World Series shutout streak to a record 29 2/3 innings in Game 4 before giving up two runs in the eighth inning. He still earned a second win that day, and the Red Sox would be crowned World Champions in six games, their last Championship until 2004. Ruth later stated that his World Series shutout streak was the record he was most proud of having set, and it would hold until broken by Whitey Ford in 1961, ironically the same year his iconic single-season home run record fell to Roger Maris.

In 1919, Ruth continued to split his time between the mound and the outfield, but at his insistence, began to pitch less and less. An anecdote from that season states that during the first game of a doubleheader, batting left-handed against a left-handed pitcher, he hit a home run over the left field fence; the White Sox players (who would go on to the infamous tainted World Series) were so impressed that between games they came in the Red Sox' clubhouse to speak with Ruth and ask him how the heck he did it. He belted a record 29 home runs that year, 4 more than Buck Freeman had hit in 1899 and 2 more than Ned Williamson had managed to amass under highly unusual circumstances in 1884. Ruth would increase the single-season home run record three more times, pushing it to 60 in 1927, and would hold it until 1961.

Cartoon showing how Ruth's incredible first season with the Yankees overshadowed the Presidential Election in the news in 1920.

However, 1919 was not a happy season for the Red Sox: in spite of Ruth's remarkable hitting, the Red Sox finished with a 66-71 record, and his salary demands were becoming excessive. On February 28, 1920 Red Sox owner Harry Frazee agreed to sell Ruth to the New York Yankees for $ 125,000 - an astronomical figure for the time. Frazee was quoted as saying that: "Ruth's home runs are more spectacular than useful". Privately, he thought that Ruth's hard-living ways and general stubbornness would bring his career to a quick end. He could not have been more wrong, and that sale would turn around the history of two franchises.

[edit] Sultan of Swat

Ruth set World Series records with 3 homers (twice) and 12 total bases in a game. Reggie Jackson was the second player to hit 3 dingers in a Series game (1978), Albert Pujols the third (2011) and Pablo Sandoval the fourth (2012), leaving Ruth with half the three-homer games in the first 108 years of the Series. His 12 total bases stood as the record until Pujols broke it in 2011.

One of Ruth's most famous home runs was "The Called Shot" in the 1932 World Series. You can view a video of The Called Shot here (although without seeing Ruth point): The Called Shot.

While most are familiar with the older, rounder Ruth, as a young player he had broad shoulders, a narrow waist, and notable musculature: Rookie Ruth; Red Sox Ruth; Ruth Swing.

Yearning always to be invited to manage the Yankees, Ruth had only a short sting as a coach for the Brooklyn Dodgers for part of 1938 before leaving the sport for good.

Ruth's 15 postseason home runs, all hit in the World Series, were a record until Mickey Mantle tied him in 1963 and passed him in 1964, eventually finishing with 18. His total still represents the second-most World Series home runs, and third most in the postseason as a whole.

[edit] Personal

Ruth starred in the 1920 silent movie Headin Home, and had a cameo as himself in the 1928 Harold Lloyd silent comedy Speedy [1]. He played himself in the Lou Gehrig biopic The Pride of the Yankees, and was portrayed by actors William Bendix in The Babe Ruth Story (1948), by Stephen Lang in Babe Ruth [2] (1991/TV), and John Goodman in The Babe (1992), three biographical movies. His second wife, Claire, was a cousin of Hall of Famer Johnny Mize.

[edit] Nicknames

He had the most, and certainly, the grandest litany of nicknames in baseball history, including Babe, from being Jack Dunn's young superstar, his "babe". Ruth was also called the Bambino, the Sultan of Swat, the Colossus of Clout, the Wazir of Wham, the Maharajah of Mash, the Rajah of Rap, the Caliph of Clout, the Behemoth of Bust, the Blunderbuss, the Mammoth of Maul, the Mauling Mastodon, the Mauling Monarch, the Wali of Wollop, and the Prince of Powders. He was often introduced as "the Great and Powerful Babe Ruth".

To his teammates he was known simply as "Jidge".

[edit] Notable Achievements

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  • 2-time AL All-Star (1933 & 1934)
  • AL MVP (1923)
  • AL ERA Leader (1916)
  • AL Complete Games Leader (1917)
  • AL Shutouts Leader (1916)
  • AL Batting Average Leader (1924)
  • 10-time AL On-Base Percentage Leader (1919-1921, 1923-1927 & 1930-1932)
  • 13-time AL Slugging Percentage Leader (1918-1924 & 1926-1931)
  • 13-time AL OPS Leader (1918-1924 & 1926-1931)
  • 8-time AL Runs Scored Leader (1918-1924 & 1926-1928)
  • 6-time AL Total Bases Leader (1919, 1921, 1923, 1924, 1926 & 1928)
  • 12-time AL Home Runs Leader (1918-1921, 1923, 1924 & 1926-1931)
  • 5-time AL RBI Leader (1919-1921, 1923 & 1926)
  • 11-time AL Bases on Balls Leader (1920, 1921, 1923, 1924, 1926-1928 & 1930-1933)
  • 15 Wins Seasons: 3 (1915-1917)
  • 20 Wins Seasons: 2 (1916 & 1917)
  • 200 Innings Pitched Seasons: 3 (1915-1917)
  • 300 Innings Pitched Seasons: 2 (1916-1917)
  • 20-Home Run Seasons: 16 (1919-1934)
  • 30-Home Run Seasons: 13 (1920-1924 & 1926-1933)
  • 40-Home Run Seasons: 11 (1920, 1921, 1923, 1924 & 1926-1932)
  • 50-Home Run Seasons: 4 (1920, 1921, 1927 & 1928)
  • 60-Home Run Seasons: 1 (1927)
  • 100 RBI Seasons: 13 (1919-1921, 1923, 1924 & 1926-1933)
  • 100 Runs Scored Seasons: 12 (1919-1921, 1923, 1924 & 1926-1932)
  • 200 Hits Seasons: 3 (1921, 1923 & 1924)
  • Won seven World Series with the Boston Red Sox (1915, 1916 & 1918) and the New York Yankees (1923, 1927, 1928 & 1932)
  • Baseball Hall of Fame: Class of 1936


AL MVP
1922 1923 1924
George Sisler Babe Ruth Walter Johnson

[edit] Other Records and Feats

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  • Most home runs 1920s (any decade)- 467
  • First player in MLB history to hit 200, 300, 400, 500, 600 and 700 Home Runs
  • Became the quickest player in MLB history to hit 100 Home Runs (528 games) later passed by Chuck Klein (390 games) current record holder is Ryan Howard (325 games)
  • Became the quickest player in MLB history to hit 200 Home Runs (816 games) later passed by Ralph Kiner (706 games) current record holder is Ryan Howard (658 games)
  • Became the quickest player in MLB history to hit 300 Home Runs (1,172 games) later passed by Ralph Kiner (1,087 games)
  • Became the quickest player in MLB history to hit 400 Home Runs (1,474 games) later passed by Mark McGwire (1,412 games)
  • Became the quickest player in MLB history to hit 500 Home Runs (1,740 games) later passed by Mark McGwire (1,639 games)
  • Became the quickest player in MLB history to hit 600 Home Runs (2,044 games)
  • Became the quickest player in MLB history to hit 700 Home Runs (2,418 games)
  • In 1919 hit 29 home runs becoming the all-time single-season HR leader.
  • In 1920 hit 54 home runs, breaking his own record as the all-time single-season HR leader and becoming the first player to hit over 50 home runs in a season.
  • In 1921 hit 59 home runs, breaking his own record as the all-time single-season HR leader.
  • In 1927 hit 60 home runs, breaking his own record as the all-time single-season HR leader.
  • Won 94 games as a Pitcher. Led the league in ERA and shutouts in 1916. 20-game winner in 1916 and 1917.
  • Was once the only player in major league history to pitch in at least 10 seasons and have a winning record in all of them. (Andy Pettitte now holds the record at 13 years: 1995-2007). Interestingly enough, Ruth threw complete game victories in 1930 and 1933 over a decade after pitching full time.
  • Born at 216 Emory Street in Baltimore. The site has since been turned into a museum. It is near the Orioles home park, Camden Yards.
  • His date of birth was often given as February 6, 1896.
  • Elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame on February 2, 1936 by the Baseball Writers Association of America.
  • Roger Connor held the record for most career home runs (138) before Ruth broke it.
  • Won only a single MVP award in 1923 because until 1930 multiple winners were not allowed.
  • Led the American League in Strikeouts 5 times: 1918, 1923, 1924, 1927 and 1928.
  • Hit the first home run in All-Star Game history

[edit] Career/Single Season Records

  • At Bats/Runs Batted In Ratio, career, 26.35%
  • Extra base hits, season, 119, 1921
  • Extra base hits, left handed batter, season, 119, 1921
  • Home runs against one team, career, 123 (v Detroit)
  • Home Runs by an American League player, career, 708
  • Home Run Percentage, left handed batter, career, 8.5%
  • Isolated Power, career, .348
  • On base plus slugging (OPS), career, 1.164
  • On base plus slugging (OPS), left handed batter, career, 1.164
  • Runs batted in, left handed batter, career, 2210
  • Runs created, career, 2910
  • Runs created, season, 243, 1921
  • Runs scored, season, 177
  • Slugging percentage, career, .690
  • Slugging percentage, left handed batter, career, .690
  • Times reached base, season, 379, 1923
  • Times reached base, left handed batter, season, 379, 1923
  • Total average, career, 1.400
  • Total average, left handed batter, career, 1.400
  • Total bases, season, 457, 1921
  • Total bases, left handed batter, season, 457, 1921
  • Most seasons leading league in OPS, 13
  • Most seasons leading league in Adjusted OPS, 13
  • Most seasons leading league in slugging percentage, 13
  • Most seasons leading league in home runs, 12
  • Most seasons leading league in walks, 11
  • Most seasons leading league in runs created, 9 (tied with Stan Musial)
  • Most seasons leading league in runs scored, 8
  • Most seasons leading league in extra base hits, 7 (tied with Stan Musial)
  • Most seasons scoring 150 runs, 6
  • Most consecutive seasons leading league in RBI's, 3 (tied with several)

[edit] Teammates

Ruth's main teammates include Lou Gehrig (12676), Earle Combs (7858), Bob Meusel (7351), Carl Mays (7314), Waite Hoyt (7211), Tony Lazzeri (7185), Herb Pennock (7059), Bob Shawkey (5438), Aaron Ward (4181), Wally Schang (4011), Wally Pipp (3957), Bullet Joe Bush (3949), Sad Sam Jones (3574), Everett Scott (3527), Joe Dugan (3055), Mark Koenig (2698) and Bill Dickey.

[edit] Further Reading

  • Anthony Castrovince: "Remembering Ruth's big league debut 100 years ago: The Babe pitched seven innings, allowing two earned runs in a win over Cleveland", mlb.com, July 11, 2014. [3]
  • Robert Creamer: Babe: The Legend Comes to Life, Simon & Schuster, New York, NY, 1992 (first published in 1974).
  • Robert K. Fitts: "Babe Ruth and Eiji Sawamura", The Baseball Research Journal, SABR, Volume 41, Number 1 (Spring 2012), pp. 70-77.
  • Robert K. Fitts: Banzai Babe Ruth: Baseball, Espionage, & Assassination During the 1934 Tour of Japan, University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln, NE, 2012.
  • Bill Jenkinson: The Year Babe Ruth Hit 104 Home Runs: Recrowning Baseball's Greatest Slugger, Carroll & Graf Publishers, New York, NY, 2006.
  • Herm Krabbenhoft: "The Accurate RBI Record of Babe Ruth", in The Baseball Research Journal, SABR, Volume 42, Number 1 (Spring 2013), pp. 37-44.
  • Brent Kelley: In the Shadow Of The Babe: Interviews With Baseball Players Who Played With or Against Babe Ruth, McFarland, Jefferson, NC, 1995. ISBN 978-0786400683
  • Leigh Montville: The Big Bam: The Life and Times of Babe Ruth, Doubleday, New York, NY, 2006. [4]
  • Charlie Poekel: Babe & the Kid: The Legendary Story of Babe Ruth and Johnny Sylvester, The History Press, Charleston, SC, 2007. [5]
  • John G. Robertson: The Babe Chases 60: That Fabulous 1927 Season, Home Run by Home Run, McFarland, Jefferson, NC, 1999. ISBN 978-0-7864-9367-8
  • Ed Rumill: "Hall of Famers pay Tribute to the Mighty Babe; But some still pick Ty Cobb as the best", Baseball Digest, November 1969, pp. 20-22. [6]
  • H.G. Salsinger: "Which Was Greatest: Ty Cobb or Babe Ruth?" (1951), in Ty Cobb: Two Biographies, McFarland, Jefferson, NC, 2012. ISBN 0786465468
  • Gary Sarnoff: The First Yankees Dynasty: Babe Ruth, Miller Huggins and the Bronx Bombers of the 1920s, McFarland, Jefferson, NC, 2014. ISBN 978-0-7864-4966-8
  • Ed Sherman: Babe Ruth's Called Shot: The Myth and Mystery of Baseball's Greatest Home Run, Lyons Press, Guilford, CT, 2014. ISBN 978-0762785391
  • Tom Stanton: Ty and the Babe: Baseball's Fiercest Rivals, Thomas Dunne Books, St. Martin's Press, New York, NY, 2007. [7]
  • Allan Wood: Babe Ruth and the 1918 Red Sox, Writers Club Press, iUniverse Publishing, Lincoln, NE, 2001. [8]
  • Allan Wood: "George Herman 'Babe' Ruth", in David Jones, ed.: Deadball Stars of the American League, SABR, Potomac Books, Inc., Dulles, VA, 2006, pp. 457-460.

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