When baseball fans of today think of power hitters, names like Mark McGwire and Barry Bonds come to mind. These players have been admired and celebrated as among baseball’s elite home run hitters, breaking records and dazzling crowds with their athletic achievements.
Despite the recognition these players attained as famous sluggers, only one baseball player will succeed in standing out amongst the best of them all. Born on February 6, 1895, George Herman Ruth Jr., son of German-American parents, would come to be regarded as one of the greatest sports heroes in American culture, and named the greatest baseball player in history according to various surveys and rankings. After being nicknamed “Jack’s newest babe” from Baltimore Orioles players after their owner and manager Jack Dunn signed Ruth to play for their team, the name Babe Ruth would become synonymous with baseball Babe168 greatness.
Most of us think of Babe Ruth as one of the best hitters the game of baseball ever produced, but he originally broke into the major leagues as a pitcher. Before he was known for his legendary home run hitting prowess, he was starting pitcher for the Boston Red Sox. Born in Baltimore, Maryland, his father sent him to St. Mary’s Industrial School for Boys after the death of Babe’s mother. It was at this school that he was introduced to the game of baseball. After playing a year for the then minor-league Baltimore Orioles, Babe Ruth was sold to the Boston Red Sox. Although mainly used as a pitcher on the team, in 1915 Ruth secured a spot in the Red Sox starting rotation, hitting.315 for the season and also hitting his first four home runs. The Red Sox won the World Series that year but Babe didn’t contribute much, not pitching in the series Babe168 RTP and grounding out in his only at-bat.
The next year Ruth would make a major contribution pitching a 14-inning complete-game victory in game two to help the Red Sox win another World Series. Ruth would show his pitching abilities when he threw a 1-0 shutout in the opener of the 1918 World Series. This would be his final World Series appearance as a pitcher with a record ERA of 1.06. At the suggestion of a teammate, Ruth began playing in the outfield more and pitching less. He made 75 hitting-only appearances and batted.300 leading the A.L. with eleven home runs despite only having 317 at-bats during the season. Babe’s last season with the Red Sox was in 1919 when he also set a record single-season 29 home runs.
Ruth had a fiery temper and was ejected from a game for punching an umpire. His lack of self-control and insistence on getting a raise were part of the reasons he was sold to the Yankees in 1920. His Yankee years would prove extremely productive as he transitioned from a pitcher to a power-hitting outfielder, rewriting the record books with his hitting achievements. Ruth’s best year of his career was in 1921 hitting 59 home runs, batting.378 and slugging.846 as he led the Yankees to their first league championship.
He had the power and ability to drive many home runs within and beyond the 450-500 foot range. His style of play became known as “Ruthian”, describing any long home run hit by any player. In 1923 when the Yankees moved from the Polo Grounds, their new stadium was christened “The House That Ruth Built.” Babe Ruth hit Yankee Stadium’s first home run in their victory over the Red Sox.
Despite his greatness with the bat, Babe Ruth is also remembered for a costly base running blunder during the 1926 World Series. Known for his overaggressive base running, Ruth tried stealing second base with the Yankees trailing 3-2 with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning. He was thrown out, ending the game and the Series. His achievements proved greater, for in 1927, he beat his own record with a career-high 60 home runs, batting.356, driving in 164 runs, and slugging.772. In 1929, the Yankees became the first team to use uniform numbers regularly, and since Ruth normally batted third ahead of Lou Gehrig, he was assigned the number 3. The Yankees retired his number on June 13, 1948. By 1934, Babe Ruth had his heart set on managing the Yankees, but instead got traded to the Boston Braves in 1935. This would be his last year as a player. His health had deteriorated and he was physically spent.
Babe Ruth died of pneumonia at the age of 53. An autopsy later revealed that his body had been ravaged by the spread of cancer. The game of baseball would never see the likes of him again.