Babe Ruth is considered by many to be the greatest baseball player who ever lived. His larger-than-life personality and unprecedented power at the plate made him one of the most famous men of the early 20th century. This article explores Ruth’s life and career in depth.
When Was Babe Ruth Born?
Babe Ruth was born George Herman Ruth Jr. on February 6, 1895 in Baltimore, Maryland. His parents were George Herman Ruth Sr. and Kate Schamberger Ruth.
Ruth came from a difficult childhood. His parents struggled financially and had a volatile marriage. At age 7, Ruth was sent to live at St. Mary’s Industrial School for Boys, a school run by Catholic monks that took in troubled youth and orphans to learn trades and discipline.
There, a monk named Brother Matthias took Ruth under his wing and introduced him to baseball. Brother Matthias became a father figure to Ruth during his formative years.
Early Baseball Career
Ruth showed exceptional skill at baseball. In 1914, at age 19, Ruth was signed by Jack Dunn, owner of the minor league Baltimore Orioles. People started calling Ruth “Jack’s newest babe” which led to his famous nickname “Babe”.
Table 1 summarizes key events in Ruth’s early baseball career:
|Began professional career with Baltimore Orioles minor league team
|Acquired by majors’ Boston Red Sox
|Debuted as pitcher for the Red Sox
|First full season with the Red Sox as a star left-handed pitcher
|Led Red Sox to World Series championship over the Chicago Cubs
Emergence as a Power Hitter
Though dominant as a pitcher, Ruth Desired to play every day instead of pitch once every few games. The Red Sox allowed him to play some games in the field during the 1918 season.
In 1919, Red Sox owner Harry Frazee sold Ruth’s contract to the New York Yankees so he could finance his Broadway productions. Under Yankee manager Miller Huggins, Ruth began playing every day as an outfielder so that his powerful bat was always in the lineup.
That season, he broke the single-season home run record with 29 home runs and led the league with 114 RBIs. His last season pitching was with the Red Sox in 1917. Thereafter, he focused solely on hitting.
Table 2 shows Ruth’s offensive statistics rapidly improved as he transitioned to a full-time hitter role:
|1915 (as pitcher)
|1917 (as pitcher)
His home run totals, batting averages, and ability to drive in runs were unmatched during his era. He brought a new level of power and excitement to the game popularizing the home run.
An Early Superstar
As a New York Yankee playing at Polo Grounds, which had short right field dimensions suited perfectly for left-handed Ruth’s swing, his popularity and fame exploded in the early 1920s.
New York had not enjoyed a World Series winner since 1912, but Ruth led the Yankees to their first AL pennant in 1921 followed by their first World Series win against the New York Giants in 1923. He provided hope to long suffering Yankee fans.
Ruth’s exuberant personality and entertaining way of playing resonated strongly with an American public recovering after World War I looking for escapism and fun. He quickly became one of America’s first sports superstars at a level never seen before.
Table 3 shows a sample of Ruth’s statistical domination during his early Yankee peak:
|On Base %
*Missed 1/3 of season due to suspension
He led the league in all major offensive categories on an annual basis demonstrating rare command of hitting. The sports world had never witnessed such a uniquely gifted slugger dominate MLB like Ruth.
Ruth did generate controversy by living an extravagant celebrity lifestyle focused on drinking, partying and womanizing – taboo for the era. In 1922, his behavior caught up with him.
That season, Ruth was suspended by commissioner Landis for 6 weeks due to violating rules limiting offseason earning opportunities for ballplayers. He was also fined by manager Huggins for multiple instances of staying out late partying the night before games.
However, Ruth was too talented for the Yankees to trade. He helped lead them to the World Series again in 1922 showing he could perform under scrutiny. While he curbed his behavior to a degree, he remained a larger-than-life figure.
Chasing the Career Home Run Record
As Ruth aged into his 30’s, he continued performing as one of the best hitters in baseball. While injuries and age slightly diminished his speed and range in the outfield, his hitting prowess allowed him to chase the all-time record for career home runs set by Roger Connor (138 homers).
Ruth eventually surpassed Connor’s home run mark on July 18, 1921. He built on that record season after season. Table 4 chronicles Ruth’s annual season and career home run milestones:
|Career Home Runs
|127 (surpasses Connor’s record of 138)
*Led AL **Major league record for 34 years
The Bambino captivated crowds every time he stepped to the plate during the 1920s as he chased down his own records seemingly every season. His prodigious power made Yankee Stadium the hottest ticket in town.
Murderers’ Row & 60 Home Runs
In 1927, Ruth put together one of the most mythic seasons in sports history when he hit 60 home runs as the anchor of the legendary “Murderers’ Row” Yankee lineup filled with all-time talents like Lou Gehrig, Tony Lazzeri and Earle Combs.
This Yankees roster is considered perhaps the greatest-hitting lineup ever assembled. They swept the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 1927 World Series with Ruth batting .357 and slugging 2 home runs.
Ruth demolished homerun records hitting more in a single season than entire teams and exceeded his own record set just two seasons prior. The 60 home run mark stood as the major league record until 1961 demonstrating Ruth’s unprecedented power hitting prowess.
Battling Age and Rapid Lifestyle
Ruth played six more seasons with Yankees including winning the 1932 World Series. However, age and lifestyle diminished his skills in mid-late 1930’s. His last great season came at age 37 in 1932. Thereafter, he only eclipsed 30 home runs once and declined at the plate.
Ruth had taken his talents almost for granted early on. As he aged, he struggled adjusting to diminished skills and resented younger talent like Lou Gehrig and Joe DiMaggio who displaced him.
Ever defiant, he held out for a better contract before the 1935 season. However, his skills eroded further prompting the Yankees to release him before the 1936 season essentially forcing him into retirement at age 41 with over 700 career home runs.
While not the amicable farewell Ruth envisioned, the Yankees held “Babe Ruth Day” in 1939 honoring his momentous career before a sellout crowd at Yankee Stadium.
Some key moments and honors for Ruth post-career included:
- One of the first 5 players elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame during inaugural 1936 class
- His #3 was retired by the Yankees in 1948 with him present at Yankee Stadium ceremony
- Died from cancer on August 16, 1948 at age 53 as one of most famous Americans ever
Babe Ruth’s larger-than-life career and personality transformed baseball from a low-scoring game dominated by pitchers into a high-octane offensive focused sport driven by the long ball. He ushered in power hitting as the sport’s marquee attraction.
After a difficult childhood, Ruth leveraged his natural athletic gifts into becoming arguably the most dominant player baseball has ever witnessed. He erased long standing records annually during the heart of his career from 1919-1932 as both a Yankees slugger and master showman.
Ruth’s unprecedented home run power, fiery competitiveness, defiant public persona on & off the field, and charisma established America’s first genuine sports superstar. His impact elevated not just the popularity of baseball but the emergence of sports as a major slice of expanding mass entertainment markets during the early 20th century alongside films.
While personal issues off the field diminished his relationship with the Yankees late in his iconic career, Ruth’s baseball exploits ensured his lasting legend through transformed how baseball was played and viewed by future generations of sports fans.
Frequently Asked Questions
When did Babe Ruth play?
Ruth played in the major leagues from 1914 through 1935, with 1914 to 1919 spent primarily as a pitcher with the Boston Red Sox and 1920 through 1935 starring as an outfielder and first baseman with the New York Yankees. His greatest seasons came as a Yankee slugger in the 1920s.
What was Babe Ruth’s number?
Babe Ruth wore #3 as a member of the New York Yankees from 1920 through 1934. The Yankees retired his #3 in 1948 and it remains out of circulation as a tribute to his unprecedented career in pinstripes where he hit 659 home runs as part of 714 career homers – a record that lasted until 1974.
How many World Series did Babe Ruth win?
In total, Babe Ruth won 7 World Series championships during his career. He won 3 titles (1916, 1918 & 1923) as a pitcher and hitter with the Boston Red Sox early in his career at the tail end of the deadball era. He then won an additional 4 World Series (1923, 1927-1928, 1932) with the New York Yankees cementing his legacy as their first superstar attraction of the Yankees dynasty during the lively ball era.
What was Babe Ruth’s batting average?
Over his 22-year major league career, Babe Ruth compiled a .342 batting average, .474 on base percentage and a .690 slugging average. During his peak period starring for the Yankees from 1920-1931, Ruth posted a .351 batting average, .485 on base percentage and .711 slugging percentage demonstrating rare command of all aspects of power hitting.
Why is Babe Ruth famous?
While a dominant pitcher early in his career, Babe Ruth’s fame largely derives from revolutionizing baseball as a hitter by introducing unprecedented power and consistency hitting home runs.