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The legacy of Babe Ruth is one of lore and glory. Widely considered to be the greatest baseball player to ever live, George Herman Ruth Jr. is credited with transforming how the game of baseball was both played and appreciated. Entering the Majors when the league was still reeling from the infamous “Black Sox Scandal,” the Babe became baseball’s saving grace and its most widely recognized figure. His shadow continues to hang over the game today, as every great player will always be measured by the standard he created.
Born to a working class family in Baltimore on February 6, 1895, Ruth was a troubled child, often causing mischief while his parents were working. Spending many of his middle school years cutting class and responsibilities, his parents decided to send him to the St. Mary’s Industrial School for Boys, in hopes of it offering George Jr. much needed structure and discipline. Ruth’s years at the Catholic academy proved both impactful and transformative. Under the guidance of the Xaverian brothers, George Jr. received a great deal of attention and training for his talent in the game of baseball. By his last year in high school, Babe received the audience of Jack Dunn, the Baltimore Orioles owner, at one of his training sessions. Immediately impressed by the young man’s talent, Dunn moved to sign the 19 year old Ruth. His new teammates in Baltimore jokingly referred to the teenage George Jr. as “Jack’s newest babe.” That nickname would forever live on.
Early Career and Move to Boston
Ruth’s short stint in Baltimore was mildly successful. His occasional demonstration of prowess at the plate alongside his ace pitching led to Dunn trading the prospect up to Boston. Pitching in four of his five games for the Red Sox in 1914, Ruth showed potential but was moved down to the minor league affiliate because of the Red Sox’ loaded roster. Determined to make a comeback for the Boston Red Sox, Ruth dominated his time in the lower league, and by 1915 he became a permanent fixture in the Red Sox rotation. Throwing an impressive 2.44 ERA, Ruth recorded a 18-8 record in his first full season with the team. He immediately followed up that success by improving his numbers in his second year, pitching a 23-12 record with a league leading 1.75 ERA.
Move to New York
After his extremely successful, yet once again short lived stint in Boston, Ruth was packaged and shipped off to the New York Yankees in a trade that would send repercussions through the majors for decades to come. In 1919, the Yankees were a dismal franchise in turmoil. Rarely posting a season record above .500 in the last decade, the Yankees went all in on their immediate chances for success when trading for the Babe. They were rewarded in full for their gamble.
Ruth spent his first few years with the Yankees drastically altering how the game of baseball was both played and approached. Since the MLB’s conception, professional baseball remained a grinding, slow paced game of precision and strategy. However, Ruth’s 1920 season began to break this mold of the past. The Babe would hit 54 home runs that season, breaking his old record he set just one year earlier. The power and slugging ability that rested in Ruth’s bat was unprecedented for his time. Thousands would storm into the New York stadium to watch the “Great Bambino” crush towering 400 foot home runs over the center field fence. Ruth moved to a full time outfielder position, and continued to demolish baseball’s record books. In 1921, Ruth had arguably the greatest season for a hitter in league history. Hitting an unfathomable 59 home runs, Ruth also garnered 171 RBI’s and batted a .376 average to go along with his .846 slugging percentage. The sporting world became transfixed on the star from Maryland, and he enjoyed a superstar status never seen before in professional baseball.
The second half of the roaring 1920’s became the golden age of the New York Yankees. With the new stadium to house the team, appropriately dubbed “the House that Ruth Built,” Jacob Ruppert assembled one of the greatest slugging lineups the world has or will ever witness. The 1927 season marked the year of “Murderer’s Row,” a mythical Yankees lineup comprised of Earle Combs, Mark Koenig, Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Bob Meusel, and Tony Lazzeri. This team demolished its competition, posting an incredible 110-44 record, and sweeping the Pittsburgh Pirates in the World Series. Ruth would set a new home run record that season with 60, a record that would stand for 34 years.
A Career of Excellence
The legend of Babe Ruth is one of glory and respect. Ruth helped the Yankees reach the pinnacle of baseball success, winning 7 AL pennants and 4 world series during his 15 year stint with the team. Ruth retired holding a plethora of all time major league records, including his unfathomable 714 career home runs record. He would retire in 1935 and was amongst the first five players inducted into the baseball hall of fame in 1936. He would pass away in 1946 due to cancer.
Remember Babe Ruth in whatever name you would like. “The Sultan of Swat,” “The King of Crash,” “The Great Bambino.” All of these names and many more attempt to portray the legend that George Ruth Jr. encapsulated. Today we remember him for who he truly was, the greatest baseball player to ever live.
Capture a piece of Babe's legacy with this iconic print from VintageSports.com
Sam Katulich is a content writer and research intern for Vintage Sports. Originally from Leonardtown, MD, he is currently a student at Samford University in Birmingham, AL and is majoring in Economics/Finance.