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Baseball: My Babe Ruth day

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posted on Oct, 1 2006 @ 07:14 PM
It is October 1, 2006. I realize this will sound over-the-top to some of you guys, but I calculated this fact a few weeks ago, including Leap Year Days and everything, and guess what?

As of today, I am the same age--to the day--as Babe Ruth was when he died.

Now, I've done a few important things. Two of them drew quite a lot of attention. But I look at my life to date, and I look at Babe's supposedly "truncated" life, and I feel trivial. Like an asterisk. Like John Lennon's "Nowhere Man."

Babe Ruth was inarguably the greatest American pop culture icon of the first half of the past century--with Lindbergh, Bobby Jones, Jack Dempsey and various Hollywood figures being candidates for #2. He probably was the #1 popular icon of the century, though I'm not unmindful of Elvis Presley. He met presidents, kings, nearly all major American socialites (stories of his gaffes at those parties are hilarious), and all sorts of other major figures. He did a great job of playing himself--something no other actor has done--in "Pride of the Yankees," opposite the great Gary Cooper as the doomed Lou Gehrig.

Only the Beatles had more trouble going places without being mobbed, and they weren't American. Seven to ten years after his retirement, during pitched battle in WWII, Japanese soldiers shouted at American soldiers, "Babe Ruth go to hell" and "To hell with Babe Ruth"--NOT "President Roosevelt go to hell" or "General MacArthur go to hell." And there's lots of corroboration of those stories. He co-wrote numerous books, was in several (bad) movies, tried his hand at (bad) singing with his rich bass voice, and genuinely did lots of kind things for kind reasons... almost all of them concerning unfortunate kids, because he'd been one of them.

He always related to the kindness and ingenuousness of kids better than he did to adults and their pretentiousness, disingenuousness, jesuitical schemings and outright lies. He had by far the most recognizable face in America, though part of that was the freakish nature of his face and his Size Ten head.

Robert Creamer, whose biography of Ruth is unsentimental, comprehensive and definitely two-sided, spent years researching what Sports Illustrated and countless others--me included--consider the greatest bio of any American sports figure. And he did so in the late 1960's--when lots of guys who'd known Ruth, even early in his career, when he was 6'2" and 220 and a tremendous athlete, were still around. His conclusion? Ruth's ingenuousness and lack of sophistication made him a bull in life's china shop. As a result, he said or did things which: (1) angered people at times; and/or (2) were hilariously unsophisticated and inappropriate--e.g., his famous remark as he excused himself from a high-society dinner: "Excuse me, ladies. I have to take a p!ss."

So he frequently exasperated people, and not infrequently irritated or even angered people. But, as one old player told Creamer, "I never met anyone who didn't LIKE Babe Ruth."

You couldn't help liking the guy, and it wasn't because of his outrageous stats. Ty Cobb, Barry Bonds and Rogers Hornsby had/have great stats, but NOBODY liked any of them. Everyone loved Ruth--except Leo Durocher, and why should that dour, perpetually surly misanthrope count?.

In sum, Ruth was a lovable, uniquely charismatic, sincere guy who, wholly apart from being baseball's greatest player, led a one-of-a-kind life in which he was not just an out-of-control sexual, alcoholic and gastronomic hedonist, but also was an immensely popular icon and wonderful to the kids who loved him... even though he couldn't remember their names or anyone else's, including long-time teammates.

I could live to be 5 times as old as he did (lol
), and I would never do 1% of what he did. Babe, you've made me feel downright insignificant. But even though I'm a mere asterisk next to you, I salute you and congratulate you on your magnificent life.

Baseball History Nut

posted on Oct, 1 2006 @ 11:19 PM
Interesting you should mention Elvis Presley. He and Ruth died on the same day (I want to say August 16?). They were extremely popular icons who transcended their individual fields. Both of them died young--Ruth at 53, Presley at 42--and both are notorious for their sexual exploits and multiple lady-friends. Most of all, however, both of them died of their own excesses. Ruth was heavy drinker, big eater, as well as a smoker who sometimes puffed on 30 cigars in one day. Presley spent the last several years of his life on an endless roller coaster of pills and shots--uppers and downers to get through each day.

They were big before anyone knew it, they were larger than life itself for awhile, and they both were gone while they were still hugely popular. They both embodied the saying, "Live hard, die young".

posted on Oct, 2 2006 @ 03:28 AM
I'm curious how you would know how many cigars Ruth smoked during any given day. Were you guesstimating? If you were, imo, you're pretty far off. But that's just me guesstimating based on several years of serious research into the man and the player. He had a cigar bearing his name produced in a factory in Boston, but thirty is outlandish imo.

Also curious how you make the parallel between Elvis and Ruth outside of anything having to do with being large cultural icons. Ruth did not die of any excesses and he after his release from St. Mary's on Feb. 27, 1914, he never needed to escape anything. To quote Robert Creamer, "He was free. After all those year he was finally out of the cage, and nobody was ever going to get him into one again." Simply put, he loved being Babe Ruth.

He no doubt consumed more food than the average person, but as Marshall Smelser explains, "Ruth consciously helped to create the fable of Babe the Glutton. He often grossly overate when strangers or new friends were with him, in order to keep alive his reputation as a greedy feaster." He consumed more than anything really, and a lot of that had to do with not only his upbringing, but him feeling like he was living up to something. The pressure on him did not just exist between the white lines and he handled it all beautifully imo.

Regarding his weight...

In 1925, things did get out of hand. In January, he weighed 256. However he had lost twenty-one pounds at the time of his collapse and weight 235.

After his bellyache he reformed quite well. From '26 - '31 (ages 32-37), he AVERAGED 50 HR, 155 RBI, 147 R, and a .354 B.A.

In the field he would never lose him strong/accurate arm, and while footspeed would decline, he continued to play hitters perfectly, had a solid glove, hustled, and had great instincts.

"In 1927 Babe Ruth was still one of the best outfielders in the league and had a marvelous throwing arm." - John Kieran

"He his physically from five to ten years younger than he was two years ago." - Artie McGovern, February 9, 1928


chest exp--45--------------------47



215 playing weight.


Was up to nearly 240 pounds at the end of January. Went to Hot Springs and ended up getting down to 218 for the season.


Was 256 pounds, and had lost twenty-one pounds just before his collapse.


Entered McGovern training at 254, started season at 212.


Started season at 218, had 37.5 inch waistline. Took McGovern with him for the 22 day shoot for The Babe Comes Home. He was on a strict regimen; in bed at 9. He had to be on the set by 6am and was running five miles a day.


Entered McGovern training at 237, started season at 225.


Entered McGovern training at 234, started season at 222. Began walking five miles a day along with training.


Claire's influence began. He wasn't allowed to drink hard liquor in the house during the season. If people came over, he could get a keg, but no hard liquor. Babe used to routinely eat at around 11pm, mostly steak and beer. Not any more. A club sandwich and milk became the new late night meal no matter where they were. He would often have steak or some mutton chops for breakfast, and then lunch was a sandwich and milk before he headed to the ballpark, where he was on his own. Needless to say, he snuck a hot dog and soda here and there. Claire made sure he never lifted anything heavy, not even luggage. He never used a can opener or changed razor blades when needed. His curfew was 10pm and he never seemed to mind. He had settled down greatly. A night in with a few beers listening to his favorite radio program "The Lone Ranger" suited him fine.

He entered McGovern training at 233 and lost eight pounds in two weeks. He was started the season at 225. At this point however, despite his taking care of himself much better, he slowly gained weight throughout the seasons.


Entered McGovern training on New Years Eve of 1930 at 235 pounds. His waist was 42.5 inches. All that is known is that the results were very good and stayed that way much in part to a lot of golf. I'm guessing between 220 and 225.


Smelser -

Before going to Florida Ruth had started to work with McGovern in his best condition since the early 1920s. His chest, expanded, was forty-eight inches, the largest ever, and his waist for thirty-eight, the smallest in years. McGovern put him to calisthenics three days a week and golf the other three days, which suggests an interest in the legs of an old ballplayer.


"Ruth in mid-January was working mornings in McGovern's gymnasium and playing golf every afternoon....He was in good condition, a pound or two above his playing weight." - Smelser


He entered McGovern training at 235 and started season at 226 and gained weight throughout.

A few things before I leave with some reading material for those interested.

According to the 1998 World Almanac...

Average life expectancy for a white male when Presley was born - 60.1 years.

Average life expectancy for a while male born in 1900-1902 was 47.9. Ruth, as you probably know, was born in 1895 so we might make a logical conclusion that the number for him is around 45. He outllived his expectancy while Presley came way short. At age 42 (when Presley died), Ruth was three years retired, and although he'd put on some weight due to him not needing to get in playing shape, he was healthy and kickin'. Golfing, bowling, hunting, fishing, playing in exhibitions, making active as can be.

Through 1973 only sixty-one of ten thousand ballplayers had played twenty full seasons in the majors, and twenty of those sixty-one were pitchers.

Of the men on major-league rosters in 1915, Ruth's first full season, only three played after 1934 and none after 1935.

From '20-'34 Babe's schedule called for 2,310 games. He appeared in 2,083.

Throw in the exhibition games and his percentage gets even higher. The majority of the exhibition games were scheduled with clauses in place, which promised Ruth would be on the field. Off days didn't exist for a guy like him.



Golf became something of a passion with Ruth, and he played as often as he could. His home course was St. Albans on Long Island. Often, he would leave his apartment in the morning, stop at the butcher's on Ninth Avenue, pick up a nice steak, drive to the course, give the steak to the cook at the club and have two or three drinks at the bar while it was being prepared.

He'd have a couple more drinks over the steak at lunch and then play golf. The way from the ninth green to the tenth tee at St. Albans went past the clubhouse, and Ruth's foursome would usually pause at the bar, where Ruth would have one or two more. And then go on to complete the round in 77 or 78.

Ben Curry, for years president of Leewood Golf Club in Westchester County, New York, said that when Babe had a date to play golf at Leewood or another club in that neighborhood he would sometimes leave his New York apartment a bit earlier than necessary. He would stop at Curry's house and sit on the porch and chat. Mrs. Curry would bring out a pitcher of ice water and a quart of Scotch. When Babe left for the golf course, the bottle would be half empty.

Yet Curry said Ruth was not an alcoholic. "He drank a tremendous amount, certainly more than most people," he said. "Now and then his liver would act up and the doctor would tell him to cut out booze for awhile. And he would. He wouldn't drink at all, just soda pop and things like that. It never seemed to bother him that he couldn't drink. After a while, when he began to feel better, he'd start to drink beer, and eventually he'd be back to Scotch again."


[Edited on 10/2/06 by Sultan]

[Edited on 10/2/06 by Sultan]

posted on Oct, 2 2006 @ 03:40 AM
An Agreeable Guy


By Marshall Smelser

Upon earth there is not his like, a creature without fear. – Job 41:33.

In the last week of 1919 the Yankees bought the best baseball player alive. What kind of man was Babe Ruth when near his prime?

There was nothing of angles about him. From head to foot he was all curves, including his fullmoon face and his stemware ankles. These curved lines did not make beauty. Paul Gallico, who knew him well, said, “He is one of the ugliest men…A figurine that might have been made by a savage.” Gallico thought his wide variance from the Greek sculptors’ athletic ideal had its own appeal to the people. At first glance he seemed to be a barrel on bird legs, though his legs and ankles were strong enough to do their work. He was not fat during most seasons of play, but he showed a tendency to grow what was literally a beer belly. An anatomist at the University of Virginia tried to type Ruth’s structure. From four categories – cerebral, muscular, respiratory, digestive – Professor R. Bennett Bean chose “muscular” for Ruth. Bean further divided “muscular” into long and short. Ruth was a short, a man built for heavy labors.

The anatomical ideal of the wedge-shaped athlete, broad in the shoulder and slim hipped, is an artist’s generalization which we owe to ancient Greece. When a great player appears with a different form – Yogi Berra, Honus Wagner, Babe Ruth – people think him misshapen. Whey the Greeks (and their Roman imitators) used the wedge for the shape of the athlete they did not say, but we may suppose that it was because their statuary was for public places and the wedge-man could be identified as male at a hundred yards. Thus the marble male athlete was a symbol of masculine beauty. Today we have no need for the stereotype.

Ruth’s friends called him “the big fellow”; his few foes called him “the big monkey.” How big was he? The twenty most frequently appearing players of the 1917 White Sox, 1920 Indians and Dodgers, the 1921 Yankees and Giants, and 1922 Browns (all great teams) make a total of 120 players, of whom only nine stood taller than Ruth’s six feet two. His weight in 1921 was 215. Weights change quickly among ballplayers, but Ruth was the heaviest of the 120 above – his belly was still almost flat. For his time he was a big fellow (or monkey).

His face was tough but not threatening. His lips were thick, his nostrils wide and flaring, his head as round as Charlie Brown’s. As H.G. Wells said of one of his fictional characters, he had “a face like a carving abandoned altogether too unpromising for completion.” His shape – head, torso, legs – helped to make him a public figure because anybody in the ball park could pick him out of a group on the opposite side of the outfield. In the same way, anyone who had seen a picture of his face (and who hadn’t?) would know him on the street at sight. In public the crowd could always identify him, a fact which had helped to make him its darling.

Except in the swing of his bat and the snap of his throwing arm, his motions were not graceful.

I went to the Yankee stadium one time to see Babe Ruth. He could bat, but his pigeon-toed stubbed little trot lacked beauty. – Marianne Moore

Ruth ran pigeon-toed, it has been said, in imitation of Brother Matthias. Some track coaches believe it is the best way to run, because the runner can then push with all five toes.

His voice was preserved on many records, beginning with a 1920 Pathe. His baritone had a booming quality, but he was not a loud-mouth, unless he was in a celebrating mood or was answering opposing bench jockeys. He claimed his voice became huskier when he was burned with an overdose of silver nitrate on a Red Sox trainer’s throat swab, but that was before the first recording. His laughter was called rolling. By all accounts it came easily.

Ruth’s skill as a ballplayer was partly the result of relaxation, that is, the ability to stand uncommitted to any action and to be ready to do what was necessary at an instant’s notice without adjustment. Thus he was almost never taken by surprise. Usually this ability to “hang loose” is very hard (but not impossible) for a thin-skinned front-rank player, because his job is always threatened by newer men. Ruth lacked that kind of feeling. Having no fear of rivals, Ruth was loose and ready to act at any moment as needed. He collected himself, so to speak, into one power of acting at his greatest competence, using his strength quickly and with great concentration. A player who can do this has much the same reaction-time as a healthy young cat; a first-rate infielder taking care of an unexpected pop bunt looks very much like a cat catching a house moth. The sudden spending of energy without reacting too quickly or too slowly is the mark of a great fielder, and shows a talent which is even more valuable to a hitter – because batting is harder than fielding. Tightness spoils form. Ruth was not shackled in movement. Marianne Moore said, “A gibbon in a flying leap seems to have no joints.” Ruth at bat had that kind of looseness, as shown in many newsreel clips. His body functioned as a single unit which hung together perfectly.

When Ruth swung hard at the ball his energy exploded in all directions from a center just above the pelvis. The strongest parts of the body are the heaviest. Having the most inertia, their movements are slower. A player in a sudden burst of effort first uses the strongest muscles near his center of gravity (halfway through the trunk, an inch below the navel). Then come into motion the muscles of trunk and thighs, next the arms, calves, wrists, ankles, hands, feet. Force flows from the center of the body outward to the extremities. In 1919 Ruth had no rival in such explosions of energy. Even when he missed the ball, people gasped at the sight.

THE AUTHOR: Did Ruth ever show stage fright?
EARLE COMBS: Never showed stage fright.
JOE SEWELL: Always calm.

When Ruth became a New Yorker, psychologists Albert Johanson and Joseph Holmes persuaded him to come to Columbia University’s psychological laboratories and take a battery of tests. Their findings deserve listing.

- The pitch he could hit hardest was just above the knees on the outside corner of the plate.
- When he hit the ball perfectly, in still air, with the bat moving at 110 feet a second, the ball would necessarily carry 450 to 500 feet.
- When a ball was pitched, Ruth inhaled sharply on the backswing of the bat and held his breath until after he swung or decided not to swing.
- Ruth could complete an electrical circuit by inserting a hand too into successive holes 132 times a minute with his left hand. The average score of other test-takers was 82 times a minute.
- He could complete a circuit by tapping a charged instrument on a charged plate 193 times a minute. The average score was 180
- In a test of steadiness of nerve, by inserting a charged rod successively into small holes of different sizes, Ruth proved himself the best of five hundred who had tried.
- Ruth’s eyes responded to briefly flashing electric bulbs in a darkened chamber 2/100 of a second quicker than the average person – very valuable for picking up the moving ball as it left the pitcher’s hand.
- In response to sound it took Ruth 14/100 of a second to react, and the average person 15/100.
- In reading groups of eight letters exposed for 1/50,000 of a second, Ruth could usually read six at a flash. Other persons could read four or five of the eight.
- Ruth could count twelve black dots of a group exposed on a card for 1/50,000 of a second. The average score was eight.
- In a test of the speed of recognition of arbitrary numbered symbols his score was the average score.
- When given a card of printed matter and told to cross out the “A’s” in a fixed period of time, his score was 50 percent above the average.

Babe Ruth’s eyes, ears, brain, and nerves worked more quickly and accurately than those of the average person, and the coordination of all was “much nearer perfection than that of the average man.”

Walter Hagen, the famous golfer, took the same tests. His reaction times were as much below the average as Ruth’s were above it, but further testing showed it was a matter of a golfer’s deliberation. A golfer’s motion must be right the first time; he doesn’t get three swings at the golf ball. When it came to identifying the arbitrarily numbered shapes and scratching out the “A’s,” Hagen showed greater concentration than Ruth. What was reported as a “Duel Between Champions” proved only that a baseball player swings during a fleeting moment while a golfer waits for reports from all of his nerves. There is no true comparison of the psychological requirements of the two games.

Peter Amondo, writing in the Berlin Querschnitt, reviewed Ruth’s psychological test scores and concluded it was only faintly possible that the entire population of the United States could produce an equal to Ruth.

The tests show us that Babe Ruth did not become the leading American League pitcher of 1916, the leading defensive outfielder of 1919, and the leading slugger of all years up to and including 1919 by exerting his will power or cramming himself with facts.

Heroes like that man of muscle…Without purpose, apparently,…[he achieves] that which most men, even those of exceptional intellect could never attain if they followed every rule laid down in the book. – Bozeman Bulger

Babe Ruth had five physical qualities which must be inherited: speed, endurance, strength, accuracy, and coordination. The least flashy and the most necessary was coordination. If you needed someone to thread a needle by dim light in a moving automobile, Babe Ruth would be your man.

Ruth played the ukulele and occasionally went ballroom dancing. It follows from what we know of the close alliance between his senses, nerves, and muscles that he should have been very good on the ukulele and at dancing. He wasn’t. Obviously he wasn’t really trying.

Babe Ruth did not divide his life into parts but lived it whole. Baseball, food, drink, sleep were all of a piece. Not for him a winter job to prepare for retirement from baseball. He behaved as if there was no life after baseball, no life apart from it. A home run and a prime sirloin were equally enjoyable, and in something of the same way.

Ruth resembled Charles Dicken’s Major Bragshot who, “like some other noble animals, exhibited himself to great advantage at feeding-time.” His digestive equipment was excellent, and his eating habits have been widely discussed. Some of the talk probably springs from envy. A look at remedies for indigestion in drugstores and on television screens hints that a large part of the population abuses its alimentary tubing as much as Ruth did, but is pitiably less able to cope. Cookery was not a fine are to this heavy eater; trash food, candy, hot dogs, the run of ball-park fare was as welcome as the work of New York’s finest chefs. True, hot dogs were not main dishes but standard between-meals snacks. To accompany the trash food there was always the same heartburn remedy, sodium bicarbonate. Sometimes he ate it dry, a handful at a time. In the clubhouse he might take a swig of a saturated solution of bicarb and water which he kept in a jug in his locker.

People have expressed (or enjoyed?) shock at Babe Ruth’s feeding habits, as though a ballplayer out to set us an example of a spartan diet. But it is a fable that baseball players should keep rigid training. The season, from March through September, is too long to allow a man to keep the kind of fine physical edge that a boxer achieves on the eve of a match. Ballplayers can’t obey the stern training rules that are part of the mythology of athletics. They need a different regimen. The average major-league player loses from four to eight pounds a game (the pitcher loses even more), which he usually makes up before the next game. The hotter the weather the greater the weight loss, and the more beer and ice cream are consumed. A player needs only to keep his muscles stretched and supple, get enough sleep to stay alert during the game, and avoid taking on so much weight that it slows him down. Because of many reports of Ruth’s overeating, it is worth nothing that when he joined the Yankees he had no double chin, no paunch.

Ruth consciously helped to create the fable of Babe the Glutton. He often grossly overate when strangers or new friends were with him, in order to keep alive his reputation as a greedy feaster. He seemed to think he owed such a show to the spectators. Sometimes it was a restrained and classic act, like the time he asked a waiter to decorate his steak with a border of lamb chops. Usually it was something gaudier. For Paul Derringer’s diversion Ruth once arranged his own dining-car breakfast as follows: a pint of whiskey mixed with a point of ginger ale in a pitcher of ice, followed by a porterhouse steak, four fried eggs, fried potatoes, and a pot of coffee. He told Derringer this was his daily breakfast. During an evening about New York (including Coney Island) with Harry Heilmann, Fred Haney, and Joe Dugan, Ruth refreshed himself in the following style: (1) Dinner: two porterhouse steaks, a double order of head lettuce with Roquefort dressing, a double order of cottage-fried potatoes, a double order of apple pie a la mode. (2) First snack at Coney Island: four hot dogs, four bottles of Coca-Cola. (3) Second snack at Coney Island: the same. (4) Late supper: same as dinner. All of this in five or six hours.

Unhappily, young players sometimes thought they could match Ruth and began to eat their way out of baseball. When Huggins caught on to Ruth’s café showmanship he told young players they would be wise not to run around with him.

Before the prohibition amendment, most players drank beer if they drank anything alcoholic. Beer was Babe Ruth’s drink. He never cared for bourbon, sometimes drank scotch, and drank beer as often as possible. Three shots of whiskey would leave him blurred and sleepy, but he could hold an awful lot of beer without visible signs.

THE AUTHOR: Did he ever complain about trouble sleeping?
JOE SEWELL: I never heard him complain.
PEE WEE WANNINGER: Not in my presence.
THE AUTHOR: Did he usually feel well in the morning?
DEL PRATT: About eleven.
SEWELL: Always ready to play ball.
ART JORGENS: Didn’t see him in the morning very often.
TRUCK HANNAH: [He felt well] morning, noon, and night.
THE AUTHOR: Did he care whether the weather was hot or cold?
HANK JOHNSON: Never complained.
BOB SHAWKEY: Liked it hot.
BILL DICKEY: Liked hot weather.
THE AUTHOR: When he made up his mind was it hard to change it?
SAM VICK: Nobody tried.
SEWELL: He was very determined.

Babe Ruth’s singing voice was better than he thought, and his musical taste was worse than he thought. In spontaneous song he was apt to bring out his favorite but now forgotten ballad, “My Darlin’ Lou.” From occasional mentions of what he liked in music it is plain he would prefer the fourth “B,” Carrie Jacobs Bond, to Bach , Beethoven, or Brahms.

In the age of railroading, baseball players who did not read much were driven to cards. Ruth played vigorously, but not in the manner of a gambler. Excitement was his aim.

In hotels on the road he organized pinochle games in his room, which would run until the team’s curfew. His poker playing suffered from his love of action. He would get into pots when he should have stayed out, and stay in after he should have thrown in his hand. He won very little because he took every risk. At bridge – auction bridge in those times – his style annoyed his partners because he tried to get the bid every time, whether he had the cards or not. The great talent for concentration shown in the Columbia tests did not carry over to cards. If people nearby were talking he followed the thread of their conversation until he became hopelessly confused in his play. Arthur Robinson said he played cards “the way he hits a baseball – wildly, freely, forcefully; and more often than not he loses.”

There are three kinds of folk heroes: the holy hero, the tricky hero, and the muscle hero. In Ruth’s time, baseball’s holy hero was Christy Mathewson, the tricky here was Ty Cobb, and the muscle here was Babe Ruth. Folklore demands that the muscle hero live riotously and leave tales of revelry and sprees. Such stories cling to Ruth’s memory. Almost none can be verified, but they lose no interest because they can’t be proved. We can’t prove much about Siegfried, Beowulf, Achilles, or Hercules, either.

If Babe Ruth were a statesman, biographers could not pin on him the label of lecher as can be safely done with, say, Aaron Burr. But, as a muscle hero Ruth must be a libertine, and that is his reputation, right or wrong. If true, it had no particular influence on baseball history nor could it make much difference to anybody else. But the muscle hero must be excessive. (For example: Ethan Allen drank so much whiskey that when a rattlesnake bit him it got drunk.) The folklore tells us that Ruth was a wencher, a boozer, a blowhard. Of course all true male folk heroes, from ancient strongmen to current pop-music stars, have been besieged by eager women. Legends in the field give Ruth powers worthy of Man o’ War, but the stories are as wispy as fog and elusive to the grasp. Literary folk have compulsions to put down on paper their own secrets and their friends’ secrets (and, lately, their parents’ secrets), but athletes don’t write much.

In some people envy and jealousy contend with love and admiration of public persons. They are full of affection for the memory of Babe Ruth but are anxious to believe their own standards of conduct are more rigorous in practice. At the same time they secretly feel they would have misbehaved splendidly if they had had his opportunities. They also are pleased at that secret guilty knowledge about themselves. One of the great pleasures Babe Ruth gave the world was that he became the idol of everybody who would like to flout ever rule of conduct and still be champion. It is common to hint and generalize about him as though to say, “After all, the Babe was only human, and barely that.” It would be closer to the truth to say that in the struggle to command Ruth the Baltimore waterfront slob overcame Xaverian Brother George more often than not. The public record does not support the story of the great libertine. It may be the right description, but proof is lacking. The legend is collective wish fulfillment.

Ruth was not vice-riddled but his virtues had defects. There is a glimpse of reality in a press conference once held by a physician who was treating Ruth. The reporters hoped for a purple passage and asked whether the patient kept late hours or “dissipated in the winter.” The physician laughed and replied, “He’s very careless.” This is the complete body of hard evidence in support of Ruth’s reputation for high jinks.

But assuming that the reputation has some basis in fact, let us see what we can make of him. He was earthy and full of energy. In his departure from virtue there was nothing decadent. His lapses were because of appetite, not conviction. At any time he might bring forth admissions of guilt and simple resolutions to do better. He did not take up the vices of the aristocracy which have become democratically diffused in our century. He took up vices that most poor young Baltimore waterfront slobs would have liked to follow if they became rich. Suddenly having money to spend, Babe Ruth practiced working-class excesses on a lavish scale. Not for Babe Ruth an intrigue with a duchess, but from him a call for madder ukulele music and cold beer. No other eminent man ever ate so much ketchup. In his most elegant depravity, assuming some truth in the legends, Ruth behaved like a plain-spoken, unpolished provincial general suddenly raised by his men to be Emperor of Rome in the last century of the Empire.

It is worth adding that Ruth overshadowed the other Yankees, but he was simply the most conspicuous high-liver in a rather wild bunch who, one spring, were described as “training on scotch.”

Ruth limited his defects to hard-working animality. He grew up in a culture which enjoyed sin as illicit and did not, as we so often do, enjoin it as virtue. If he had been the leading haberdasher in a Three-Eye League town, a member of the board of directors of the local ball club, and a prominent Elk, his behavior would not have been much noticed except for amused comments on Monday mornings after memorable Saturday nights.

…I know when I’m doing wrong. I’m still a Catholic. – Angus Wilson, The Wrong Set

Ruth had not given up his religion, though his practice of it was hit or miss. At intervals he imposed a revival upon himself to make up for neglect. Religion was taboo for argument, since that would cause “prejudice and hard feelings,” but he made no effort to conceal his faith or his public worship. Once he agreed to a series of biographical pieces by his ghost writer Westbrook Pegler who caught up with him at Mass in St. Louis Cathedral. After a Saturday night out on some American League town Ruth would often take his non-Catholic companions to a dawn Mass. As Waite Hoyt told Bob Broeg, they would all put their dimes in the collection and see them covered by a fifty-dollar bill from Ruth, “the biggest tipper in town.”

Ruth never met a Calvinist conscience in a place of authority until Barrow joined the Red Sox. He probably never heard a word of Freudianism, however disguised. This saved him a great deal of explanation and justification. He was a Christian hedonist, that is, a Christian who lived chiefly for pleasure. It is a common type among Catholics, though not viewed with favor by the Bishops of Rome. Considering the whole history of Christianity, Ruth can be matched often, and in every generation. Most people like him sin from lack of firmness of spirit rather than from malice. Members of the older religious groups in which faith is an intellectual concern can do wrong without trying to explain it away as a new kind of virtue. They can live in sin, know it, admit it. People from later traditions, or no tradition, believe a public sinner must have lost his faith or his sanity. Babe Ruth and Brother Matthias would think that a silly view.

Finally, let us not the occasional comparison with Falstaff. While Shakespeare might have appreciated Ruth, Babe Ruth was no Falstaff. Falstaff could do nothing well. And he is the only important character in Shakespeare who was not what we call a marrying man. Ruth was a marrying man.

Babe Ruth managed to separate his public image from his real private life so that no matter what he did or was believed to have done, he remained a hero to the crowd. A muscle hero must be rated a champion carouser in order to make people believe he is the real thing. The myth of the heroic wastrel satisfies some primal appetite in humankind.

All of Babe Ruth’s skill would have meant nothing if he lacked the will to win, but he was fiercely combative in the game. His coordination would have been useless at bat if he had a disabling fear of a fast ball (and nearly everybody fears it), but he was among the bravest of batters. Ruth had a drive to be great, and he liked the competition for mastery just as he plainly delighted in his remarkable deeds. Of all the world’s pleasures, baseball was his favorite.

His joy in what he could do on a baseball field infected the fans, and they came to enjoy his triumphs as much as he did. (And those who came to see him fail could equally relish his setbacks.) Ruth was an aggressive player, not hostile but the kind who makes things happen instead of waiting upon happenings. A professional layer must be determined. It is not money alone that pulls him. He learns to command himself, work hard, and overcome obstacles. It can’t be done well if one doesn’t like it. What Ruth liked most was to play baseball. In second place came winning. Only then came money. Like Ty Cobb, Dizzy Dean, and Ted Williams, he was supremely confident of his greatness. In a crowded railway smoking compartment he once announced loudly, “I can knock the head off any pitch that’s ever been pitched.” And he was tough enough to lose and then to bound back with extra effort at the next chance. He lacked some qualities that managers wanted him to have: conformity to authority without question, commitment to training rules, and – after he parted from Bill Carrigan – trust his managers.

Ruth was inclined to take unnecessary risks, most of all when driving an automobile. Perhaps ballplayers come from a group of men who take death less seriously than most of us. The practice of bending over a slab of rubber with a club in hand and facing a five-ounce pellet coming in at from seventy to ninety miles an hour may screen out those who put a high value on their lives. Among major league baseball players, active and retired, the table of causes of death show three gross twists from normal when compared with American males as a group. Accidental deaths are seven times as numerous, suicides are also seven times as numerous, and twenty-seven times as many are murdered. The figures include all major league players who had died from 1876 through 1953; and all explanations are merely speculative. Whether it is relevant we can’t know, but Ruth had a taste for hazard.

The new Yankee outfielder was also as superstitious as any ballplayer. Some of his superstitions were almost universal, as, a hat on a bed brings bad luck. Some were widely held among baseball players generally; for example, the sight of a wagonload of empty barrels was a good omen. He also had some of his own. Hendrick Willem van Loon gave Ruth a silver dollar which he carried for years as his chief good-luck charm. The sight of a white or yellow butterfly meant something to him, but the meaning varied from mood to mood. When he had a good day he’d go into the hotel by the same door by which he had come out; if he had a bad day, he’d use any other door. Once he tried to lift the team out of a slump by pitching batting practice. They won, so he went on pitching batting practice until they lost. The same circumstances of winning after doing something out of the ordinary got him tours of duty warming up pitchers and hitting fungoes to the outfield. One of his favorite sports was hunting frogs at night with lights attached to the rifle near the sights; a good bag foretold base hits in the next game.

To those who smile it may be pointed out that fans are just as superstitious. A pitcher in a heated pennant race once received as gifts from fans two lucky pennies, a double acorn, a rabbit’s foot, a buckeye, and several Japanese prayer scrolls.

Baseball brains are not put into everyone’s head. Babe Ruth…had baseball brains… - Eddie Collins

One who uses his mind in every way possible, and all at once, thinks intuitively. That kind of use differs, for example, from the working through of long division. In baseball, and in nothing else, Babe Ruth used all his intellectual powers at once. He had facts to work on. He was no mental giant, but he knew more baseball than the average person, including the average sportswriter. His kind of baseball knowledge was soaked up from childhood and fixed fast in memory by a kind of psychic obsession with baseball.

Outside of baseball Ruth was a commonplace man. He read practically nothing, though there are unconfirmed reports that he knew the Nick Carter detective stories and the Frank Merriwell boy athlete stories. Excluding baseball, his mind was variously estimated as equal to the mind of a child of nine, twelve, or fifteen years. Ruth as remembered is a colossal sculpture chipped out by the periodical press. The model for the figure was an intelligent man who intelligence was narrowly focused on what he could do superbly on a baseball field. The model had almost no other life, and what other life he had was very ordinary. For example, his views on public questions were simpleminded opinions of the kind one might get from a not very thoughtful boy who lived before even the movies broadened people’s views. Those of Ruth’s opinions of public affairs which have survived sound like the opinions of anyone who glances briefly at the major headlines as he turns the pages toward the sports section. Except in baseball, language was to him a system of signaling situations or changes in circumstance rather than a way of exchanging and sharpening ideas.

Ruth a true baseball genius, was a man who had a kind of microscopic mental world which was brightly lit, well ordered, and well understood. The development of a high order of intelligence in narrow scope may produce some kinds of instability. Was that true of Ruth? If so, it would explain his show-off gluttony.

He spoke his mind, most of the time. – Joe Sewell

Babe Ruth had simplicity, a virtue which is not as much prized as it should be. As an Irish poet said of someone, “He lacked manners, but had manner.” In Ruth that manner was directness. For example, in none of the thousands of surviving photographs is he shown consciously grimacing to express a heartiness he doesn’t feel. In many of them he makes no effort to conceal the stupefaction of his boredom. He had a simple honesty in public relations.

His emotions were all on the surface. That let the crowd know and understand him. His sense of humor was pretty coarse. In stag company, according to one who knew him well, “He couldn’t say five words without three of them being profane or vulgar.” A kindly man called him “crude” and said protective sportswriters and friendly policeman concealed his occasional abusiveness. That he could be abusive is certainly not surprising. No celebrity has been more harassed by his public, and many who have been under much less pressure (for example, the Duke of Edinburgh) have reacted more explosively. Ruth’s abusiveness was set free only by alcohol, so that the few recorded instances usually happened late at night with few witnesses.

Sometimes excessive swearing is explained as a substitute for the tears which are forbidden to men in our culture. Not in the case of Ruth. He was so obviously masculine that he never though to assure it by hiding is occasional weeping. He used foul language for the simple reason that he was short of more exact words and phrases to express himself.

He had a short fuse and might explode very quickly, especially in dealing with owners and managers. His anger was rarely directed at ballplayers, and when it was it did not last long.

THE AUTHOR: Is it true that if he became angry he blew up quickly and it was soon over?
WANNINGER: Never saw a real show of temper in my stay.
COMBS: He was even tempered, wasn’t overbearing.
ED WELLS: Never heard him blow up.
SEWELL: He never carried a grudge.
BEN CHAPMAN: I should know!! But we became good friends.

Since sport has lately received specific psychiatric attention, it is well to add that studies of madness in sport nowhere connect with the kind of behavior that was Ruth’s. With the possible exception of his flagrant public gluttony, he was an emotionally undisturbed man.

He was no intellectual, you know, but an agreeable guy. He really liked baseball and he liked people. And he tried to be agreeable. – Marshall Hunt (of Ruth)

Ruth was as far from being a loner as it is possible to be. Had he lived on an island by himself, he would have died of being alone. He seemed totally dependent on the appreciation and admiration of others. Even on the baseball field it was said of him, “The bigger the crowd, the bigger the Babe.” Rare is the player who does not play for applause as well as money, and Ruth was no exception, as he proved by his every gesture on the field. All his signs to the crowd, whether direct or indirect, were attempts to share with them the pleasure of the running catch or the home run.

Some have though Ruth was an aloof person because he was so poor at remembering names. It wasn’t indifference, it was laziness. It has been heavily emphasized in memoirs of the times, because his ignorance of names led him to blame any sportswriter for any sports report he didn’t like. That made a weak memory memorable, to sportswriters.

Close friends and the distant crowd found Ruth frank, easy, and natural. He knew that people liked him, and he showed that he liked them. This mutual trust between star and public let him become “probably the best extemporaneous talker in sports,” according to Joe Williams, very much in demand for conventions, men’s clubs, benefits, and Communion breakfasts. His vital spirit swelled everybody with what Paul Gallico called “magnificent afflatus of the Babe.” He had the common touch that politicians need; in fact, Ruth had nothing but the common touch. There is no evidence to show that he was ever shy. His manner was the same to the box-holders and the bleacherites. As the leader in his chosen line of work he felt no need to defer to any other person’s rank. His honest indifference to social standing may not have pleased people of status, but it delighted the crowd.

There was nothing childlike about Ruth’s baseball records, but there was something boyish or at least youthful about the attitude he brought to the field when he played ball, and about everything else he did. Most professional athletes have a boylike strain in their temperaments, but few so much as Ruth. When things go well they are full of laughter, practical jokes, and hoaxes; when things go badly they may sulk, fight, get drunk, or jump the team. Ruth practiced the crude japeries of baseball vigorously, smashing friends’ straw hats on sight at the end of the straw hat season, and pulling off many not especially clever practical jokes. When Barrow came to manage the Red Sox he proved to be bold and smart about baseball, but he was insensitive to Ruth’s emotional makeup.

There is no need to create a psychological mystery about Ruth’s degree of maturity. The plain fact is that he was oriented to childhood. He was a hero to the whole world of children with whom he had a “fine, soft touch.” He had a quality for which there is no name; a heroic tolerance for and empathy with children. He might sometimes be curt with elders, but he never protected his privacy and comfort from children. He was photographed with sick or crippled children so often that cynics though it was crude press-agent hokum; but Bill Slocum, friend and ghost writers, said he made fifty visits to children’s institutions for each one that was photographed. The photographers would be there if the institutions called them, not otherwise. The kids liked him. When they learned his tough face masked real kindness they leaned toward him, now away.

Babe Ruth played baseball with feelings of a youth. It is almost the mark of a grizzled veteran that he does not run into the wall while chasing a fly ball; he saves himself and his earning power for tomorrow. But Ruth took the chances that amateurs take, the kinds of chances that can lead to accidents which keep players from ever playing again. Heywood Broun said Ruth played “gleefully” and yet needed no cheering section, no coach exhorting him to die for dear old club owner. For example, when he shifted fielding position as a new man came to bat, he ran. And Gallico saw that “his impish streak” doubled his pleasure in a home run because it upset the pitcher. Gallico thought his style showed the mind of a nine-year-old.

The thought of illness, suffering, aging, and death depressed him. His visits to the ill and the handicapped were often followed by hours of melancholy. After visiting a hospital in Asheville he left with tears on his cheeks, saying, “…I could be in there.” This is a typical feeling in youth-oriented people who highly value health and energy and who think childhood as the golden time of life. A sick child or a decaying adult sets order awry and is therefore cause for gloom. Ruth had very little experience of old age. He probably knew almost no old people when he was a boy. A grandmother of forty-five would seem a hag to him in 1920 when he was twenty-five.

We may doubt that he could organize his feelings about death and disability into coherent thought. Free-spirited, open-hearted people are not much given to analyzing their own feelings. We rarely know what Babe Ruth though about the aspects of the universe that we think important. Quite likely, he didn’t know either. He was a man of feeling, not of logic.

posted on Oct, 2 2006 @ 03:41 AM
The Most Exciting Player to Watch


By Marshall Smelser

"He was easy to like and was at his best in the clutch. To me he was the most exciting player to watch of all time." - Bill Dickey

Although Babe Ruth was shaped like a barrel, he moved gracefully. Eve his swinging strikes drew applause. His short-striding run seemed awkward to some people, but, in sports, awkward is as awkward does; this very large and thick outfielder stole fourteen bases in 1920. All opposing teams did not have the same views on Ruth as a base runner. Some tried to hold him on first base and some did not; it depended on the temperaments of opposing managers and pitchers. But Truck Hannah, who caught seventy-eight games for the 1920 Yankees and had to know something of base runners, said flatly, "He was a good base runner."

In the field Ruth used a cheap flat white glove which the average boy would not envy. Sliding pads did not appeal to him. He usually had two or three friction burns - the players called them strawberries - on his thighs and hips which the trainer would wash daily with rubbing alcohol and cover with taped-over gauze. He threw lefthanded of course, though he usually, but not always, wrote with his right hand. "I get along just as well with either one," he claimed. When throwing from the outfield he used the whip-crack arm motion of a pitcher, with his throwing hand rising just before he released the ball at arm's length. He held the ball with the first two fingers on top, across the stitching if possible, and with the slide of his thumb on the bottom. His throws were long and accurate.

Babe Ruth was a team player in every way except his refusal to play in that part of the outfield where the setting sun blinds the fielder. There is nothing at all to show that Ruth was reluctant to make the sacrifice or the hit-and-run play. Nor was his inability to remember the names of players a mark of toploftiness. He knew who they were but did not bother to clutter his memory with uncessessary proper nouns. On the bench he behaved as though among equals, though any newcomer, however famous, was apt to be called "Kid" for months or even years. When he went to the plate he usually exchanged some small talk with the catcher, but when at bat he rarely spoke to pitchers or umpires.

"A rabbit didn't have to think to know what to do to dodge a dog. Instinct told him. The same kind of instinct told Babe what to do and where to be...I never heard anybody tell him anything to do on the ball field." - Sam Vick

Men who played with Ruth have very much the same explanation of his greatness.

Earl Combs - Eyesight, good teaching, and perfect coordination made him a natural.
Sammy Byrd - Great reflexes.
Dixie Walker - Very relaxed, and wonderful coordination.

But there was more to Ruth's skill than a marvelously good physical arrangement. He had a keen mind for baseball.

To begin with, he learned the rules of the game at St. Mary's Industrial School, and knew them as a professional knows them. Of twenty-two ex-Yankees who commented on the point, agreement was next to unanimous that he knew the rule book as well as he should.

Next, there is the accepted folklore that he never threw to the wrong base. The throw to the infield is the chief mental concern of the outfielder. He must make an instant judgement based on the speed of the runners, his own posture at the moment he gets his hands on the ball, the distance to throw, the state of the game, and the health of his arm. In a close game his decision may be decisive. If the outfielder can't get the lead runner but tries for him anyway, he may be giving the next man the extra base which puts him in position to score on a single, a fly, or even an infield out. No one has challenged Ruth's reputation for judging the outfield throw correctly.

A third point to consider is the contradictory tradition that he often missed signs - those signals from manager to coach to batter (or base runner). Bob Shawkey, who later was his manager for a year, threw this charge out of court tersely: "No signs to him." Others have said he was almost always left to his own descretion. A poll of teammates on the question of Ruth's mental powers as a ballplayer brought replies which are worth repeating.

Joe Sewell- He knew the game of baseball and always played the percentages.
Eddie Wells - Ruth simply had the most natural equipment, physically and mentally, for a baseball player...
Ben Chapman - If he ever made a mental error, I can't recall it.
Jack Saltzgaver - His baseball intelligence made him a natural.
Chicken Hawks - He was a natural, smart, perfectly coordinated.
Truck Hannah - He was a great student of the game, with natural talent and baseball smartness.
Jimmie DeShong - Perfect coordination, baseball smartness - a natural.

H.G. Salsigner, the Detroit sportswriter (who thought Ty Cobb the greatest), used to put Ruth to the test. Salsinger would ask why he made a certain play the way he did. Without hesitation Ruth would analyze the play, explain the several possible ways of making it, and justify his means, even though his way was not always the most obvious.

"Get up and hit a home run," has never been a part of the usable technique of any manager...In any home run there must be some element of good fortune as well as hefty shoulders." - Heywood Broun

Of course, the favorite tag of Ruth's fellows, "baseball smartness," does not account for the cannonade of home runs. But it has something to do with his batting averages of 1919 and 1920 which were .322 and .376. Jimmy Reese told the author that after Ruth had batted against a pitcher just once, he had a pretty good idea of how the pitcher planned to pitch him, and reacted accordingly. The century-long table of averages shows us that pitching beats batting three out of four times. The reason is, in part, that the pitcher knws what the next pitch will be and the batter does not. Ruth, and a few dozen other great hitters, were able more often than most players to outguess the pitcher.

"And the batter is one lone man playing the other nine men..." - Paul Galllico

The batter has difficult and interesting problems. The pitched ball traveling at speeds up to 175 feet a second comes over the plate in from three-tenths to five-tenths of a second after it leaves the pitcher's hand. It gives no time for study. The hitter can reach it with his bat only in the last three feet of its passage. At that point he can actually hear it whizzing. That is why George Sisler said hitters must overcome fear of the ball, of the pitcher, and of the situation.

Physicists have said there are twenty-six possible mistakes a batter may make, any one of which will cause him to fail to hit safely. He must be perfect during a period of about half a second or less, in noisy surroundings, and in physical danger. He must also have the bat which is right for him. He must also be lucky. Striking a sphere with a cylinder, intending to drive it to some place on a large plan (or off the plane) in the instant of time allowed to the batter, produces unexpected trajectories and counces, some of which go for hits, but most of which don't. If it could be done in slow motion, it still would be harder than shooting pool or golf, because the ball is moving. As it is, the speed of the ball demands that successful batting be unthinking reaction. At first sight of the pitch the batter must decide in thirteen-hundreths of a second whether he will swing at the bal. If he intends to swing, he must start the bat, predict the velocity, the height, and the lateral location of the ball as it will be when it comes within reach of the bat, and then hit the ball within a quarter of an inch of the ideal spot on the bat. It would be impossible if it had to be done rationally instead of as a reflex.

Having mastered reflex hitting as much as possible, the long-ball hitter (as distinct from the short-swinging singles hitter) must find his groove - that is, the arc of the swing that gets the best result. (Babe Ruth used the word groove, and it is in use today.) When a man has the feel of his groove he can wait longer before swinging and still put all of his power into the swing. No man can stay in his groove indefinitely. After a while he loses the feel and must recover it. Hence the slugger's summer season alternates between streaks and slumps.

We must remember that the pitch is not intended to be hit. The ball comes in hopping, sinking, sailing, or curving. The batter must find it with his eye, catch it on his bat at the right place, and then jerk it out of the park. As Roy Blount, Jr., put it, "This is comparable to picking off a runaway outboard motor and in the same motion heaving it up a flight of stairs."

"An act of skill is one in which a man does more things at once than there is time to think about it." - John Ciardi

Having learned of the sale of Ruth to the Yankees, The Times of January 6, 1920, printed a description of his batting style.

"Ruth's principle of batting is much the same as the principle of the golfer. He comes back slowly, keeps his eye on the ball and follows through. His very position at the bat in intimidating to the pitcher. he places his feet in perfect position. He simply cannot step away from the pitch if he wants to. He can step only one way - in. The weight of Ruth's body when he bats is on his left left. The forward leg is bent slightly at the knee. As he stands facing the pitcher more of his hips and back are seen by the pitcher than his chest or side. When he starts to swing his back is half turned toward the pitcher. He goes as far back as he can reach, never for an instant taking his eye off the ball as it leaves the pitcher's hand.

The greatest power in his terrific swing comes when the bat is directly in front of his body, just half way in the swing. he hits the ball with a terrific impact and there is no player in the game whose swing is such a masterpiece of batting technique."

At the end of that 1920 season Current Opinion asked Ruth how he did it. He replied, "I swing every time with all the force I have and strike out just as often as others in the .300 class; but when I hit the ball, I hit it." Many years later he explained it again for Joe Reichler of the Associated Press.

"What I did first was to get the proper stance. I'd shif my feet so I'd be well balanced. That was the most important thing. When I saw coming the pitch I liked, I'd take a swing. The very second that I felt the bat hitching onto the ball, I would give my wrist an extra twist, and give the ball the old golf follow-through - and that was that."

Less than a year before he did, speaking of a particular home run, he described his attack briefly: "I hit it as I hit all the others, by taking a good gander at the pitch as it came up to the plate, twisting my body into a backswing and then hitting it as hard as I could swing."

Grantland Rice summed up the sight as best a spectator could:

"In lashing at the ball, Ruth put his big body back of the smash with s perfect timing as we have ever seen. There was no hurried motion, no quick swinging, no overanxiety to connect. It all happened with the concentrated serenity of great power under perfect control."

Ruth always said he thought Joe Jackson was the best of all hitters, and that he had consciously copied Jackson's posture and swing. (Jackson had it harder than Ruth because he batted against all of the trick pitchers that were outlawed in 1920, and against pitchers using dirty, battered baseballs.) When at the plate Jackson aimed his right shoulder at the pitcher and stood with feet about twenty inches apart. Ruth changed the stance in that he held his feet about eight or nine inches apart, believeing he could pivot better that way. Standing as he did, if he started to swing at a fast ball he had to go through with it. The completion of a powerful swing- if he missed - twisted him into corkscrew shape, as writers first noticed in print during his hitting spree of July 1918. (On a slow pitch he could check his swing.) The likeness of Ruth's and Jackson's styles was plain. Said Eddie Collins, "The Babe stands up there more like Joe than anyone else I have ever seen."

When a batter spun as Ruth did, he made the end of the bat move very fast, increasing its centrifugal force and the horizontal thrust of the ground under his feet. A long hit was thrown off Ruth's bat as water is thrown off a rotating wheel. And, when possible, he actually swung up to the ball from below its path. Stop-action photographs show the ball riding on the bat and coming around in an arc. It is at its lowest when directly over the plate, and it rises as it passes Ruth's body.

A writer in Scientific American in 1915 advised players not to hit fungo flies during pregame practice because it would lead to hitting flies during the game. If Ruth knew of this advice it would have been wasted on him, because he owed his success to copying Brother Matthias's experiments in hitting fungoes for distance. The uppercutting swing was certainly unorthodox and not to be copied by others. When Beethoven pointed out some breaking of the rules of music in the work of a young composer, the visitor said Beethoven had broken the same rules. Beethoven answered, "I may do it, but not you." Babe Ruth could have said the same. The uppercut swing intercepted the ball as it was about to reach the catcher. As the players say, Ruth took the ball right out of the catcher's glove. When other batters swing that way and connect, they foul on to the roof of the stand at best, or foul out to the catcher at worst.

"If I tried to swing like Babe with my feet together and pigeon-toed and my back to the pitcher, I'd either get beaned on the back of the skull, or I'd strike out oftener than I do." - Hank Greenberg (1947)

Photographs of Ruth in action help us to know his methods. In a complete swing at a high fast ball the bat would rise, after hitting the ball, in a long follow-through which was much longer than the swing before bat met ball. When the bat hit a pitch knee-high in front of the outside corner (his favorite blow), the hitting swing was longer but so was the follow-through. Throughout his whole playing career he ended his swing with his legs crossed, weight divided between them, his right foot on its right edge and his left foot on its left edge. This put all the weight on his ligaments and tendons of his ankles, and pretty well corrects the notion that he had spindly ankles. (Their thinness was an optical illusion; he was just a very big man with relatively small feet.)

When he came to the Yankees, Ruth batted from well back in the box. Once in the box he rarely stepped out. He liked to meet the ball in front of the plate. If that happened he could pull the ball to right field. He shocked many critics by holding the bat with the same grip regardless of the number of strikes. Moe Berg said every great hitter he ever saw, except Ruth, moved his hands higher on the bat after two strikes (to make it easier to manipulate). But not Ruth. Because he was always ready to hit hard, he took very few called third strikes, though he struck out often. He had no consistent rule on whether to try to hit the ball when the count was three balls and no strikes. Ruth (as most leading sluggers today) swung if he though he could reach it.

"No one can tell you how to hit home runs. You either have the natural strength and reflexes, or you don't." - Hank Greenberg (1947)

Ruth resented the idea that his skill was merely the result of hereditary accident, so to speak. He always claimed he worked as hard for his success as anybody. If he learned how to hit, he probably taught himself. Baseball teams sometimes have hitting coaches, but they are pretty obscure funtionaries in the baseball world, and none has been famous for improving his charges in the way that a dozen well-known pitching coaches are famous. What can, for sure, be taught about hitting is the strategy of the duel between batter and pitcher which relies on wise sayings, such as, when behind in the game it's a good idea to take the first pitch. But the muscle engineering needed to hit safely isn't taught. Advice on how to improve one's hitting is rarely in a language that makes for common understanding. It is rather like being instructed in the use of chopsticks by the conscious tension and motion of every needed muscle and tendon. Batting is a conditioned reflex. Great batting uses divinely given coordination and eyesight. Practice can improve the effective use of the gifts, but they have to be there before the practice starts.

Ruth changed people's minds about batting. Before he exploded into fame theory had it that a full swing lessened the batter's accuracy and helped the pticher to the same degree, though there had been a few exceptions. Most of the great hitters - personified by Ty Cobb - used a short swing or chopped as if using an axe. They stepped forward to meet the ball in front of the plate. They not only feared to lose accuracy but thought the long swing would make them lose balance. Ruth changed that. His near-perfect eyesight, timing, and coordination let him get full power into the swing with precision. Others have since found it possible, but in 1919 and 1920 Ruth was thought to be a freak. If he had manipulated the bat in the pool-cue manner of Cobb he could have ranked higher than ninth in lifetime batting average as he does now. Henry Johnson said, "Babe has told me that if he had just gone for base hits he could have hit .450 or .500 - and I believe him."

Ruth also changed the nature of the game as spectacle. When he came to bat the combat zone shrank to the ground between mound and home plate. He made the fans much more conscious of the war between pitcher and batter. For the minutes he stood there waving his bat the game was a contest between two men instead of eighteen. And if Ruth hit the ball out of the park the pitcher was defeated, not by a team but by Ruth.

"Ruth hit so hard, and got that bat traveling so fast, that when he nicked only a small piece of the ball, he had enough power to send a high, towering fly over the fence." - Hank Greenberg

That Babe Ruth was strong there is no doubt. The hard question is how strong? If we knew how fast the five-ounce ball moved after he hit it, and if we knew how much time elapsed during the swing of the bat before it met the ball, we could figure it as so many foot-pounds and convert that to horsepower. A dazzled Cleveland physicist estimated the speeds and times and thought that Ruth generated forty-four horsepower. But it was pure guesswork.

We can state Ruth's power another way, from reckoning based on the usual baseball statistics. Earnshaw Cook, in Percentage Baseball, explained a very useful and simple index he called the Power Factor, arrived at by dividing the player's total bases by the number of hits. If every hit were a single, the Power Factor would be 1; if every hit were a home run, the Power Factor would be 4. In practice, a Power Factor of 2 would be extraordinarily high. Applying it to Ruth's batting record for the years 1914-1917 when he wsa a full-time pitcher, we find his Power Factor was 1.53. In three of those four years Ty Cobb led the American League in batting average; for the four years his Power Factor was only 1.38. In the season of 1920 Ruth's Power Factor was the astonishing figure of 2.26; if the man's every hit had been a double, the Power Factor would have been but 2! Ruth was the most powerful hitter ever seen.

The very style of Ruth's home runs showed might. The word towering was very often used to describe them. Sam Vick told the author, "When he got one up in the air there was no park that would hold it." Some sluggers hit line drives and low-trajectory home runs. Ruth hit many like that, but his specialty was lofting the missle in the same parabola as followed by a mortar shell. His characteristic home run went so high and so far that it was dropping steeply when it fell beyond the fence. It was the kind of a blow that would be a long lazy fly out if hit by a lesser man. Such a ball can only go out if driven at an angle of about forty-five degrees to a great height - hence the adjective towering. Sometimes a Ruth pop fly would go so high that he was on second base when the infielder caught it (or lost his eye focus and, as the fielders sa, gave up on the ball).

Before Ruth appeared in baseball, people accepted Ed Delahanty or Big Dan Brouthers as the most powerful of batters. Delahanty's and Brouthers' lifetime Power Factors were respectively 1.46 and 1.52.

In 1920 Brouthers watched Ruth from the press box at the Polo Grounds. He was almost as large as Ruth and still ranks eighth in triples, which is proof of power in the age of the dead ball. When asked his opinion of Ruth he said the liveliness of the ball didn't make the difference. "No matter what kind of ball you use, no one in the world could hit one as far as Babe Ruth." He thought Ruth's shape made it easy for him to pivot so that he could put great ower into the swing.

That brings us to the question of the shapes and weights of sluggers. Weight would be an advantage only if the hitter held his arms so stiffly that the bat became an extension of them, but only toy ballplayers and hockey players swing that way. Of the truly great home-run hitters whose action photographs are easily available, Hank Aaron, Ted Williams, Mel Ott, Ernie Banks, and Al Simmons were wedge-shaped. All the others have a certain broadness of pelvis. We know that explosive bursts of muscular energy begin in the trunk of the body and flow out to the fingers and toes. A thickness of body is valuable to the long-ball hitter. Of course, not all players with thick torsos are leading home-run hitters. The difference, to judge by Ruth, is the speed of the explosion of energy. Ruth generated more muscular power rapidly than any other player of similar strength.

Ruth had certain advantages beyond his physique. The spitball was gone in 1920, though Ruth said the only thing he didn't like about it was that there were "germs in the spit and you catch disease." And new balls replaced battered and dirty balls more often, to the batter's advantage. (The policy began after Ray Chapman died in August.) Batting left-handed was a help to hitting safely, too, because Ruth could get to first base two- or three-tenths of a second faster, which amounted to a lead of four to six feet over a right-handed batter. Ruth also helped himself with his natural showmanship. He knew the way to please a the crowd was to hit the ball far. While he was an unimaginative person, and usually lived entirely in the present, he once said that the man who starts something (read, slugger) usually stirs the crowd more often than the man who stops something (read, pitcher). That faith helped a natural born crowd-pleaser when he tried to hit one out.

The appearance of Ruth - a defector from pitching - made life more difficult for pitchers. They had been having things prety much their own way in the first twenty years of the century, but Ruth seemed to bring witchcraft into the game. Rules of thumb were useless against him. Generally it is best to pitch low so that the batter will hit the ball on the ground, which gives five men a chance at it; Ruth loved to see a pitch come in knee-high. Generally it is best to pitch outside to a pull-hitter, because the usual pull-hitter likes to jerk the ball down the foul line; Ruth's favorite point of contact with the ball was in front of the outside corner. What could a pitcher do? The question still amuses Ruth's old teammates. Here are some answers.

Mark Koenig - Pitch and duck.
Dixie Walker - Pray for a single.
Truck Hannah - Try to make him keep it in the park.
Bob McGraw - The only way to keep Babe from hitting would be for Ban give him a season pass to first base.

Some veterans who tried to answer the question with a straight face believed that a pitcher should work carefully, pitching curves high and inside at varying speeds. Eddie Wells, who pitched with and against him, warned, "Never throw him a fast ball over the plate." When Candy Cummings, the presumed inventor of the curve, was in his seventies he watched Ruth and suggested the pitcher use a curve inside at the fists, a curve high on the outside, and then a curve inside at the knees. No two pitches should be at the same speed. Our 1920 scouting report on Ruth, then, shapes up like this: curves high, in and out; curves low inside; waste the fast ball; change speeds on every pitch. And despite the best-laid schemes of canny pitchers, Ruth batted .372 and hit a home run for every eight times at bat.

Ruth also gave fielders much to think about. A squarely hit ball bends the bat slightly and flattens itself momentarily like a soft-shelled egg. Then it moves away faster than it came. Ruth's blow's were harder than any other batter's. Opposing fielders and outfielders expected the ball on the right side of the diamond (though he could hit to all fields if he chose), and they played far back. Ruth did not bunt very often, but in 1920 his high batting average was owing in part to bunt hits against deep-playing infielders.

posted on Oct, 2 2006 @ 07:52 AM
Dear Sultan,

Thank you. The most exciting player to watch in my lifetime, not counting the Steroid and HGH frauds, has been Dave Kingman--baseball's version of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's "Little Girl" with the curl in the middle of her forehead, who, when she was good, was very good indeed, but when she was bad, was horrid.

Kingman was #5 all-time in HR/AB before the frauds came along, and having watched on TV or heard on the radio at least 1/2 of his AB's, I'm terrified to think what would have happened if the 6'6", roughly 210-pound Kingman had taken that cr@p. For those of you who never got to see him, he hit something like .236, struck out an insane amount of the time, and made other very non-productive outs, mostly in the form of unimaginably high pop-ups that eventually came down in infielders' gloves (except one which found a hold in the ceiling-baggy of the Metrodome and was a double).

In addition to being perhaps the biggest clubhouse-cancer since Hornsby; and having been cut and traded myriad times as a result; and being THE worst fielder I've seen, with double the error rate... whether at 1B or in LF; Kingman was terrible to fans and left teammates on every ex-team saying what a cancer he was. Former Cubs teammate Mike Krukow said it would be a "pleasure" to hit him with a pitch.


For all of you who never watched Kong bat in a clutch situation:

He hit the same number of grand slams as Ruth or Aaron. He hit a division title-winning HR on the last day of his rookie season in 1971. He hit THREE walk-offs in his last MLB season, 1986, with Oakland. And if you watched the guy bat, no matter how much you hated him, you sat there on the edge of your chair with one thought in your mind: "Will this be the one in every 15.11 AB's when he crushes some pitch and hits it 480 feet or more?"

He hit one with the wind in Wrigley that supposedly went 630 feet. Another went 550. And just his "normal" HR's could kill a pitcher's spirit. I don't know how many times I saw a ball explode off his bat, then watched the pitcher's shoulders collapse and the pitcher refuse to turn his head, knowing it was gone and not wanting to see just how totally it had been annihilated.

W E L L . . . . . .

In Sultan's post, we have a general discussion of baseball's greatest player, written by one of the greatest Ruth scholars around. Moreover, he quotes at length the two authors regarded as THE greatest of the dozens who have attempted to author bios of the man no actor has yet come within light years of capturing:

(1) Robert Creamer, whose bio of Ruth is regarded by Sports Illustrated, me and myriad others as the greatest ever written about any American sports hero (y'all really should read it, even if you're not baseball history fans; it's THAT good a book); and

(2) Marshall Smelser, whose bio of Ruth is considered the second best, which is like saying Jimmie Foxx was the second best first baseman to debut in the last 1920's, behind Lou Gehrig; or the Stones were the second best British band to hit it big in 1964, behind the Beatles. Or, to use a more apt example, it's like saying Tim Raines was the second-best leadoff man of his time. Yeah, he was, but he was also the second-best leadoff man EVER, yet he went largely unnoticed because of #1, Rickey Henderson.

When Ruth batted, you had a guy up there who hit NOT one HR every 15.11 AB's, but a guy who hit one HR every 11.76 AB's, a figure nobody was within a trillion light years of before Steroid Ball. Second best was Ralph Kiner's 14.11--if you're math-inclined, you'll see the absurd gap--and Kiner quit after 10 years, before getting old. The real second-best was Killebrew, at 14.22.

Also, Kingman batted a shameful .234 or .236--depending on your sources--while Ruth batted .342, higher than the greatest hitter for average since Teddy Ballgame retired in 1960, i.e., Tony Gwynn. While Kingman got on base something like 31% of the time--an unbelievably bad figure, for a guy so many pitchers wanted to avoid--Ruth got on base a whopping 47.4% of the time. Ruth was a very good RF until the final years of his career; Kingman played the field like I would have, or like Greg Luzinski DID, except he at least tried his best at that hopeless task.

Of all the hitters of the 20th Century who played FULL careers--not being expelled from MLB in mid-career (Joe Jackson), nor retiring when they were very young and becoming managers with very infrequent AB's (Hornsby), nor playing minuscule careers (Lefty O'Doul), nor playing careers which straddled the two centuries and dying in mid-career by falling off a bridge into Niagara Falls in 1903, during a characeristically horrible temper outburst (Ed Delahanty)--Ruth is behind only Cobb (huge edge), Speaker (.345) and Williams (.344), in batting average. It's my view Ruth would be behind ONLY Cobb, albeit hugely, if he hadn't had to waste his first 5 years hitting part time with a dead baseball in a park where RF was the same distance as Yellowstone Park.

Ruth is behind only Williams in OBP, and the margin is small--.482 to .474. He BURIES everyone in career slugging, with the #2 man, Ted Williams, trailing him .690 to .634. And while Williams' slugging AVERAGE probably would not be much higher if he hadn't missed his five seasons, how much higher would Ruth's have been if he hadn't had to hit under the impossible conditions of Fenway Park in 1915-1919?

So Kingman is the most exciting, edge-of-your-seat, non-steroid/HGH hitter I've ever seen when the game was on the line, because of his huge LEGITIMATE home run % and how breathtakingly far he hit the ball. But Ruth hit it even farther, sometimes unbelievably so, did so far more often, was beloved or be-liked by all teammates except Leo Durocher, terrified pitchers, got on base as often as all but one, had a kids'-game slugging average, and hit for a better average than Tony Gwynn. His career RBI/AB ratio of 1/3.78 has never been even approximated--no, not even in Steroid Ball--as nobody else is even at 1/4.

AND HIS NUMBERS, DURING HIS YANKEE STADIUM YEARS, WERE BETTER ON THE ROAD THAN AT HOME. So it wasn't that allegedly generous park, where it was shallow to RF, but obscenely distant to RCF, CF, LCF, LF and down the LF line.

I also find the parallel between him and Elvis off-base. Elvis lived as I once did, getting preposterously overweight (have y'all seen pictures of him? my god!), pounding down the booze, and, tragically, doing the same thing that sent Judy Garland "over the rainbow" at such a premature age: combining potent stimulants with prescription tranquilizers. If you're a druggie, you have to know that's the #1 thing you DON'T do: mix downers like Valium, Xanax or barbiturates with either booze or stimulants. It cost Elvis a lot of years of life... far more, in terms of statistical expectancy, than a 6'2", very broad-shouldered, naturally big-chested, born-in-1895 man like Ruth lost, apparently from his cigar habit.

Ruth was like a college kid on a huge bender with a terrific personality, one who thrilled everyone with whom he came in contact. Like a huge number of college kids--only some of whom, incidentally, were born with that same g.d. alcoholism gene that I inherited--Ruth partied and partied and partied. But I'm aware of no stories of his doing what I did--drinking a quart of hard liquor or 30 cans of beer in one night, which is a potentially toxic dose.

He partied hard, drank hard, screwed hard and did all of the things the people of his Roaring 20's generation--like those of my Late '60's Love Children generation--are (in)famous for. Did it run down his immune system so badly that, 15 years hence, he developed that malignancy in his throat? I'm no oncologist, but I find that pretty far-fetched. Did the cigars contribute to that g.d. malignant growth, discovered in 1946, which encircled his carotid artery and was inoperable? Nobody will ever know, but if somebody did know and I had to bet, I'd bet "yes."

But Babe Ruth never lived anything remotely like the physically dissolute one Elvis Presley lived in his final years. No contest.

And Ruth was anything BUT a far superior version of the HR-machine that Kingman was. He was a magnificent athlete--as ALL of the guys who played with him in his early-to-mid career used to attest, as they screamed bloody murder over the John Goodmanesque way Ruth had come to be remembered by all of us--largely because the highest-quality films, by far, were those made in the very late '20's and early '30's, at the very end of Ruth's line. And as Sultan says, even then, he made some spectacular plays in the field, batted for good-to-big-to-huge averages, led the league in slugging and HR's (ahead of, or tied with, Gehrig and Foxx) every year through 1931.

Even in 1932, at age 37, whether "called" or not, he hit that HR to the impossibly distant spot in CF in Wrigley Field, pre-CF bleachers, in that famous World Series. And in 1935, as a real shadow of his former self who hit but .181 in his few weeks before retiring, he hit that impossibly colossal HR in Forbes Field at age 40, his 3rd of the day, for his last MLB hit.

Thanks, Sultan, for sharing with us your vast knowledge and profound reflections, and also these passages from the two foremost scholars on Big #3. Ruth unquestionably remains the greatest sports hero this country has had, and any reading about the scope and intensity of his popularity from 1918 through 1933 will dispel any doubts whether I'm right about that. He also has only Wilt Chamberlain (or perhaps Gretzky) as a parallel for ludicrously sustained statistical dominance in a major professional sport. He also was an enormously important SOCIAL figure in American history in the 20th Century, though I'll grant that in that respect, he must take a back seat to Jackie Robinson, Billie Jean King and maybe 3 or 4 others.

But it's great to see these myths about Ruth as a pigeon-toed blimp waddling around the outfield, playing terrible defense, and engaging in this BOOM!!!!!-or-bust hitting style a la Kingman get exploded. He, not Ted Williams, was baseball's greatest hitter. They both lost five years out of their careers, offensively, and the PC-brigades who scream that Ruth's league was segregated usually know so little about baseball history that they don't realize the American League, from 1946-1960, was for all intents and purposes STILL a segregated league... with all the greatest black players--Mays, Campanella, Aaron, Jackie Robinson, Frank Robinson, Newcombe, Banks and many more--over in the National League. Thus, to whatever extent one must "devalue" Ruth's career feats in order to be P.C. and adjust for the fact he didn't compete against people of color, one must do the same to Ted Williams.

Thanks again for sharing with us and enlightening us, Sultan. I know I learned quite a bit, and I'm arrogant enough to think I don't have a tremendous amount left to learn about #3. Please keep it up. You clearly have the ability to shatter a lot of myths.

For the record, which of my next two greatest players--Willie Mays and Ty Cobb, in that order, but only very slightly--do you prefer?


[Edited on 10/2/06 by BaseballHistoryNut]

posted on Oct, 2 2006 @ 05:27 PM
BHN, just a quick congrats on making it to this point, and here's to you doubling this mark.:party-smiley-018:

posted on Oct, 2 2006 @ 10:17 PM

Originally posted by BaseballHistoryNut
...if he hadn't had to waste his first 5 years hitting part time with a dead baseball in a park where RF was the same distance as Yellowstone Park. much higher would Ruth's have been if he hadn't had to hit under the impossible conditions of Fenway Park in 1915-1919?

You already know the 11/38 home/road HR split for his years in are HR splits for his career.




Hitting as a pitcher....

In 1915 Ruth had 4 HR in 103 PA (setting a record for a pitcher that would last 16 years), the league leader had 6 in 439 PA.

In 1916 Ruth had 3 HR in 150 PA, the league leader had 12 in 617 PA.

In 1917 Ruth had 2 HR in 142 PA, the league leader had 9 in 668 PA.

In 1918 Ruth had 11 HR in 380 PA - tied for the league lead. Tilly Walker who also had 11 HR needed 466 PA to reach the same total.

In 1919 Ruth led the league with 29 HR almost tripling the totals of George Sisler, Tilly Walker and Home Run Baker.

In every year that he was in Boston, Ruth was the league leader in HR or had a better ratio than the league leader. This was done in brutal Fenway.

Funny about how Hollywood portrays him. As if the producers of the movies couldn't care less about accuracy. In the Goodman movie, beyond the ridiculously fat manner in which he's portrayed, even as a young kid sent to St. Mary's on a Friday the 13th, 1902, there are inaccuries galore. Nobody cares. Its about showing a fat guy who was generous, liked to drink, enjoyed playing baseball and making kids smile. You don't get a realistic sense of the paradox that was his personality, and if there is any sense of it at all, it only seems to scratch the surface. Neither of the two reformations are shown, his catching and infield brilliance, even before he became a pitcher at St. Mary's aren't shown. His all-around greatness as a ballplayer is ignored and his complete and utter lifestyle change starting in '29 (thanks in large part to Claire) is as well. Once I just wish somebody would do a no holds barred, in depth and accurate movie or mini-series. Oh well, for those who want to learn, the information is out there.

For the record, which of my next two greatest players--Willie Mays and Ty Cobb, in that order, but only very slightly--do you prefer?


1. Ruth
2. Cobb
3. Mays

Don't see myself flip-flopping Mays and Cobb any time soon. Next to Ruth, my next (although distant) most researched subject is Cobb and imo, he rightly belongs at #2. I will say that Mays is closer to Cobb than Cobb is to Ruth however.

btw Jim, congrats on the accomplishment ; )


Don't mean to turn this into a full on Babe Ruth Discussion Thread, but I'll leave with some quotes about George Herman.

Sherry Smith, pitcher

"Ruth's eye was so good, there was little alternative. If Babe got balls somewhere near where he liked to hit them, he would bat .450. He seldom gets a good ball. A pitcher is foolish to give him a good ball, especially with men on base."

Rube Bressler, pitcher-A's, Reds, 1914-1920

"Ruth was great too, but he was different. Totally different – easygoing, friendly. There was only one Babe Ruth. He went on the ball field like he was playing in a cow pasture, with cows for an audience. He never knew what fear or nervousness was. He played by instinct, sheer instinct. He wasn’t smart, he didn’t have any education, but he never made a wrong move on a baseball field. One of the greatest pitchers of all time, and then he became a great judge of a fly ball, never threw to the wrong base when he was playing the outfield, terrific arm, good base runner, could hit the ball twice as far as any other human being. He was like a damn animal. He had that instinct. They know when it's going to rain, things like that. Nature, that was Ruth!"

Charlie Barry, Athletics, catcher

"Ruth thought there was a lot more to baseball than hitting home runs. He was a ballplayer."

Lee Allen, writer

"So Babe could do everything required of a player. His strong left arm provided a wonderful weapon when he became an outfielder, and few were the runners who dared test it. In most ball parks right field is the sun field and in order to prolong his career, the Yankee management usually played him in left field when the club was on the road. But at Yankee Stadium it is left field that bears the heaviest burden of the sun, so when the New York team was at home, Babe could most often be found in right.

Owing to the necessity for avoiding the rays of the afternoon sun as much as possible, the grandstand of Yankee Stadium had to face the northeast. This made left field the sun field, and Ruth was to be used mostly in right when the Yankees were at home."

Waite Hoyt

"Will there ever be another Ruth? Don't be silly! Oh, sure, somebody may come along some day who will hit more than 60 home runs in a season or more than 714 in a career, but that won't make him another Ruth. The Bambino's appeal was to the emotions. Don't tell me about Ruth; I've seen what he did to people. I've seen them – fans – driving miles in open wagons through the prairies of Oklahoma to see him in exhibition games as we headed north in the spring. I've seen them: kids, men, women, worshipers all, hoping to get his famous name on a torn, dirty piece of paper, or hoping to get a grunt of recognition when they said, 'H'ya, Babe.' He never let them down; not once! He was the greatest crowd pleaser of them all! It wasn't so much that he hit home runs, it was how he hit them and the circumstances under which he hit them. Another Ruth? Never!"

George Dauss

"I have pitched a ball to Ruth that was at least a foot and a half off the plate on the outside. But Babe reached out with those long arms of his and pulled the ball into the right field stand."

Babe Ruth

"They tell me I swing the heaviest bat in baseball. It's not only heavy but long, about as long as the law allows. And it weighs 52 ounces. Most bats weigh under 40. My theory is the bigger the bat the faster the ball will travel. It's really the weight of the bat that drives the ball, and I like a heavy bat. I have strength enough to swing it, and when I meet the ball, I want to feel that I have something in my hands that will make it travel.

Do you see these hands? I got those (callouses) from gripping this old war club. When I am out after a homer, I try to make much of this solid ash handle and I carry through with the bat. You know, in boxing when you hit a man, your fist usually stops right there. But it is possible to hit a man so hard that your fist doesn't stop. When I carry through with the bat, it is for the same reason. The harder you grip the bat, the faster the ball will travel."

Chester Thomas, Red Sox catcher

"Babe hits the ball so hard, that is does things no other batter can make it do. A line drive from his bat over the infielder's heads will take a quick drop to the ground and carom off at a strange angle. If he hits the ball on the ground, it seldom bounds true because there is so much English on it."

The New York Times describing Ruth's first career home run off Jack Warhop, Thursday May 6, 1915

"For Boston, the big left-handed pitcher, Babe Ruth, was all that a pitcher was supposed to be and more. He put his team into the running with a home run rap into the upper tier in right field…First up in the third, with no apparent effort, he slammed a home run into the stands."

Babe Ruth, interviewed for Baseball Magazine, February, 1918

"When I was a kid, I used to play baseball most of the time. There was no 154-game schedule for us. The year that we didn't get in more than 200 games was a slack season. On most good days, when we had the time, we staged a doubleheader and sometimes on Sundays we had three games. I wasn't a pitcher in those days until I was pretty nearly through my course. My main job was catching behind the bat. I also played first base and the outfield. Three hundred averaged didn't cut much ice in those days. I used to hit .450 or .500. I kept track one season and found that I made over 60 home runs. The last two years I pitched and got along pretty well. But I never lost my taste for hitting and don't ever expect to."

Ben Egan (Caught Ruth in 1914 Orioles camp in Fayetteville)

"Forget him? How can I ever forget him? It would be pleasant to say that I developed Ruth as a pitcher, but that would be nothing but hogwash. Babe knew how to pitch the first day I saw him. I didn't have to tell him anything. He even knew how to hold runners on base. Believe me, those priests at that school he went to must have taught him something. Or maybe he taught himself. I don't know. All I know is he was the best-looking kid I'd ever seen and I couldn't wait to tell Dunnie about him.

You see, Dunn wasn't at that camp when we opened up. He had put me in charge of the team, but there was also a coach, Sam Steinman, who took it upon himself to issue orders to the players. One day, when it rained, he told us all to work out in the armory, in a room so small we were all in danger of being skulled by thrown balls. That made me mad, so I sent a wire to Dunn in Baltimore and told him there was dissension and that he had better get down there.

Two days later he showed up, and one of his first things he said to me was, 'Ben, how does that kid from the orphanage look?' and I said, 'Dunnie, you won't be able to keep him a half-season. He's got wonderful control, just perfect, and he can hit a ball a mile, but he's a wild kid.'

'What do you mean, wild?' Dunn asked, and I said, 'Oh, he's just high spirited.'

Just then, as we were walking down the street, Ruth came along on a bicycle, tried to pas a hay wagon and crashed into the back of it. When we got to him, he was laying there in the street. 'Kid,' Dunn told him, 'if you want to go back to that home, just keep riding those bicycles.'

Ruth wasn't a bad kid, just wild. If he saw a bicycle on the street, he'd get on it and ride off. One morning he found a horse hitched to a post, so he mounted it, rode down the sidewalk and right smack into a Greek confectionery, scattering the employees and the customers all over the place.

I remember the game especially against the Phillies. Ruth was pitching, and Josh Devore was in right field for the Phils. I was a base runner on second, and Sherry Magee, who was playing second, kept beckoning Devore to come in more so he could nab me at the plate if Ruth should single. But Babe then hit the ball so far over Devore's head we never could find out where it landed. The ball struck in a potato patch, but it rained during the night, and when we went out the next morning to see if we could find the ball, we found it was impossible to locate it."

Miller Huggins, Winter of 1920

"Babe is nearly made of iron than any other player I ever saw. I believe he could suffer a broken leg and still go out there and hit home runs. Several times last season he took his place in the field and hit home runs while suffering intense physical pain from a strained back, and later in the season while his mosquito bit was threatening him with blood poisoning. In all my twenty years in the game I never before came upon a player who was even willing to take such risks, much less going through with them."

Umpire Billy Evans (Spring of 1921 when asked about Ruth's chances of breaking his homer record)

"Well, now, I just don't know. I really doubt that he will ever hit more than fifty-four; but after all, I didn't think he would ever hit more than his twenty-nine. But I know this much – every one of his fifty-four was earned. I think he hit twenty of them at the Polo Grounds and only two went into the lower stand."

Babe Ruth, winter of '25

"I am through all right. Through with the pests and the good-time guys who’ve cost me a quarter of a million dollars. I'm going to make good all over again. I used to get sore when people called me a sap and tried to steer me right. They told me about John L. Sullivan and what happened to him, but I just laughed to myself. I was going to be the exception, the popular hero who could do as he pleased. But all those people were right. Now, though, I know that if I am going to wind up sitting pretty on the world I've got to face the facts and admit I have been the sappiest of saps."

Colonel Ruppert, spring of '26

"I never saw Babe in better condition. Babe learned a lesson last year when he clashed with Huggins. He admitted his mistake manfully and is willing to make amends. It would be unfair to other players to say that the success of the Yankees depends entirely on Ruth's comeback. But batting like he did in 1924 and playing every day, he will help the team wonderfully."

Taken from a Buck O'neil PBS interview

Q-Is there one moment in all of baseball you wish you could have seen?

"I wish I could have been there when Babe Ruth pointed and hit the ball out of the ballpark in the 1932 World Series. I wish I could have seen that. But I did see something I admired just about as much, with Satchel Paige and Babe Ruth. This was in Chicago, after Ruth came out of the major leagues. He was barnstorming, playing with different teams, and he played us. Satchel was pitching and Ruth was hitting. Satchel threw Ruth the ball and Ruth hit the ball, must have been 500 feet, off of Satchel. Satchel looked at Ruth all the way around the bases and when Ruth got to home plate, you know who shook his hand? Satchel Paige shook Ruth's hand at home plate.
They stopped the game and waited, he and Satchel talking, until the kid went out, got the ball, brought it back and Satchel had Babe Ruth autograph that ball for him. That was some kind of moment."

Walter Johnson on The Babe

"He is tall, heavy and strong. His weight is in his shoulders, where it will do him the most good. He is a tremendously powerful man...He grasps the bat with an iron grip and when he meets the ball, he follows through with his full strength and weight. For his size, Joe Jackson is as hard a hitter as Ruth, but that margin of 30 pounds in weight and enormous reserve strength enables Ruth to give the ball that extra punch, which drives it further than anybody else."

Ruth's 12th homer in 1920 was spectacular. It was the first homer Walter had allowed in over 2 years. It came with 2 men on, in the sixth inning of a 7-7 game, and gave the Yanks a 10-7 win. Johnson threw a hard curve and Ruth hit the ball off the facade of the Polo Grounds roof. The Times the next day reported that the ball "nearly tore away part of the roof." The hype machine was in full force, and Ruth's play gave them no reason not to.

More Walter on Babe from Baseball Magazine -

"Ruth is the hardest hitter in the game. There can be no possible doubt on that point. He hits the ball harder and drives it further than any man I ever saw. And old timers whose memory goes back to days when baseball was little more than 'rounders,' tell me they have never seen his equal."

Johnson contemplates "Ruthmania" -

"There was an odd angle to the Memorial Day games which illustrate what a curious sport baseball really is. In the first encounter, Duffy Lewis smashed a home run into the stands, which tied up the score. There was very little commotion. A minute later, Truck Hannah drove out another homer, which won the game. The excitement was nothing unusual. Then in the second game, Ruth hit his home run when the game is already won, and there is particularly nothing at stake, and the crowd gets so crazy with excitement, they are ready to tear up the stands. Strange, isn't it?"

"People have asked me if I didn't consider Babe Ruth the greatest of natural hitters. I certainly do not. There are many times when Babe looks terrible at bat. I've seen him miss a ball by two feet. Nobody ever saw Joe Jackson miss a ball two feet. Babe has his particular specialty where no one can equal him. He can hit a ball harder than anybody who ever lived. But why go outside that specialty and make claims for him that aren't true?

Babe is certainly a terrific slugger. No one can convince me that his equal ever lived since baseball graduated from the rounders stage. I, for one, do not expect to live long enough to see any other player come up who can hit the ball, day in and day out, as hard as Ruth. Some kind friends have claimed that Lou Gehrig can hit the ball nearly as hard as Babe. Perhaps he can, but if so, it's just nearly. Gehrig may be second best, but he's not and never will be Babe's equal in sheer slugging." (Walter Johnson interview, Baseball Magazine, October, 1929)

"Babe Ruth is the most dangerous hitter I ever saw, but he is not the best hitter. Like Ty Cobb, Babe has other talents which help out his batting. He is so big and strong that sheer strength works for him just as speed worked for Ty Cobb. Ty would beat out an infield hit by fast footwork. Babe will beat out an infield hit by sheer strength, for he will top a ball and still drive it through the infield for a hit." (Walter Johnson, Baseball Magazine, June, 1925, pp. 291)

Jimmy Reese, Babe's roomate with the Yanks in 1930

I went with Babe to visit St. Mary's, and they took us into a room with straps lined up against a wall. They said, "These are the straps we used on Babe Ruth."
In one game against Cleveland, manager Tris Speaker had Babe walked with the bases loaded, two outs, and his team only leading by two runs. That's how much they thought of Babe.
I couldn't sleep because the phone rang all night long - and none of the calls were for me. In the middle of the night, Babe would come strolling in the room and say, "What's goin' on?" I'd respond, "Oh nothing, except that I have about four hundred phone messages for you."
We were scuffling in the clubhouse one day before a ballgame when Babe decided to lock me in a locker. It so happened that he hit a home run that afternoon. He came up to me and said, "Well, you're going in the locker again tomorrow." He did that for three consecutive days, because he hit a home run all three days. It got to the point where I was hoping he wouldn't hit one out of the park, because I was getting tired of being locked in that locker.
We were playing pool one night in his apartment, and he owed me twenty dollars. Mrs. Ruth comes in the room and says, "Babe, dinner is ready." Babe said, "I can't go until I get even." After he won the next game, he said, Okay, now we can eat." He just didn't like to lose. Another time, he wouldn't let Lou Gehrig go to sleep until he got even in a game of bridge.
On golf: He could hit the ball four hundred miles, but he had no control. They said they shouldn't charge him green fees, because he never used the course.

Ben Chapman, Yankees outfielder, 1930-1934

It was always in the paper and I agreed with them: "As Babe goes, so go the Yankees." In other words, he was the bell cow.
I don't think anyone hit'em as far as Babe did. He was the first one to put a ball into orbit.
The farthest home run I ever saw him hit was in Birmingham. It went completely out of the stadium and over the railroad tracks. I've never seen anybody hit a ball like that. You couldn't measure most of Babe's, because they went 475 to 500 feet on the average. If he were playing today, he'd hit 90 home runs.
I remember him hitting that first home run in the 1933 All-Star game, because I replaced him in the outfield that day. He hit that one about nine miles.
I had some disagreements with Babe because he would always make me play the sun field. If it was right field, then I played there. I really didn't mind as long as I was getting to play every day.

Lefty Gomez, Yankees pitcher, 1930-1943

I think it's safe to say that no one hit home runs the way Babe did. They were something special. They were like homing pigeons. The ball would leave the bat, pause briefly, suddenly gain its bearings, then take off for the stands.
One time we were driving through puddles in St. Petersburg when Babe's car stalled because the wires were soaked. You know who ended up pushing that car to the gas station? Me! Babe sat behind the wheel and laughed, "Faster, Gomez, faster!"
When Babe was dying of cancer, I remember total strangers stopping in front of the hospital to say a prayer for him.

Mark Koenig, Yankees shortstop, 1925-1930

He had such a beautiful swing, he even looked good striking out.
On Babe's third hr in the third game of the 1926 World Series: The pitcher had Babe struck out, but the umpire ruled the pitcher had "quick pitched" him or something, so he called it a ball. Wouldn't you know, Babe hit the very next pitch into the right field stands for his third homer of the game.

Bill Klem, home-plate umpire for the third game of the 1926 World Series

The three home runs Babe hit in that game were the three farthest balls I ever saw hit.

Eliot Asinof, author, Eight Men Out

When I was eight years old, my father would take me to Yankee Stadium. I distinctly remember Babe Ruth hitting home runs early in the game, prompting about half the fans to head for the exits. All they wanted was to see Babe Ruth hit a home run.

Johnny Vander Meer, Reds pitcher, 1937-1949

He may have had a hang-up on name, but he had a fantastic memory for faces and places. If he went by a road or town once, he wouldn't need a road map the next time. He had an incredible memory from eyesight.
He would always wave the right way or say the right things. He used to drive around in this sixteen-cylinder Cadillac that had to be close to thirty feet long. One day, Babe and I were racing through the Catskills. There happened to be a policeman parked on the side of the road who recognized Babe and yelled , "Hi ya, Babe!"
Well, I'm right behind him, and as soon as the cop sees me, he flags me down for speeding. Babe saw what happened, whipped his car around and came to my rescue. "It's okay, officer," he said confidently. "He's with me."

Joe Sewell, Yankees third baseman, 1931-1933

One day we were playing in St. Louis, and Babe hit one across Grand Avenue and on top of a three story building. I was on first base and I stopped before I got to second to watch it. That was the farthest ball I ever saw hit. It must have been a half-mile high.
When Babe hit sixty home runs in 1927, no one even pitched to him. I played for the Indians back then, and we threw the ball in the dirt, behind his back, over his head, anywhere but over the plate. If everyone pitched to him, he would've hit 100.
I was in New YOrk the day they retired his uniform. Babe came into the clubhouse with his attendant, and I turned and said to my son, "Go over and get a good look at him, because he's not going to be with us much longer." He did about three months later.
I got five hits in five times at bat against Lefty Grove, and I was a left-handed hitter. My fifth hit that day was a home run into the right-field stands. Up until this point, Babe had failed to hit a home run. I'll never forget Babe waiting for me at home plate. He shook my hand and said, "Well kid, they call came out to see me hit a home run today, and you picked me up." He was a tremendous team player who thought a lot of his fellow man.

Hank Greenberg, Tigers first baseman, 1933-1946

I had the good fortune of playing two years against Babe Ruth. He was in a class by himself. He overshadowed Foxx, Gehrig and the rest of them. Ruth was the only player I knew that when he came out on the field, everybody stopped. It was like the star came on center stage. When he went to take batting practice, nobody looked at anything but Babe. When you've got that type of magnetism, you know you're the star.

Bob Lemon, Indians pitcher, 1941-1958

When I was twelve years old, I played hooky from school and rode my bicycle fourteen miles to Long Beach, California, just to get Babe Ruth's autograph. After the exhibition, in which Babe hit about two dozen balls out of the park, he was signing balls in the parking lot. I couldn't believe who was standing next to him waiting for an autograph - my father. I rode like hell to get home before he did. In later years we used to practice with that ball when Dad wasn't around. He kept looking at it from time to time and wondering why the name on theball kept fading.

Bill Dickey, Yankees catcher, 1928-1944

I saw him hit balls so high to the infield that nobody wanted to catch them. The players would fall down and Babe would end up with a triple.
I was scared to death of Ruth and Gehrig. I was trying to hit the ball as far as them, and I could never do that as long as I live. Miller Huggins came up to me and said, "You're trying to hit the ball as far as Ruth and Gehrig, aren't you?" I said, "Yes sir." Huggings then told me to get an Earle Combs model, choke up on the bat, and hit to all fields. It really helped me.
I came into the clubhouse one day and my shoes were nailed to the floor. The only guy there was Tony Lazzeri, and he told me Babe had done it. Back in those days shoes cost sixteen dollars a pair, which was a lot of money. I was a rookie and really didn't know what to do.
The next day I bought myself an egg and put it in one of Babe's shoes. Everyone in the clubhouse knew what I was up to and waited anxiously for Babe to come in. We all watched as Babe got dressed, and, wouldn't you know, the last thing he put on was the shoe with the egg in it. You could see his face clearly, as he looked around in disbelief. He turned the shoe upside down and emptied the egg out onto the floor. He got really mad and turned red. Then he walked to the opposite end of the clubhouse looking for the guilty party.
Well, I called out in this little fine voice, "Babe, I put that egg in your shoe." He turned around real fast and came running right up to me. I thought he was gonna take a swing at me, but all of a sudden he broke out in a big laugh, and all you could hear was laughter throughout the clubhouse.
We were riding through my home town in Arkansas on a train, when all of a sudden the train comes to a halt. do you know, the people in town found out Babe was on that train and had flagged it down?

Mel Allen, Yankees broadcaster, 1930s-1980s

The first time I saw Babe Ruth play was in Detroit against the Tigers. I was only a teenager at the time but I'll never forget that day.
The Yankees were trailing by about five runs when Babe made the final out in the top of the eighth inning. After the Tigers were retired in their half of the eighth, Babe ran in from the outfield and sat on the Tigers bench: laughing, knee slapping, and having a good time. You really weren't allowed to sit in the opposing dugout, but the umpires let it go because it was Babe.
Well, in the top of the ninth, the Yankees stage a big rally and bat around. All of a sudden it's Babe's turn to hit again. The bases were loaded when he stepped to the plate and hit the first pitch deep over the center-field fence. The Yankees scored six runs or so in the inning and went on to win the game. I'll never forget how Babe laughed like crazy as he ran around the bases.
Many people have told me that the reason they brought their infants to see Babe, as he lay in state in the rotunda of Yankee Stadium, was because one day they wanted to tell them they saw the great Babe Ruth.

Honus Wagner, 1924

No all-American team would be complete without Babe Ruth, either as a regular or extra man. His hitting alone gives him a place. And, let me tell you, Ruth is a much better fielder and a faster man on base than a lot of people think. He looks slow on account of his immense size, but that boy can get about. Babe Ruth is without a doubt the longest hitter that baseball ever knew.

I have seen all the long range boys but nobody in the world could ever hit a ball like Ruth. Many pitchers are justly afraid of pitching to Ruth. They fear he may hit a ball directly back at them that would be fatal. They pass him for that reason as any other. If I had him in the two-three hole you can bet I'd let him walk rather than put one in the groove.

Bucky Harris, Washington Manager

"He could beat you single-handed, had good baseball instinct and brought into the game something that nobody else had."

Rube Walberg

"He could hit any kind of pitching and field with the best of the outfielders. If the score was tied and the Yankees needed a stolen base to put them in scoring position, the Babe would be the boy to deliver it although he wasn't a Ty Cobb on the base paths."

Waite Hoyt, picking greatest of all time

"I pick Ruth for all-round unlimited general skill and drawing ability."

Lawton (Whitey) Witt

"He made few mistakes on the playing field, and how he could hit."

Jimmie Foxx, picking greatest of all time

"Ty was about washed up when I came up, while Ruth was the hottest man in the majors. I'd say Babe Ruth."

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posted on Oct, 3 2006 @ 04:53 AM
Dear Sultan,

Excuse me while I preach to the choir for a few minutes here:

The 11/38 HR splits for Ruth's Fenway years (1914-1919) don't begin to tell the whole story of how he got screwed statistically in those years, and the gargantuan prices his lifetime stats paid, as a result.

Those splits accurately reflect the Yellowstone Park dimensions of Fenway's right field in those days, to be sure. I'd guess most of Ruth's 11 HR's there were inside-the-park jobs, though maybe he hit a few over the LF fence or a couple of monster blasts to CF. But two other huge factors are left out of the 11/38 home-road splits during his 5.25 Fenway years:

(1) He was primarily a pitcher--almost entirely so until 1918--and thus didn't get anywhere near the number of AB's an everyday player would have gotten. Who knows how many opportunities for key hits, RBI's, etc., this cost him? And...

(2) He had to hit a pathetically dead ball, one which grew more so as the game progressed.

Take those two factors away, plus give him the laughable mini-strike zone of today, and--well, you may still have a better than 2-1 ratio of road HR's to home HR's for those years. But you'll have a ton more plate appearances, and the high percentage of his rocket blasts that go in the air will travel a great deal farther than they did. Instead of having 38 HR's on the road for those 5.25 seasons, he'd have had 100 to 125. He'd have had at LEAST that many in a fair home park, and more like 150 in the Polo Grounds, and I think he'd have managed to put up at least 75 in Fenway in those 5.25 years. That's about 200 HR's, which is about 151 more, and that's not even counting the monumental effects on his career slugging, on-base percentage, runs, RBI's, etc.

People--especially those who whine about Williams' missed seasons due to WWII and Korea--just don't realize what an enormous price Ruth paid for being: (1) a pitcher for 4.25 years; (2) a Dead Ball Era hitter for 5.25 years in his tremendous youthful prime; and (3) stuck in Fenway, pre-RF bleachers, when it was an eye-popping, hopeless distance to RF even with a live ball, much less with the b.s. "baseball" Ruth had to hit.

Give him a real park, a real baseball and the chance to hit every day for those 5.25 years, and Williams' missed seasons would be academic. Ruth's career slugging percentage would be about .740, which would be 106 points higher than Williams' second-place figure (instead of the "mere" 56 points by which it's now #2). There wouldn't be enough HGH and steroids at BALCO for McGwire, Bonds and others to touch what #3 did. Nor, with all due enormous respect, could the vastly less talented but never-injured and oh-so-steady Hank Aaron--a man Bonds-lovers have found it de rigeur to bash for crimes 1/1,000th those of Bonds'--have ever caught up to Ruth's career HR title.


posted on Oct, 3 2006 @ 09:22 PM
I agree with you BHN, and its why I made a point to post his HR number for his years in Boston that clearly show every year he either led the league in HR, or had the best ratio in the league. This despite being a pitcher with his focus split, and being a lefty with a deadball in a graveyard.

This should help put things into perspective. Let's just look at 1919 when he hit 9 road homers and 20 home homers. His 20 road homers came in 232 AB. That ratio is one every 8.62 AB, which, translated over a full season (550 AB) comes to 47 homers. That's how much Fenway killed him.


Opening day homer in 1919 was an inside the parker in New York. The ball took a bounce and got by Lewis in center.

May 20, 1919 - First grand slam of the year (as you know, he set the record that year with four) came in St. Louis. The ball landed on Grand Avenue in right center, which was said to be the second longest ever hit there. The first longest, was courtesy of guess who, three years earlier.

May 30, 1919 - At Shibe Park, Babe starts the first game of a double header and pitches to a 10-6 win, despite giving up 12 hits including a HR to Tilly Walker. In this first game he had a double and two singles in five AB, but hit the longest foul (or fair) home run anyone had ever seen. It went to right field...going over the fence and across the street, landing on top of a 20th St. building, and finally touching down on Lehigh Avenue. In the second game he played left-field. In the first inning he hit a pop-up so high to the shortstop, that Red Shannon got dizzy and Babe ended up at second with a double. He came to bat in the eighth inning and was being heckled pretty bad by the Philadelphia crowd because he'd been struck out in the last AB. This time would be different, as he hit a long homer over the right-field fence for a dinger.

June 7, 1919 - At Fenway, hits three run shot into the right-field bleachers and is intentionally walked in his next AB.

June 17, 1919 - Homers at Fenway in the sixth inning.

June 30, 1919 - This was hit off Shawkey in the Polo Grounds and must have been extremely gratifying for Ruth. On June 28, with the Sox down 4-1 and two men on base, the Yanks brought Shawkey in to face Ruth and sent him down on a strikeout. This time though, the bases were loaded with Shawkey on the hill and Ruth made him pay.

July 5, 1919 - Hits two homers in one game for the first time in his career. Something he would go on to do 71 more times. At Fenway, his two homers came in the eighth and tenth innings, the second of which was his first HR to left-field that year. It was his ninth dinger and tied Cravath for the league lead. The Post wrote after this game, that if Ruth played in a smaller park like Cravath did, that he would hit a home run per day.

July 12, 1919 - After blasting a home run in the previous game, Babe goes yard again in the third inning. This came off just- brought-in-for-relief, Dave Danforth (relieved Dickie Kerr) and was Babe's eleventh homer of the year. It was "Ruthian" even by his standards, landing well beyond the fence just left of centerfield in Chicago. Based on where the ball landed, a paper the next day pointed out that the homer would have been a long one for even a right handed batter. In the ninth inning he hit a deep drive that was caught just in front of the right field wall by Shano Collins. He also had a single and a double, but the long homer to left meant that he had now homered in every AL park at least once in his career.

July 18, 1919 - Two homers in a game for the second time that year, and in his career. Babe came up in the fourth inning at Cleveland with a runner on, and according to the Post, he "sent the sphere flying over the rooftops on Lexington Avenue." In the ninth inning with the bases loaded and the Sox down 7 – 4, Cleveland manager Lee Fohl brought in lefty reliever Fritz Coumbe and ordered him to keep the ball down. Didn't work. Babe blasted another grand slam and this homer went even further than his first. It gave the Sox a 8 – 7 win and the next day Fohl resigned, which gave Speaker a shot to manage.

July 21, 1919 - Carl Mays was still away from the team. Ruth was forced to make a pitching start at Detroit. Through four innings he pitched well. In the third he walked Veach on a questionable call by umpire Dineen, and Ruth and Veach then exchanged some words, nearly resulting in a fight. Babe came from that heated argument to strike-out Heilmann, but his shortstop made two very costly errors. Down 6-1 in the ninth inning, he hit a solo HR over the rightfield wall and onto Trumball Ave. It was the longest homerun ever seen in Detroit.

July 24, 1919 - Fenway homer into the right-field bleachers on a 1-2 count off Bob Shawkey. Before the pitch, shortstop Peckinpaugh reportedly yelled, "You've got his number, burn the ball over and get him easy."

July 29, 1919 - At home against Detroit, Babe had already doubled twice in the game. He came to the plate with two outs in the bottom of the ninth and sent a Dutch Leonard offering into the centerfield bleachers at Fenway.

August 14, 1919 - Ruth goes 3 for 4 with a HR and two singles. His homer came in the seventh and cleared the right-field wall at Comiskey easily, landing in a nearby soccer field.

August 16, 1919 - Still at Comiskey, Ruth hits another one easily out of Comiskey to right, going even further than the one the day before. The Boston Post - "Babe took his full swing, which has any swing beaten since the famous Casey fanned, but big Babe didn't fan. He hit the ball a way up and way out."

August 17, 1919 - Babe pitches the first game of a double header at St. Louis. He goes the distance for the 2-1 victory. In the second game of the double header he played left-field and hit a two run homer in the first inning. They won that one 6-1.

August 23, 1919 - In Detroit Ruth hits his fourth grand slam of the year (a record that would stand for more than forty years). It was the longest homer ever seen at Navin Field. During this game another cool thing happened. Cobb, Heilmann, and Chick Shorten pulled off a triple steal with Cobb scoring on the front end.

August 24, 1919 - Still in Detroit, Babe get the pitching assignment and homers in his first AB. He also adds a solo shot in the sixth inning. Despite the two homers, the game went to extra innings, and in the eleventh inning, he came up with Hooper on base and drove him in with a single. Sox win 8-7.

August 25, 1919 - Babe hits another homer in Detroit, his fourth in three days and his 23rd of the year. He also singled and the Sox won 5-4.

Sept 1, 1919 - At home, he pitched in the first game of a double header and pitched a complete game 2-1 victory. In the seventh inning of the second game, with the score tied at one, he homered deep into the right-field bleachers. The Sox went on to win, and after the game Ruth was carried on fans' shoulders back to the dugout.

Sept 5, 1919 - At Shibe Park the Sox rolled. During the game they turned a triple play and set a ML record with 25 hits. Babe was 5 for 6 with a HR and double. His homer came in the third inning and landed on 21st Street. This 25th homer tied Freeman's record and came on the fifth anniversary of his first professional HR. In his next AB he hit a liner about six inches from the top of the wall and got a double.

Sept. 20, 1919 - Pitched the first game of a double header at Fenway. He gave up three runs and nine hits when he was brought out in the sixth inning. The reason he was taken out...Hap Felsch had just doubled. There's a trivia answer for ya, the question of course being, what happened on Ruth's last pitch ever with the Red Sox. Anyway, Barrow took Ruth out and sent him to left-field in order to keep his bat in the lineup. It payed off. With the score tied at three in the ninth inning with one out, Ruth hit a low Lefty Williams pitch over the left-field wall for a game winning homer. Between games Buck Weaver passed by the Boston bench and commented, "That was the most unbelievable poke I ever saw." In the second game Ruth hit a long drive that supposedly bounced in the bleachers, but was only given a double by umpire Billy Evans.

Sept 24, 1919 - Homer 28 broke Williamson's record, and according to accounts, was the longest ever hit at the Polo Grounds, clearing a distant section of the roof. As typical of Ruth, it came in dramatic fashion, in the ninth inning with the Sox down 1 – 0. It tied the score, but the Sox eventually lost the game in the 13th inning.

Boston Globe the next day: "Babe Crashes Most Sensational Ever Hit at Polo Grounds. The ball cleared the roof and landed in Manhattan Field among a group of Native Americans playing lacrosse."

Sept 27, 1919 - This homer off Rip Jordan in the third inning at Washington, cleared the 45 foot wall in right field by a good 20 feet. It not only extended his new record by one HR, but it gave him a couple other things. He met his goal of homering in every park in the AL during the year, and it gave him the distinction of having hit the longest HR in every park as well. This HR could be an answer to another trivia question, the question being, what did Ruth do with his final official hit as a Red Sox player? After going 0 for 1 in game 2, he was replaced in left field by Roth, and didn't play in the final game of the season. He played an exhibition game in Baltimore on the 29th with Barrow's permission, instead of playing in the finale.


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