While major league baseball
ebbs and flows in 2004, losing fan appeal as it flounders on the shores of greed, over a century ago a saloon keeper's son who set the standards was
born.Sportznewz takes a look at legend Babe Ruth. Though George Herman Ruth Jr. was born in 1895 and died in 1948, his life passed into immortality
The reason is simple,For anyone who ever played the game, Babe Ruth remains the measuring stick. Every debate that raises the question, Who is the
greatest ball-player? must soon switch to, Who is the second greatest ballplayer? There is really no doubting the first. In the self inflicted
misfortune surrounding major league baseball this year, over 100 years after Ruth's birth, his legend continues to grow.
George Herman Ruth Jr. was born on February 6, 1895, at 216 Emory Street in south Baltimore. The house was rented by his maternal grandfather, Pius
Schamberger, a German immigrant who eked out a living as an upholsterer. Babe's mother and father, Kate and George senior, lived above the saloon they
owned and operated on Camden Street. Kate made the two and a half block journey to her father's home each time she gave birth to Babe and seven other
children. Six of Babe's siblings died at birth or in infancy.To say young George was mischievous would be an understatement. He was always getting
into trouble roughhousing and tossing tomatoes at police officers in the hardscrabble neighborhood surrounding his father's saloon. By age seven, he
was impossible for his parents to control or for his father, who put in long hours at the saloon, to discipline. As Babe's daughter Dorothy recalls,
his parents sent him to St. Mary's Industrial School to ensure that he learned a vocation. The strict institution a combination orphanage and reform
school was run by an order of Xavierian Brothers who taught Ruth how to make shirts and roll cigars.
In time he met Brother Matthias, a soft-spoken
giant whom the young boys of St. Mary's respected. Matthias coached the baseball team. Ruth caught for the team, pitched and spent hours taking
batting practice. Baltimore native and fan John Kremlisch recalls a game in which Ruth pitched for St. Mary's against annual rival Mt. St. Joseph's.
"The game was so big that my father told me to take off from school to see it," Kremlisch recalls. "Ruth struck out 14 boys that day, and St. Mary's
won." Kremlisch still recalls the line drives and "rainbows that defied gravity" that Ruth hit. By 1914, Ruth had carved out a reputation for pitching
and distance hitting. Then Jack Dunn, owner of the International League Baltimore Orioles, signed Ruth to his first professional contract. To sign
Ruth, Dunn had to assume Ruth's legal guardianship Ruth was 19 at the time and Dunn kept a protective eye on the rambunctious youth. As a result,
Ruth's teammates called him Jack Dunn's "baby," which local scribes recorded as "Babe." By midseason, Babe went to the Boston Red Sox in a cash
transaction that enabled the Orioles to stay competitive with the Baltimore Terrapins of the upstart Federal League, baseball's self dubbed "third
major league," which was siphoning talent from the National and American leagues.
Hurling for the Red Sox, Ruth soon became the league's best lefthanded pitcher. In his first three full seasons with the team he won 65 games and led
it to a World Championship in 1916. While Ruth earned a 94-46 career win-loss record, pitching was discovered to be the lesser weapon in his arsenal.
His arm was golden, but his bat was too thunderous to see action only every four days. So the Red Sox made him an outfielder. Before 1919 the modern
record for homers in a season belonged to Gabby Cravath of the Philadelphia Phillies, who had clouted 24 in 1915. But Ruth disposed of that in 1919
his first full season as a hitter by belting 29.Evidently it wasn't enough. While Ruth was changing the way baseball was played, Red Sox owner Harry
Frazee, who loved the theatrical stage more than the baseball diamond, was looking for a way to finance his Broadway plays.
On December 26, 1919, he signed a contract with Yankee owners Jacob Ruppert and Colonel Huston to sell the phenom to the New York Yankees for $125,000
plus a personal loan of $300,000. The $125,000 was more than double the price that had ever paid for a ballplayer.Despite Frazee's plaintive efforts
to explain his decision in the Boston press, there was no disguising his idiotic and short-sighted decision. He had traded the most promising player
in the major leagues, the man who would revolutionize the game. The Red Sox won five of the first 15 World Series, but the team hasn't won since 1918,
when Ruth pitched them to two victories. The loss of Ruth would be so crushing to the team that it would be 15 years before it achieved even .500
mediocrity again. More than 75 years later, die-hard Boston fans speak of a curse on their Sox. The team does seem to be cursed, Frazee's stupidity in
trading Ruth may have offended the baseball gods forever.
Babe Ruth was baseball. He was bigger than life,
a national hero who was most comfortable around the children who idolized him so much. He embraced the youth of America.Babe produced dozens of Major
League records, the most famous being his 1927 single-season home run total of 60 and his lifetime home run mark of 714. Although the records have
been broken, the Babe remains the unqualified home run king of baseball in the minds of everyone who follows the sport.Babe Ruth retired from baseball
in 1935.Ruth was nicknamed Babe by teammates on his first pro team, the Baltimore Orioles. Other nicknames included The Bambino and The Sultan of
Swat.The Red Sox have not won a World Series since selling Ruth to the Yankees, a result known as the Curse of the Bambino.Four Americans now have
surpassed Ruth's single-season home run record Maris, Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa and Barry Bonds.Slugger Sadaharu Oh hit 868 career home runs in Japan
from 1959-80, making him the international home run champ.Although the records have been broken, the Babe remains the unqualified home run king of
baseball in the minds of everyone who follows the sport.
On May 1st 1920 Babe hits his first home run
with the new York Yankees and ironically off his former team the Boston Red Sox.That year he finished the season with 54 homers,25 more than the
previous season despite not hitting any in the whole of April.Ruth won only one batting average title in 1924, but dominated the Twenties in most
other offensive categories. He led the league in HR every year from 1918 to 1931 except for two, 1922 when he finished 3rd and 1925 2nd. He led in RBI
six times, in on base percentage 10 times, and in slugging percentage 13 consecutive years from 1918-1931. He is the all-time career leader in SLG and
in OPS onbase + slugging percentage.What followed in 1921 was unheard of, 59 home runs, 171 runs batted in and 177 runs, all Major League records at
the time. And for the first time in club history, the Yankees were American League champions. Of course, everyone, including Ruth, was hitting a
livelier ball. But there wasn't anyone like Babe, who in 1920 hit more home runs than all the other teams in the league and led his closest competitor
in the individual race, George Sisler of the St. Louis Browns, 54 to 19. But in 1927, as the pivotal player on the greatest team of all time, he
launched his magical 60th home run, a number that would become the most legendary in all of baseball. Ruth had reached the top.
After the death of Yankees manager Miller
Huggins in 1929, Babe expressed an interest in managing the team. Joe McCarthey, former Chicago Cubs manager, was chosen instead. Babe and McCarthey
did not get along well, and Babe still harbored hopes to manage a Major League team, while continuing as the most popular player of all time. After 15
years in professional baseball, Babe had begun to slow down, but he was not finished yet. Perhaps the most famous moment of Babe's career and baseball
history came during 1932 World Series against the Chicago Cubs. It was the fifth inning of game three, and Babe had already hit one home run. Babe was
up to bat, and the count was two balls and two strikes. Before Cubs pitcher Charlie Root hurled the next pitch, amid the heckling of Cubs fans, Babe
pointed to the center field bleachers. Then he slammed the longest home run ever to be hit out of Wrigley Field, directly above the spot where he had
pointed. This story has reached mythic proportions, although it is much debated. Did he really call his shot, or was he simply pointing at the
pitcher? The world will never know, but to many this moment symbolizes the golden age of baseball. The Yankees went on to win the 1932 World Series,
their third sweep in four years.
In 1934, Ruth was released so he could sign with
the Boston Braves, a dismal club that hoped to attract more fans with the magical name of Ruth, who signed as player and vice president. On May 25, in
the imposing Forbes Stadium in Pittsburgh, Babe hit three massive home runs, numbers 712, 713 and 714. One week later, he retired. Ruth's relationship
with baseball did not end with his retirement. In 1938, he was a batting coach with the Brooklyn Dodgers and the main attraction during batting
practice. But after that, he never again wore a uniform as a salaried player. Ruth remains the symbol of baseball's home run power. The Yankee batter
is, for many, the epitome of baseball, a symbol etched in time.Babe spent his post-baseball years giving talks on the radio or in orphanages and
hospitals, and served as a spokesperson for United States War Bonds during World War II. After over two decades as a player in Major League Baseball,
Babe never realized his dream of becoming a manager. His legendary status as a player was acknowledged when he was among the first five inductees into
the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1936, along with Ty Cobb, Walter Johnson, Christy Mathewson and Honus Wagner. In the fall of 1946, Babe was diagnosed
with throat cancer and spent three months in the hospital. Babe's voice was impaired from the operations he received and he grew weak and frail. The
following year, April 27 was declared Babe Ruth Day. Babe's health continued to decline, and on June 13, 1948 he made his last appearance at the
stadium where his legend had been born, on the 25th anniversary of its opening. The Yankees retired his number 3 jersey, and that day was the last
time Babe ever wore it.
Babe Ruth died on August 16, 1948 at Memorial
Hospital in New York City at 53 years old. His body lay in state at the entrance of Yankee Stadium on August 17 and 18, and it is estimated that over
100,000 people came to see him. Thousands of fans surrounded New York's St. Patrick's Cathedral and the route to the Gate of Heaven Cemetery in
Hawthorne, New York on the day of his funeral, as the world mourned the passing of Babe Ruth. Of all the players in baseball history, none has ever
reached the mythic status of Babe Ruth. Since his death, Babe has continued to be formally recognized for his accomplishments. Among his other honors,
The Associated Press named Babe Athlete of the Century in 1999 and The Sporting News has named him the Greatest Player of All-Time. These awards,
along with many others Babe has received, reflect Babe's prominence as one of the greatest athletes in American history.
Full Name: George Herman Ruth, Jr.
Born: February 6, 1895, Baltimore, Maryland
Died: August 16, 1948, New York
Burial location: Gate of Heaven Cemetery in Hawthorne, New York
Weight: 215 lbs.
Nicknames: The Babe, The Great Bambino, The Sultan of Swat, The Home Run King
Occupation: Baseball player
Position: Outfield, Pitcher
Teams: 1913 Baltimore Orioles, 1914-19 Boston Red Sox, 1920-34 New
York Yankees, 1935 Boston Braves
Jersey number: 3 (New York Yankees, Boston Braves)
Married: Helen Woodford (1919-1929), Claire Hodgson (1929-1948).
Children: Dorothy (adopted with Helen); Julia (Claire's daughter from a previous marriage whom Babe later adopted)
Hobbies: golf, hunting, fishing, bowling, travel
First player to hit 50 home runs (54) in one season (1920).
First player to hit 60 home runs (60) in one season (1927).
Most home runs in the American League (708).
Most home runs for a left-handed batter in the Major Leagues (714).
Most home runs on opening days (6)
Most seasons as home run leader (12).
Most years with 50 or more home runs (4).
Most years with 40 or more home runs (11).
Most consecutive years with 40 or more home runs (7).
Most RBI's in the American League (2,192).
Most seasons as RBI leader (6).
Most games with two or more home runs in the Major Leagues (72).
MLB Players Statistics
Babe Ruth Museum
Babe Ruth League.org
National Baseball Hall of Fame
[Edited on 18/7/04 by TRD]