Babe Ruth, originally known as George Herman Ruth, is commonly referred to as the world’s first sports superstar and is one of the greatest baseball players of all time. His career spanned from 1914-1935 and his accomplishments are still held in high regard to this day.
Originally from Baltimore, Maryland, Babe Ruth learned the game of baseball at St. Mary’s Industrial school. By the age of 15 he was playing both pitcher and catcher for the school’s varsity team. This led to him being scouted and signed by the Baltimore Orioles of the International League at the age of 19. Babe Ruth’s parents gave his custody away to the school and in order for Ruth to be able leave school, he had to be formally adopted by Jack Dunn, owner of the Orioles. This led to people calling him Dunn’s baby, eventually earning him the nickname ‘Babe’ that stuck with him for the rest of his life.
After five months with the Orioles, Babe Ruth’s contract was sold to the Boston Red Sox. Ruth was mostly a pitcher during his three seasons in Boston and led the Red Sox to two World Series titles in 1917 and 1918. In 1919, Ruth began to develop a great reputation as a hitter and outfield became his primary position. That year the Red Sox were far behind in the pennant race and Babe Ruth’s contract was sold to the New York Yankees. At the time, the Red Sox were baseball’s preeminent organization, winning five titles in recent years and the Yankees had not yet captured baseball’s ultimate prize. Both team’s fortunes reversed after this transaction and the Red Sox remained without another World Series until 2004. Boston’s dry spell is often referred to as the ‘Curse of the Bambino’ by Red Sox fans as they blamed the Red Sox’s lack of success on the organization’s decision to trade Babe Ruth in 1919.
Babe Ruth’s career continued to be successful upon his arrival in New York. Primarily due to the presence of Ruth, the Yankees became the first team in baseball history to attract one million fans to a stadium during the 1920 season. Led by Babe Ruth, The Yankees won their first pennant in 1921, followed by another one in 1922 and captured their first World Series in 1923. That season, the Yankees opened the legendary Yankee Stadium and after Ruth hit the first home run on opening day , it became known as “The House that Ruth Built”. That reputation stood strong until the final game at Yankee stadium in 2008. In the following years, Babe Ruth became infamous for setting the single season home run record of 60 – a record that would not be broken until 1961, earning a salary higher than the President of the United States, and calling his shot by pointing to the outfield before a 500 foot home run at Wrigley Field during the 1932 World Series. Along the way, the Babe set multiple statistical records and became known for living a lavish lifestyle off the field.
In the mid 30’s, Babe Ruth’s production began to fall off and he ended his career with the Boston Braves in 1935. When he retired, his career total of 714 home runes was hundreds ahead of the next highest total and would not be topped until Hank Aaron hit his 715th home run in 1974. His career slugging average of .690 is still the highest career total to this day. Upon his retirement, Babe Ruth was one of the six members to be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame’s first class in 1936. In 1946, Ruth was diagnosed with a cancerous tumor on his neck and passed away on August 16, 1948. Before his death, baseball fans honored him on April 27, 1947 by declaring is Babe Ruth Day for every baseball league in the United States. As well, his jersey was retired during his last appearance at Yankee Stadium on June 13, 1948. Over 100,000 people attended his funeral at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City and he is honored as one of five Yankees to have a granite monument within the current stadium.
The impact of Babe Ruth was felt many years after his death and his memory still lives on to this day. He was named baseball’s Greatest Player Ever in a ballot commemorating the 100th anniversary of professional baseball, in 1969. In 1983, the United States Postal Service honored Ruth by issuing a 20 cent stamp with his picture on it. The Associated Press reported in 1993 that Muhammad Ali was tied with Babe Ruth as the most recognized athletes in America .In 1998, The Sporting News ranked him number one on the list of “Baseball’s 100 Greatest Players”. In 1999, baseball fans named Babe Ruth to the Major League Baseball All-Century Team. In a 1999 ESPN poll, he was ranked as the second-greatest U.S. athlete of the century, behind Michael Jordan.
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