Babe Ruth

Most of Babe Ruth’s records have been broken. In 1961, not only did Roger Maris break The Babe’s 34-year-old record for most home runs in a season with 61* (2001), but Maris’ teammate on the ’61 Yankees, pitcher Whitey Ford broke the Babe’s 43-year-old record for most scoreless innings pitched in a World Series when the Yankees dispatched the Reds that year in the postseason. (When asked how it felt to have beat the Babe’s “other” record, Whitey responded, “It was a bad year for the Babe”.)

Though Barry Bonds now holds the record for most home runs in a season (73), most home runs in a career (762), highest slugging percentage, most intentional walks, etc., The Babe still must be considered the greatest player who ever graced the game. In addition to his record 12 home run titles, his 13 slugging titles, his six R.B.I. titles, and his solo batting title (.378 in 1934; The Babe placed in the top five hitters in terms of batting average eight times, including a career high of .393 in 1923, when Harry Heilmann hit .403), The Babe won 18, 23 and 24 games as a left-handed pitcher for the Boston Red Sox in 1915, 1916 and 1917, and won the American League E.R.A. title in ’16. He set his first home run title in 1918, another year the Sox won the World Series, as a part-time position player and part-time pitcher, notching up 11 homers and nine wins. George Herman Ruth likely will remain the sole player in major league baseball history to win batting, home run, R.B.I., slugging *and* E.R.A. titles, plus eat a dozen hot dogs and drink the better part of a keg of bootleg “needle” beer before suiting up for a game.

From 1914 to 1919, The Babe played for the Boston Red Sox, with whom he appeared on three World’s Championship teams. Sold to the New York Yankees by Red Sox owner and theatrical impresario Harry Frazee, he led the then-crownless American League franchise in Gotham to seven A.L. pennants and four World Series titles from 1920-1934. He played out his string with the Boston Braves in 1935; even a washed-up Babe was still able to pole three circuit clouts in one game before calling it quits after 28 games and six dingers in that last season. The following year, he was one of the inaugural inductees into the Baseball Hall of Fame. Yes, the Babe was mighty, and he did prevail more often than naught except over one opponent: Father Time.

The Babe ended his 22 years in the Big Leagues with 2,873 hits good for a career batting average of .342, 714 home runs, 2,217 R.B.I.s, and 2,174 runs scored in 2,503 games. (From his debut in 1914 through the 1918 season, when he was making his transition to becoming a full time position player, Ruth only appeared in 261 ball games as he was considered the top left-handed pitcher in the American League.) In the record books, Ty Cobb scored more runs and Hank Aaron hit more homers and racked up more R.B.I.s (Interestingly, Hammerin’ Hank and The Babe ended their careers with the exact same number of runs scored.), but they played in far more games than the The Babe, with 3,035 and 3,298 games, respectively. Among modern players, Rickey Henderson, who surpassed Cobb’s record for runs after 25 years in The Show, played in 3,081 games, and Barry Bonds appeared in almost 3,000 games.

No player ever had the impact, both on and off the field, as did the charismatic Babe. When he died of cancer in 1948, the New York Times headline read, “Babe Ruth/Idol of Millions of Boys/Dead”.

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