After a one-month babe-of-the-month hiatus, we’re back with…
(Were you concerned I might forget about him?)
Real Name: George Herman Ruth
Jack Dunn, who recruited 19-year old George for the Baltimore Orioles, had to become George’s legal guardian in order for the contract to be valid. The Orioles players started calling George “Jack’s newest babe,” and the name stuck.
In Which a Legendary Baseballer is Born, but Nobody is All That Impressed Yet Because He’s Not Actually Very Well-Behaved as a Child
Babe’s story begins in Baltimore in 1895. Of George and Kate Ruth’s eight children, Babe (then George, Jr.) and his sister Mamie were the only ones who survived. The Ruths worked long hours, leaving George, Jr., and Mamie without adult supervision much of the time. George, Jr., proved to be a bit of a hooligan, so when he was 7, his parents opted to provide him with a more structured environment by sending him to St. Mary’s Industrial School for Boys. This is where George, Jr., shaped up and fell head over heels for baseball.
In Which a Legend is (Nick)Named
Brother Matthias, one of the monks at St. Mary’s, took George, Jr., under his wing. He began working with him on baseball skills like hitting and fielding. Eventually Brother Matthias realized George, Jr.’s exceptional skill and invited Jack Dunn, manager of the Baltimore Orioles, to come watch George play. After watching the boy for less than an hour, Jack Dunn offered him a contract to play with the Orioles. He became George’s legal guardian so the contract could be completed, and a legend was born.
In Which a Legend Reaches the Adolescence of His Legend-ness
Babe played well for the Orioles, leading the Boston Red Sox to buy him later that year. He pitched for the Red Sox for a few games but there wasn’t space on their roster for him, so he landed on their minor league team, the Providence Grays. The next year he was back on the Sox. Though he didn’t spend much time at the plate, he spent enough to prove himself. By 1918 he was playing daily, and in the 1919 season he hit a record 29 home runs.
In Which a Legend Becomes…a Legend*
The 1919 season was Babe’s last with the Sox; that year, he was sold to the New York Yankees. I’ll spare you the stats, which you can find elsewhere; but in the lovely phrasing of baberuth.com’s biography, Yankee Babe proceeded with “an assault on baseball’s most hallowed records.” Basically he hit a frickin’ cornucopia of home runs. (I will include one blinding stat that reminds me of another Babe we’ve celebrated: in 1920, Ruth’s home run count not only tripled the highest number hit by any other individual player, but also exceeded the number hit by any whole team.) The Yankees, a team that hadn’t won any titles before Babe, went on to capture seven pennants and four World Series titles with him at the helm. His career home run record – 714 – wasn’t broken until 1974 when Hank Aaron hit his 715th.
*I was going to call this section “A Legend is Born,” but since I already had Babe the human (in contrast to Babe the legend) being born up there in the first section, I thought it might be confusing. Then I was going to call it “A Legend is Born Again,” but I didn’t want to imply that I was adding to Babe’s biography a previously unknown conversion to evangelical Christian belief. Thus concludes the brief glimpse into the meta-framework of an EWR post.
In Which a Legend Outlives Death, in the Way We Typically Expect Legends to Do
As his skills eventually began to dwindle, Babe spent a short stint playing for and managing the Boston Braves.
In 1946, he was diagnosed with a malignant tumor in his neck. Two years later, on August 16, 1948, Babe died of cancer, just months after the Yankees had retired his jersey number (3). His body spent two days at Yankee Stadium for viewing, during which almost 80,000 people came to pay their respects. He is still one of the most recognizable figures in sports and is widely regarded as one of the best athletes who ever lived.
More Babe Stuff
- The Yankees moved to a new stadium in 1923; it was known as “The House that Ruth Built.”
- Zillions of baseball fans still consider the 1927 Yankees to be the greatest team in the history of baseball.
- Nicknames (besides Babe, of course) include Jidge (bastardization of George), the Sultan of Swat, the Bambino or the Great Bambino (bambino is Italian for baby), and the Colossus of Clout. (Please refer to The Sandlot for a spirited listing of nicknames.)
- Babe Ruth was one of the first five inductees into the Baseball Hall of Fame.
- The first six hitters in the 1927 Yankees lineup, which included Babe as well as Lou Gehrig, were referred to as “Murderers’ Row.”
- Babe was married twice and had two adopted daughters, Dorothy (adopted with his first wife, Helen) and Julia (biological daughter of his second wife, Claire).
- There is no candy bar named after Babe Ruth. (Baby Ruth is named after Grover Cleveland’s daughter.)
- Babe was a lefty.