Babe Ruth Biography

Babe Ruth Biography
George Herman Ruth, (February 6, 1895 - August 16, 1948), better known as Babe Ruth, was an American baseball player and United States national icon. He was one of the first five players elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame and he was the first player to hit over 50 home runs in one season.

Biography
 

Babe Ruth was born in Baltimore, Maryland, and spent his youth skipping school to play ball, run the streets and indulge in petty crime. Before he was eight he had been sent to reform school, "St. Mary's Industrial School For Boys", where Brother Matthais, a Roman Catholic priest, became the major influence on his childhood, channeling his energies into baseball. After starring on school teams as a left-handed pitcher, Ruth came to the attention of Jack Dunn, owner and manager of the minor-league Baltimore Orioles, and the man often credited with discovering him. In 1914 Dunn signed 19-year-old Ruth to pitch for his club, and took him to spring training in Florida, where a strong performance with bat and ball saw him make the club, while his precocious talent and childlike personality saw him nicknamed "Dunn's Babe". On April 22, 1914 "The Babe" pitched his first professional game, a six-hit, 6-0 victory over the Buffalo Bisons, also of the International League.

Through the first half of the season, Dunn's Orioles were the best team in the league, and by July 4 they had a record of 47 wins and 22 losses, 25 games over .500. But their finances were not in as good shape. In 1914 the breakaway Federal League, a rebel major league which would last only 2 years, placed a team in Baltimore, and the competition hit Orioles' attendances badly. To make ends meet, Dunn was obliged to dispose of his stars for cash, and sold Ruth's contract, with two other players to Joseph Lannin, owner of the Boston Red Sox, for a sum rumored to be between $20,000 and $35,000.

Though Babe Ruth was a skillful pitcher, the Red Sox--whose starting rotation in 1914 was already stacked with lefties--made little use of him. After two mediocre starts, and a 1-1 record, he was benched for several weeks before being sent back to the International League with the Providence (RI) Grays, where pitching in combination with the young Carl Mays, Ruth helped the Grays win the IL pennant. At the end of the season the Red Sox recalled him, and he was back in the majors permanently. Shortly afterwards Ruth proposed to Helen Woodford, a waitress he met in Boston, and they were married in Baltimore on October 14, 1914.

During spring training the next season, Ruth secured a spot as a Boston starter. With such talents as Rube Foster, Dutch Leonard and a rejuvenated Smokey Joe Wood the pitchers carried the Red Sox to the pennant. Ruth won 18 games and lost 8 and helped himself with the bat, hitting .315 and slugging his first four major league home runs. The Red Sox won the World Series by 4 games to 1, but because manager Bill Carrigan preferred right-handers, Ruth did not pitch and grounded out in his only at bat.

In 1916 Babe Ruth returned to the rotation although the teams offense had been weakened by the sale of Tris Speaker to the Cleveland. After a slightly shaky spring, this season gave him a legitimate claim as the best pitcher in the American League. Ruth's 1.75 ERA was best in the AL, and was over a run below the league average. He won 23 games, lost 12 and threw nine shutouts, still the best mark for a left hander as well as a Red Sox record. Pitching again took the light-hitting Sox to the World Series, in which Ruth pitched a 14-inning complete game to beat the Brooklyn Robins as Boston again won by 4 games to 1. He repeated his strong performance in 1917, going 24-13, but the Red Sox, who could not keep pace with the Chicago White Sox 100 wins, missed out on a third straight postseason appearance. More importantly, however, Ruth began to show his true skill as a hitter, compiling a .325 batting average and sending 11 of his 40 hits for extra bases.

It was apparent Babe Ruth was more valuable in the lineup as an everyday player. In 1918, he began playing in the outfield more and pitching less. His contemporaries thought this was ridiculous: former teammate Tris Speaker speculated the move would shorten Ruth's career. By 1919 Ruth was basically a fulltime outfielder, pitching in only 17 of the 130 games in which he appeared. He set his first single-season home run record that year, smacking 29 with the Red Sox, breaking the previous record, while hitting .322 and driving in 114 runs. News of his batting feats spread rapidly, and wherever he played large crowds turned out to see him. As his fame spread, so did his waistline. Since his time as an Oriole, teammates had marveled at Ruth's capacity for food and by 1919 his physique had changed from the tall athletic frame of 1916 to a rotund shape with which he was usually associated. Beneath his barrel shaped body, his powerful muscular legs seemed strangely thin, but he was still a capable base-runner and outfielder. Contemporary Ty Cobb would later remark that Ruth "ran OK for a fat man".

Despite the box office appeal of Babe Ruth, the Red Sox were in a parlous financial position. In his desire to attract the best players, owner Harry Frazee had paid relatively large salaries throughout the war years. However, the team's failure to make the 1919 World Series and Frazee's own failings as a theater promoter meant that by the end of the year, he needed an influx of cash to stay afloat. His only available source of money was his players, and so he offered the best of them to the New York Yankees, until then a perennial second division team. For a sum of $125,000 and a loan of more than $300,000 (secured on Fenway Park itself), Ruth was sold to the Yankees on January 3.
 

 

Ruth The Yankee

Almost immediately, Babe Ruth began to pay off on his investment. He trained extensively over the winter, which was by no means always the case, and turned up at spring training in fine condition. When the season started, it was clear that the more hitter-friendly Polo Grounds suited him, and that he would soon eclipse his previous mark for home runs. As rumors of the Black Sox slowly leaked out, Ruth was terrorizing opposing pitching, and putting together an offensive season that stands among the finest ever recorded. In addition to hitting 54 home runs, smashing his year-old record, he hit .376 (4th in the league), drove in 137 runs and scored 150 (both best in the league) and his 150 walks contributed to him getting on base in more than half his plate appearances. He stole 14 bases and his slugging percentage (a monumental .847) set a record that would not be beaten for over 80 years.

Babe Ruth followed the unprecedented success of 1920 with more of the same the following year. Hitting .376 in 152 games, he drove in 171 runs and scored 177, and finished just percentage points below his 1920 figures for slugging and reaching base. Most astonishingly, he broke the home run record for the third straight year, clouting 59 round trippers. Along with the pitching of Carl Mays, Waite Hoyt and Bob Shawkey, the bats of Ruth and Bob Meusel would carry the Yankees to their first ever World Series, a 5-3 loss to their NY rival Giants. Game 4 also saw Ruth hit his first post season home run.

The World Series appearance would lead to problems for Babe Ruth. Seeking to avoid diminishing the meaning of the fall classic, organized baseball prohibited World Series players from playing in exhibition games during the off-season. Ruth, typically, decided this rule did not apply to him and embarked on his usual lucrative barnstorming tour with two teammates. Commissioner Landis came down hard on the recalcitrant players, suspending Ruth for the first six weeks of what was to be a turbulent 1922 season. On his return the Yankees management named Ruth their first on-field captain. Five days later, on May 25 he was ejected for arguing an umpire's call at third, and exacerbated the situation by climbing into the seats to confront a heckling fan. The captaincy was stripped, and Ruth's aggressiveness would see him suspended three more times in 1922, for arguing with umpires.

While Babe Ruth suffered his first professional set back, his personal life was in a worse state. Helen Ruth, who disliked the celebrity lifestyle to which the Babe was drawn, was bought a farm near Boston where she moved back with their newly adopted daughter, Dorothy. Free from the eyes of his wife, Ruth embraced the lifestyle even more fully. His love of fine food, undiminished over the years, was matched by his appetites for liquor, nightlife and casual s--.

His boisterous social life, as well as missed playing time, seemed to affect his on-field play. His batting, on-base and slugging averages all fell dramatically (to a still-impressive .315/.434/.672) and for the first time since he became a full-time outfielder he failed to win the home run title, hitting 35, two fewer than Tilly Walker of the Philadelphia Athletics. His poor form would continue into the World Series, when the Yankees were again defeated by the Giants (4-0, with one tie) in a series in which Ruth hit only one single and one double in 17 at-bats.

In 1929, the Yankees introduced uniform numbers. Since Babe Ruth batted third in the order, he was assigned number 3. Eventually, uniform numbers were associated with players without regard to batting order, but Babe Ruth was associated with number 3 and the Yankees retired the number (on June 13, 1948, the first uniform number to be retired by the Yankees). 

Did Ruth Call His Shot? In Game Three of the 1932 World Series, with Ruth's Yankees playing the Chicago Cubs, Ruth hit one of the most famous home runs in baseball history, a ball which he appeared to "call" ahead of time. According to the version told by Ruth in a 1945 interview, he took the first two strikes, holding up one finger after the first ("That's one") and two after the second ("That's two"). He then said he pointed toward the outfield fence, and then hit the next pitch into the stands.

There is no doubt Babe Ruth hit the home run, his second of the game. (Lou Gehrig, the next batter, also homered -- "the thunder after the lightning", as one sportswriter put it.) What has been argued since is this: did Ruth really point to the fence?

Charlie Root, the Cubs pitcher, angrily denied that Ruth had "called his shot" and pointed out that he would have brushed Ruth back from the plate had Ruth done anything of the kind. (Root was, in fact, nicknamed "Chinski" for his tendency to throw at batters.) But Root had an odd habit of turning slightly around between pitches and others at the game said that Root had simply missed the Babe's gesture.

There is no official film of the home run, and of course no television videotape. A home movie taken by a fan in the stands is inconclusive.
At Forbes Field in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on May 25, 1935, Ruth hit his 714th and last home run setting a baseball record that stood for 39 years.

He died in New York City and is interred in the "Gate Of Heaven Cemetery", Hawthorne, New York City. The Babe Ruth Museum is located at 216 Emory Place in downtown Baltimore (two blocks northwest of Camden Yards).

Career Statistics:
Hitting

G AB H 2b 3b HR R RBI BB SO
2,503 8,399 2,873 506 136 714 2,174 2,213 2,062 1,330

Pitching

W L GP GS CG Sh SV IP BB SO
94 46 163 148 107 17 4 1,221.1 441 488

Notes:
For the first 40 years of his life many people, Babe Ruth included, believed his birthdate to have been February 7, 1894. Most contemporary accounts, therefore, will contain inaccurate accounts of Ruth's age.

See also: The Curse of the Bambino




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