Positions: Pitcher; Outfielder
Teams: Boston Red Sox, 1914-1919; New York Yankees, 1920-1934; Boston Braves, 1935
In 1917, when Babe Ruth was 22 years old, he was 6'2" and a slim 180 pounds of muscle, and a superb left-handed pitcher who had a lifetime record of 67-34.
His prowess with the bat, however, prompted his manager to cut in half the number of starts of this young ace in 1918 and give him 317 at bats playing as a regular outfielder. He went 13-7 on the mound and led the league with 11 home runs. The kid became the talk of both leagues. The finest player in the history of the game was just beginning to flex his muscles, but everyone already knew about Ruth.
In 1920, Babe Ruth took baseball by storm with his 54 home runs
and .847 slugging average, still a single-season record.
of the Babe
In his prime, the Bambino made $80,000 per season with the Yankees and at least as much in outside income from various business enterprises. At various points in his career he endorsed the following products: Babe Ruth underwear, Bambino Tobacco, Ruth’s Home Run Candy, Puffed Wheat, Wheaties, Babe Ruth Gum, Barbasol Shave Cream, Lee Union Suits, Remington Shot Guns, Louisville Slugger bats, Spalding baseball gloves, and more. Also part of his business interests was the licensing of items such as the clock pictured.
Even though Ruth has been dead for almost 50 years, his heirs continue to derive significant income from the licensing of his name and image to countless ads and products. No other athlete has had such a grip on the American imagination and wallet.
In 1919, George Herman Ruth (1895-1948) set a single-season record with 29 home runs and led the league in RBI and runs for the Boston Red Sox. Red Sox owner Harry Frazee’s financial needs prompted Ruth’s sale to the New York Yankees. “The Sultan of Swat” brought $100,000, more than twice the price of any previous player, and a $300,000 loan.
The Red Sox, winners of the 1916 and 1918 World Series (Ruth was 3-0 as a pitcher in the fall classic), went until 2004 before winning another World Series, but the Yankees went on to become the most successful franchise in history.
In 1920 Ruth took baseball, New York, and America by storm. His 54 home runs were more than any other American League team. His .847 slugging average still stands as the single-season record, and he hit .376 with a league-leading 158 runs and 137 RBI. He dominated the AL almost up to his 1935 retirement. He had a batting title in 1924 and 12 home run titles, and he was eight times a league leader in runs, six times in RBI, and 13 times in slugging.
He might have won more honors, but in 1922 he was suspended by the commissioner for barnstorming, and he played in only 110 games. He was limited to only 98 games in 1925, when he was sidelined with an intestinal abscess; “Babe’s Bellyache” was front page news across the country.
Despite his big swing, the Bambino never struck out 100 times in a season, and he led the league in walks 11 times, including a record 170 in 1923. He still holds lifetime marks in walks and slugging. He led the way for a new, offense-oriented game of baseball that packed in fans in record numbers and helped heal the wounds left by the 1919 Black Sox scandal.
The Babe led the Yankees to seven World Series appearances and four championships. He teamed with Lou Gehrig to form the most feared one-two punch in baseball history, and in 1927 the fabled “Murderer’s Row” of the Yankees won 110 games and lost just 44.
Ruth set a record that year that was to capture the imagination like no other, hitting 60 home runs in a single season. He further added to baseball lore in the 1932 World Series, when, as legend has it, he made his famous “Called Shot.” He reportedly pointed to the center field bleachers before homering against the Cubs.
Besides his on-field heroics, Ruth -- one of the first five players inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1936 -- was a legend for his off-the-field adventures as well. He was genial and absentminded, with an appetite for life that led him to every excess.
He made friends everywhere -- while he ate everything, drank everything, tried everything. Rube Bressler said that Ruth was “one of the greatest pitchers of all time, and then he became a great judge of a fly ball, never threw to the wrong base when he was playing the outfield, terrific arm, good base runner, could hit the ball twice as far as any other human being. He was like an animal. He had that instinct. They know when it’s going to rain. Nature, that was Ruth!”
He was the most beloved player ever to play the game. The Hall of Fame was created for players like Babe Ruth. He died in 1948 of throat cancer.
Here are Babe Ruth's major league totals:
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