George Herman “Babe” Ruth born in 1895, is the greatest New York Yankee baseball player to have ever to play the game. He also started one of the greatest rivalries in all of the sports. He would go on to hit 714 home runs, 2,213 RBI’s, over 2,000 bases on balls, with a slugging percentage of .690 and an OPS of 1.164, two records that still stand today. He was not only a great baseball player but still, today stands as one of America’s greatest sports icons in American culture.
So goes the story of the real Babe Ruth that few know about. Ruth was born in Baltimore Maryland. With his father working long hours in his saloon and his mother often in poor health, Little George (as he was known) spent his days unsupervised on the waterfront streets and docks, committing petty theft and vandalism. Hanging out in his father’s bar, he stole money from the till drained the last drops from old beer glasses, and developed a taste for chewing tobacco. He was only six years old.
Having been declared incorrigible at the age of seven by the Baltimore courts, his parents sent him to St. Mary’s Industrial School. After a month passed they brought him back home to see if he had changed and reconciliation could be achieved, he hadn’t and it would lead to several attempts by his parents. in 1904 at the age of nine, Ruth would meet the Roman Catholic Brother Matthias at St. Mary’s. Later in life when asked about Brother Matthias, Ruth would say. He changed my life, “He taught me to read and write and he taught me the difference between right and wrong, He was the father I needed and the greatest man I’ve ever known.”
Ruth would end up living his young life at the school until the age of eighteen. During that time his mentor would throw balls at the boys to catch. Young George was thrilled to catch and throw the ball. He imitated the Brother’s hitting style, holding the bat at the knob and taking big swings.
As he grew older he began to actually play baseball at St. Mary’s. In one St. Mary’s game in 1913, Ruth, then 18 years old, caught, played third base (even though he threw left-handed), and pitched, striking out six men, and collecting a double, a triple, and a home run. That summer, he was allowed to pitch with local amateur and semipro teams on weekends. Impressed with his play a Baltimore scout Jack Dunn signed Ruth to his minor-league Baltimore Orioles club the following February. The Orioles short on money sold the young Ruth to the Boston Red Sox.
During the offseason, Babe married his girlfriend Boston waitress Helen Woodford. In the following season, he shined for the Sox, winning three complete games in a span of nine days in June. Between June 1 and September 2, Ruth was 13-1 and ended the season 18-8. The personality of the younger Ruth began to show its head as he caroused at night and began to argue with umpires. In his six seasons with Boston, he won 89 games and recorded a 2.19 ERA. He had a four-year stretch where he was second in the AL in wins and ERA behind Walter Johnson, and Ruth had a winning record against Johnson in head-to-head matchups. But also during the time, he fought with management and was as a headache. His continued outright refusal to adhere to the team’s curfew earned him several suspensions and his non-stop salary demands infuriated owner Frazee.
Just after New Year’s 1920, the worst deal in Major League history would be made. The Boston Red Sox would sell Babe Ruth to the New York Yankees for $125,000. Frazee would comment that Ruth was one of the most selfish and inconsiderate men that ever wore a baseball uniform. He also said Ruth ate and drank excessively, frequented prostitutes, and had been involved in several car accidents. It would have surprised no one if, for whatever reason, Ruth was out of baseball in a year or two. It was a gamble that the Yankees were will to take.
While Babe Ruth was with the Yankees he broke every record in baseball. He became an American Icon and a part of American culture. In his fifteen years with the Yankees alone, hit scored nearly 2,000 runs and 2,000 RBI’s. He also hit 659 home runs.
In 1928 the Yankees got the AL pennant. The Yankees swept the Cardinals that year and Ruth hit 54 home runs on the year. During this time, the Yankees were known as Murderers’ Row, because of the power of its lineup, In January 1929, Babe’s first wife, Helen, died in a house fire in Watertown, Massachusetts.
At the end of the 1929 season, Miller Higgins passed away and Ruth applied for the job but was never seriously considered for the job. By the end of June 1930, Ruth was ahead of his 60-homer pace of 1927, but injuries slowed him down and he finished with 49. In 1931, at age 36, Ruth had one of his finest seasons. He hit .373/.495/.700, with 46 home runs, 162 RBIs, 128 walks, and 149 runs scored. The Yankees swept the Chicago Cubs in the 1932 World Series, giving them wins in 12 straight World Series games. For the previous few years, Ruth’s hard living and injuries were catching up with him.
In 1934 due to his declining health and stats Yankee’s owner Ruppert gave Ruth a pay cut of 50%., Ruth accepted knowing his 20-year career was coming to an end. On July 13 against the Detroit Tigers, Ruth would hit his 700th home run. Ruth had always wanted to be a manager, So Yankees manager Ruppert worked out a secret deal with the Boston Braves manager to offer Ruth a contract that would include the titles of Assistant Manager and Vice President. When Ruth would present the deal to the Yankees owner, he said he wouldn’t stand Ruth’s way, so Ruppert’s trick worked.
In 1935 with the Braves, Ruth would play in only 28 games batting .181. Ruth did get the final three home runs of his career that year. Ruth is the only major leaguer to pitch in at least 10 seasons and has a winning record in all of them. Ruth had winning records in 10 seasons: 1914-1921, 1930, and 1933. Andy Pettitte now holds the record at 13 seasons (1995-2007). Ruth concluded he was finished even as a part-time player. As early as May 12, he asked Fuchs to let him retire, Ruth retired on June 2 after an argument with Fuchs.
On an afternoon in 1945 wearing a brand-new Gems jersey with a bright red baseball cap and matching stockings, the 51-year-old Ruth managed to hit off a handful of home runs before the game, much to the delight of everyone in attendance at Hartford, Connecticut’s Buckeley Stadium. His game-time performance, however, resulted in a handful of unexciting balls and strikes while at-bat. Later he would tell reporters “Some days the pitches look like watermelons and other days like peanuts.” No one would know it at the time but it would be the last time Ruth would ever wear a baseball uniform.
A few months later he was diagnosed with advanced esophageal cancer in 1946 and died from the disease in 1948. A living legend took the plate for the last time in front of thousands of adoring fans that September in Connecticut history. Such was the life of George Herman “Babe” Ruth.
On August 16, 73 years ago, the “Babe” passed away. A requiem mass and funeral for the Babe was held at St. Patrick’s Cathedral three days later. 6,000 mourners bowed their heads as Cardinal Spellman made a special prayer at the end of the solemn 1-hour service. 75,000 people waited outside the Cathedral in the pouring rain to say goodbye to the greatest baseball player of all time.