Rawlings Babe

Early years

Ruth was born at 216 Emory Street in Pigtown, a rough neighborhood of Baltimore, Maryland. Ruth's German-American parents, Kate Schamberger-Ruth and George Herman Ruth, Sr., owned a succession of saloons and sold lightning rods. Only one of Ruth's seven siblings, his sister Mamie, survived past infancy.

Ruth (top row, far left) at St Mary's Industrial School for Boys

Not much is known about Ruth's early childhood. His mother was constantly ill (she later died of tuberculosis while Ruth was still a teenager). Ruth later described his early life as "rough". When he was seven years old, his father sent him to St. Mary's Industrial School for Boys, a reformatory and orphanage, and signed custody over to the Catholic missionaries who ran the school. Ruth remained at St. Mary's for the next 12 years, only visiting with his family for special occasions. Brother Matthias Boutlier, the Head of Discipline at St. Mary's, first introduced Ruth to the game of baseball. He became a father figure in Ruth's life, teaching him how to read and write, and worked with Ruth on hitting, fielding and as his skills progressed, pitching. During his time in St. Mary's, Ruth was also taught tailoring, where he became a qualified shirtmaker and was a part of both the school band and the drama club.

Baltimore Orioles

In 1913, St. Mary's Industrial School was playing a game against Mount St. Mary's University (then college) in Emmitsburg, Maryland. That day, the game was attended by Joe Engel, a former Mount St. Mary's student who was now a pitcher for the Washington Senators. Impressed with Ruth's pitching abilities, Engel, along with a teacher at St. Mary's, Brother Gilbert, brought Ruth to the attention of Jack Dunn, owner and manager of the then minor-league Baltimore Orioles. After watching Ruth pitch in a workout for half an hour, Dunn signed Ruth to a contract for $250 ($5,400 in current dollar terms) a month on February 14, 1914. Since Ruth was only 19 years old, Dunn had to become Ruth's legal guardian as well; at that time, the age of majority was 25. When the other players on the Orioles caught sight of Ruth, they nicknamed him "Jack's newest babe." The reference stayed with Ruth the rest of his life, and he was most commonly referred to as Babe Ruth from then on. "Babe" was not a unique nickname (see e.g., Babe Herman). His teammates also called him "George" or "Jidge" (a nickname for George).[citation needed]

On July 7, 1914, Dunn offered to trade Ruth, along with Ernie Shore and Ben Egan, to Connie Mack of the Philadelphia Athletics. Dunn asked $10,000 ($210,000 in current dollar terms) for the trio, but Mack refused the offer. The Cincinnati Reds, who had an agreement with the Orioles, also passed on Ruth. Instead, the team elected to take George Twombley and Claud Derrick. Two days later, on July 9, Dunn sold the trio to Joe Lannin and the Boston Red Sox. The amount of money exchanged in the transaction is disputed.

Major League career

Ruth pitching for the Red Sox in 1914, at Comiskey Park in Chicago

Red Sox Years

Ruth appeared in five games for the Red Sox in 1914, pitching in four of them. He picked up the victory in his major league debut on July 11. The Red Sox had many star players in 1914, so Ruth was soon optioned to the minor league Providence Grays of Providence, Rhode Island for most of the remaining season. Behind Ruth and Carl Mays, the Grays won the International League pennant. Shortly after the season, in which he'd finished with a 2-1 record, Ruth proposed to Helen Woodford, a waitress whom he had met in Boston. They were married in Ellicott City, Maryland, on October 17, 1914.

During spring training in 1915, Ruth secured a spot in the Red Sox starting rotation. He joined a pitching staff that included Rube Foster, Dutch Leonard, and Smokey Joe Wood. Ruth won 18 games, lost eight, and helped himself by hitting .315. He also hit his first four home runs. The Red Sox won 101 games that year on their way to a victory in the World Series. Ruth did not pitch in the series, and grounded out in his only at-bat.

In 1916, after a slightly shaky spring, he went 2312, with a 1.75 ERA and nine shutouts, both of which led the league. On June 27, he struck out ten Philadelphia A's, a career high. On July 11, he started both games of a doubleheader, but the feat was not what it seemed; he only pitched one-third of an inning in the opener because the scheduled starter, Foster, had trouble getting loose. Ruth then pitched a complete-game victory in the nightcap. Ruth had unusual success against Washington Senators star pitcher Walter Johnson, beating him four times in 1916 alone, by scores of 51, 10, 10 in 13 innings, and 21. Johnson finally outlasted Ruth for an extra-inning 43 victory on September 12; in the years to come, Ruth would hit ten home runs off Johnson, including the only two Johnson would allow in 19181919. Ruth's nine shutouts in 1916 set an AL record for left-handers which would remain unmatched until Ron Guidry tied it in 1978.

Despite a weak offense, hurt by the sale of Tris Speaker to the Indians, the Red Sox made it to the World Series. They defeated the Brooklyn Robins four games to one. This time Ruth made a major contribution, pitching a 14-inning complete-game victory in Game Two.

Ruth batting in 1918

Ruth went 24-13 with a 2.01 ERA and six shutouts in 1917, and hit .325, but the Sox finished second, nine games behind the Chicago White Sox. On June 23 against the Washington Senators, after walking the leadoff hitter, Ruth erupted in anger, was ejected, and threw a punch at the umpire, which would result in a ten-game suspension. Ernie Shore came into the game in relief, the baserunner was out stealing, and Shore retired all twenty-six batters he faced, for which he was credited with a perfect game until the 1990s. Ruth's outburst was an example of self-discipline problems that plagued Ruth throughout his career, and is regarded as the primary reason (other than financial) that then-owner Harry Frazee was willing to sell him to the Yankees two years later.

The left-hander was pitching a no-hitter in a 00 game against the Detroit Tigers on July 11, before a single deflected off his glove in the eighth inning. Boston finally pushed across a run in the ninth, and Ruth held onto his 10 victory by striking out Ty Cobb. In 1942, Ruth called this game his greatest thrill on the field.

In 1918, Ruth pitched in 20 games, posting a 137 record with a 2.22 ERA. He was mostly used as an outfielder, and hit a league-leading eleven home runs. His statistics were curtailed slightly when he walked off the team in July following an argument with Boston's manager.

Ruth threw a 10 shutout in the opener of the 1918 World Series, then won Game Four in what would be his final World Series appearance as a pitcher. Ruth won both his starts, allowing two runs (both earned) in seventeen innings for an ERA of 1.06. Ruth extended his World Series consecutive scoreless inning streak to 29 innings, a record that would last until Whitey Ford broke it in 1961.

Emergence as a Hitter

In the years 19151917, Ruth had been used in just 44 games in which he had not pitched. After the 1917 season, in which he hit .325, albeit with limited at bats, teammate Harry Hooper suggested that Ruth might be more valuable in the lineup as an everyday player.

In 1918, he began playing in the outfield more and pitching less, making 75 hitting-only appearances. Former teammate Tris Speaker speculated that the move would shorten Ruth's career, though Ruth himself wanted to hit more and pitch less. In 1918, Ruth batted .300 and led the A.L. in home runs with eleven despite having only 317 at-bats, well below the total for an everyday player.

During the 1919 season, Ruth pitched in only 17 of his 130 games. He also set his first single-season home run record that year with 29, including a game-winning homer on a September "Babe Ruth Day" promotion. It was Babe Ruth's last season with the Red Sox.

Sold to New York

Ruth in 1920, the year he joined the Yankees

On December 26, 1919, Frazee sold Ruth to the New York Yankees. Popular legend has it that Frazee sold Ruth and several other of his best players to finance a Broadway play, No, No, Nanette (which actually didn't debut until 1925). The truth is somewhat more nuanced.

After the 1919 season, Ruth demanded a raise to $20,000 ($210,000 in current dollar terms)ouble his previous salary. However, Frazee refused, and Ruth responded by letting it be known he wouldn't play until he got his raise, suggesting that he may retire to undertake other profitable ventures.

Frazee finally lost patience with Ruth, and decided to trade him. However, he was effectively limited to two trading partnershe Chicago White Sox and the then-moribund Yankees. The other five clubs rejected his deals out of hand under pressure from American League president Ban Johnson, who never liked Frazee and was actively trying to remove him from ownership of the Red Sox. The White Sox offered Shoeless Joe Jackson and $60,000 ($640,000 in current dollar terms), but Yankees owners Jacob Ruppert and Tillinghast L'Hommedieu Huston offered an all-cash deal$100,000 ($1,060,000 in current dollar terms).

Frazee, Ruppert and Huston quickly agreed to a deal. In exchange for Ruth, the Red Sox would get $125,000 ($1.33 million in current dollar terms) in cash and three $25,000 ($270,000 in current dollar terms) notes payable every year at 6 percent interest. Ruppert and Huston also loaned Frazee $300,000 ($3.19 million in current dollar terms), with the mortgage on Fenway Park as collateral. The deal was contingent on Ruth signing a new contract, which was quickly agreed to, and Ruth officially became property of the Yankees on December 26. The deal was announced ten days later.

In the January 6, 1920 edition of The Boston Globe, Frazee described the transaction:

"I should have preferred to take players in exchange for Ruth, but no club could have given me the equivalent in men without wrecking itself, and so the deal had to be made on a cash basis. No other club could afford to give me the amount the Yankees have paid for him, and I don't mind saying I think they are taking a gamble. With this money the Boston club can now go into the market and buy other players and have a stronger and better team in all respects than we would have had if Ruth had remained with us."

However, the January 6, 1920 The New York Times was more prescient: "The short right field wall at the Polo Grounds should prove an easy target for Ruth next season and, playing seventy-seven games at home, it would not be surprising if Ruth surpassed his home run record of twenty-nine circuit clouts next Summer."

It also turns out that there was a solid basis for the No, No, Nanette story. As Leigh Montville discovered during research for his book, The Big Bam: The Life and Times of Babe Ruth (Random House, 2006, p. 161-164), No, No, Nanette had originated as a non-musical stage play called My Lady Friends, which opened on Broadway in December 1919. His research indicated that that play had, indeed, been financed as a direct result of the Ruth sale to the Yankees.

The Yankee Years

19201925

After moving to the Yankees, Ruth's transition from a pitcher to a power-hitting outfielder became complete. In his fifteen year Yankee career, consisting of over 2,000 games, Ruth re-wrote the record books in terms of his hitting achievements, while making only five widely-scattered token appearances on the mound, winning all of them.

Babe Ruth in 1921, arguably his finest season

In 1920, his first year with the Yankees, Ruth hit 54 home runs and batted .376. His .847 slugging average was a Major League record until 2001. Aside from the Yankees, only the Philadelphia Phillies managed to hit more home runs as a team than Ruth did as an individual, slugging 64 in hitter-friendly Baker Bowl.

In 1921, Ruth improved to arguably the best year of his career, hitting 59 home runs, batting .378 and slugging .846 (the highest with 500+ at-bats in an MLB season) while leading the Yankees to their first league championship. On July 18, 1921, Babe Ruth hit career home run #139, breaking Roger Connor's record of 138 in just the eighth year of his career. (This was not recognized at the time, as Connor's correct career total was not accurately documented until the 1970s. Even if the record had been celebrated, it would have been on an earlier date, as Connor's total was at one time thought to be only 131.)

Ruth's name quickly became synonymous with the home run, as he led the transformation of baseball strategy from the "inside game" to the "power game", and because of the style and manner in which he hit them. His ability to drive a significant number of his home runs in the 450500 foot range and beyond resulted in the lasting adjective "Ruthian," to describe any long home run hit by any player. Probably his deepest hit in official game play (and perhaps the longest home run by any player), occurred on July 18, at Detroit's Navin Field, in which he hit one to straightaway center, over the wall of the then-single-deck bleachers, and to the intersection, some 575 feet from home plate.

As impressive as Ruth's 1921 numbers were, they could have been more so under modern conditions. Bill Jenkinson's 2006 book, The Year Babe Ruth Hit 104 Home Runs, attempts to examine each of Ruth's 714 career home runs, plus several hundred long inside-the-park drives and "fair-foul" balls. Until 1931 in the AL, balls that hit the foul pole were considered ground-rule doubles, and balls that went over the wall in fair territory but hooked foul were ruled foul. Many fields, including Ruth's home Polo Grounds, had exceptionally deep center fieldsn the Polo Grounds' case, nearly five hundred feet. The author concluded that Ruth would have been credited with 104 home runs in 1921, if modern rules and field dimensions were in place. Still, Ruth set major league records in total bases (457), extra base hits (119) and times on base (379), all of which stand to this day.

The Yankees had high expectations when they met the New York Giants in the 1921 World Series, and the Yankees won the first two games with Ruth in the lineup. However, Ruth badly scraped his elbow during Game 2, sliding into third base (he had walked and stolen both second and third). After the game, he was told by the team physician not to play the rest of the series. Although he did play in Games 3, 4 and 5, and pinch-hit in Game 8 of the best-of-9 Series, his productivity was diminished, and the Yankees lost the series. Ruth hit .316, drove in five runs and hit his first World Series home run. (Although the Yankees won the fifth game, Ruth wrenched his knee and did not return to the Series until the eighth [last] game.)

Ruth's appearance in the 1921 World Series also led to a problem and triggered another disciplinary action. After the series, Ruth played in a barnstorming tour. A rule then in force prohibited World Series participants from playing in exhibition games during the off-season, the purpose of which was to prevent Series participants from "restaging" the Series and undermining its value. Baseball Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis suspended Ruth for the first six weeks of the 1922 season. Landis had made his point about adhering to the letter of the rules, but he also recognized that the rule was no longer needed, and rescinded it.

Despite his suspension, Ruth started his 1922 season on May 20 as the Yankees' new on-field captain. But five days later, he was ejected from a game for throwing dirt on an umpire, and then climbed into the stands to confront a heckler; Ruth was subsequently stripped of the captaincy. In his shortened season, Ruth appeared in 110 games, batted .315, with 35 home runs and drove in 99 runs, but compared to his previous two dominating seasons, the 1922 season was a disappointment for Ruth. Despite Ruth's off-year, Yankees managed to win the pennant to face the New York Giants for the second straight year in the World Series. In the series, Giants manager John McGraw instructed his pitchers to throw Ruth nothing but curveballs, and Ruth never adjusted. Ruth had just two hits in seventeen at-bats, and the Yankees lost to the Giants for the second straight year by 4-0 (with one tie game). In 1923, the Yankees moved from the Polo Grounds, where they had sublet from the Giants, to their new Yankee Stadium, which was quickly dubbed "The House That Ruth Built". Ruth hit the stadium's first home run on the way to a Yankees victory over the Red Sox. Ruth finished the 1923 season with a career-high .393 batting average and major-league leading 41 home runs. For the third straight year, the Yankees faced the Giants in the World Series. Rebounding from his struggles in the previous two World Series, Ruth dominated the 1923 World Series. He batted .368, walked eight times, scored eight runs, hit three home runs and slugged 1.000 during the series, as the Yankees won their first World Series title, four games to two.

Ruth narrowly missed winning the Triple Crown in 1924. He hit .378 for his only American League batting title, led the major leagues with 46 home runs, and batted in 121 runs to finish second to Goose Goslin's 129. Ruth's on-base percentage was .513, the fourth of five years in which his OBP exceeded .500. However, the Yankees finished second, two games behind the Washington Senators, who went on to win their only World Series while based in D.C. During that same year, Ruth served in the New York national Guard 104th Field Artillery.

During spring training in 1925 Ruth's ailment was dubbed "the bellyache heard round the world," when one writer wrote that Ruth's illness was caused by binging on hot dogs and soda pop before a game. Venereal disease and alcohol poisoning (caused by tainted liquor, a major health problem during the Prohibition) have also been speculated to be the causes of his illness. However, the exact nature of his ailment has never been confirmed and remains a mystery. Playing just 98 games, Ruth had what would be his worst season as a Yankee as he finished the season with a .290 average and 25 home runs. The Yankees team finished next to last in the American League with a 69-85 mark, their last season with a losing record until 1965.

19261928

Babe Ruth performed at a much higher level during 1926, batting .372 with 47 home runs and 146 RBIs. The Yankees won the AL pennant and advanced to the World Series, where they were defeated by Rogers Hornsby and the St. Louis Cardinals in seven games. In Game 4, he hit three home runs, Despite his batting heroics, he is also remembered for a costly baserunning blunder. Ruth had a reputation as a go

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