February 6 should hold a special place in both Yankees and MLB fans’ hearts as Babe Ruth‘s birthday is celebrated. He is arguably the greatest player of all-time.
As sports fans, we hear the expression ‘GOAT’ said a lot. In football, its thrown around for legends such as Joe Montana and John Elway, or more recently, future Hall of Famer Tom Brady. In baseball, however, it’s reserved for perhaps only one man. He’s a man of many nicknames: ‘The Sultan of Swat,’ ‘The Colossus of Clout,’ ‘The King of Crash,’ ‘The Great Bambino.’ There’s one nickname, though, that stuck with Yankees legend George Herman Ruth throughout his lifetime: ‘Babe.’
The Rising Star
When we think of Ruth, we often think of the quintessential Yankees legend. He was with the Yankees for 15 seasons. But, Babe didn’t start his career off in New York. He started his MLB career in a Red Sox jersey in 1914.
He began as a hitting pitcher because there was no designated hitter position at the time. Towards the end of his Red Sox career, Ruth would make the transition to being an outfielder. For the 1920 season, he was sold to the Yankees to finance a Broadway show. The purchase of $125,000, which is roughly equivalent to $2 million today, was the largest at the time. It was here that Babe Ruth would become a legend and a household name.
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The Record Breaker
In his first season as a Yankee, Ruth went on to break the home run record for a single month, smashing 11 in May. The very next month, he broke his own record hitting 13. Even though the Yankees finished in third place that season, they still broke attendance records, pulling in 1.2 million fans.
This was due in large part to Ruth hitting 54 home runs that season, which also broke the single-season record. The very next year, Ruth again broke his own record with 59 long balls. It wasn’t until 1927, the Murderers’ Row season when Babe would hit 60 homers. This remained the MLB record until 1961 when another Yankees legend, Roger Maris, hit 61.
The Yankees remain the pinnacle of World Series achievement with 27 championships. But prior to Ruth, the Yankees weren’t the ‘Evil Empire’ the MLB became accustomed to. It wasn’t until 1921 that the club won their first AL Pennant. And it wasn’t until 1923 that they won their first World Series Championship — the same season he was also named AL MVP.
Babe was a turning point for the franchise which overwhelmingly justified the price tag he came with. He would go on to win four World Series crowns with the Yankees as well as winning seven AL Pennants with the team.
Ruth finished his 22-year career with the Boston Braves in 1935 with a batting average of .342, tied for 9th all-time with Dan Brouthers. He also racked up 2,873 hits, which ranks him 44th all-time.
As a pitcher, Babe finished with a 2.28 ERA — so not too shabby there either. And he was an All-Star in both 1933 and 1934. Ruth was also a member of the ‘First Five’ as well, which were the first five inductees into the Hall of Fame in 1936. In 1948, the Yankees retired his No. 3, which officially cemented his legacy among the annals of Yankees history.
The Pop Culture Icon
When we talk about ‘The Babe’ we do so in a past tense. Even the eldest of baseball fans never actually had a chance to see him play live. We hear stories about how great he was and the mark he left on the both the Yankees and MLB. He is revered in movies such as the childhood classic, The Sandlot, which continues to be one of the essential baseball flicks.
Babe also introduced to the world the called shot. In the 1932 World Series, he pointed towards the center field section of Wrigley Field before belting a homer to that exact section. This would be his final Postseason home run ever. Today, fans call this one of the greatest homers ever, often replicated, never duplicated.
The Debate About Greatness
It’s often debated about whether or not Ruth would’ve put those types of numbers up in the current age of baseball. In an era where pitchers weren’t nearly as good as they are now and travel didn’t consist of cross-country flights, it’s likely his numbers would be way down.
It’d be very tough to be as good as Ruth was for as long as he was in today’s baseball, though. So, it is quite unfair to speculate because baseball has completely changed since Ruth’s heyday. The two eras are just too different to even challenge how good ‘The Babe’ really could have been was.
Is He the GOAT?
Yes, he is. He’s a household name. When non-baseball fans are asked to name a player, his is one that most likely comes up. He broke multiple records, both stats-wise and attendance-wise, during his career as a Yankee. Yes, many of them were broken since then, but the game, as previously mentioned, went through many changes in between those periods.
Not only is he the greatest Yankee, he is the greatest MLB player ever. His ability to make baseball ‘America’s Pastime’ by drawing in thousands just to see him hit is remarkable. And his ability to stay as good as he was for so long in absolutely terrible physical shape is unheard of. ‘The Babe’ would have been 122 years old today. He was born in 1895 and died 53 years later due to throat cancer. Happy Birthday, Babe!