#1 Babe Ruth
#1 Babe Ruth
George Herman Ruth, The Bambino, the Sultan Of Swat, aka Babe Ruth. The man of legend and fame, who has a plausible story behind every facet of his life and career as a baseball player., including a story about how he got his nickname.
It seems that he was visited one day, while he was living as an orphan at St. Mary’s Industrial School in Baltimore, by a man named Jack Dunn (St.Mary’s School still stands today and is visible from the upper reaches of Camden Yards). Dunn was there to sign Ruth to a contract to play professional baseball.
Once the contract was signed, it was time to go on the road. A novice at living on his own at age 19, Ruth took to following Dunn around wherever he went. A teammate noticed the two together one day and said, “There goes Jack with his newest babe,” and the name stuck. Or so, we are led to believe.
Did he point, or didn’t he (video above)? Did he wolf down five hot dogs between innings? Is Yankee Stadium (really) “The House That Ruth Built?” To most, answers don’t matter. What is important is that Babe Ruth played baseball like no one ever had before him. And it is no stretch of the imagination to claim that he changed the game of baseball forever when he introduced power to the game, putting up home run numbers that no one previously could even fathom.
In 1927, for instance, the year that he hit 60 home runs, his total was more than any other team’s total in the American League and was exceeded by only one team in all of baseball (Philadelphia hit 64). Unimaginable. Freakish. Exciting. Wherever he went, fans flocked to see him play. And more often than not, he could be seen smack in the middle of the adoring crowd surrounding him, relishing contact with his fans. No, check that. Make it enjoying contact with people because that is the essence of Babe Ruth.
As for the numbers, they overwhelm you in the same way that he did as a personality. For this exercise, he finished first in runs scored and on-base percentage, second in RBI, and third in hits as a Yankee. But to get a visual on his career numbers, you need to peruse his page on Baseball Reference for a minute. Don’t look at the numbers, just look for black, which is the color reserved for league leaders.
Case closed. This is the greatest player who ever wore a major league uniform.
Once you’ve digested that, scroll down a bit further to Ruth’s stats as a pitcher, which mostly earned while he was with Boston and before he was sold to the Yankees by a financially challenged Red Sox owner. In turn, this created another legend surrounding Ruth when the cash deal became labeled as the “Curse Of The Bambino” laid on the Red Sox.
Case closed. This man is the greatest baseball player who ever lived. Others followed him, and maybe that’s the point. They followed him. Ruth was, and remains, the standard bearer of greatness. His home records have fallen, at first tainted with an asterisk when Roger Maris hit one in the right field stands in 1962. And then again, when a bulked up steroid user hit whatever he hit to shatter Ruth’s career record of 714 home runs. But, Barry Bonds is not the stuff legends are made from.
And much like his teammate, Lou Gehrig, for most of us, Ruth remains a shadow only to seen in the baseball record books, or in grainy video clips preserved in time. A time when it was different in America. Because Babe Ruth, over his entire career, would earn less than one million dollars – $850,850 to be exact (research provided by the Society For American Baseball Research). Which in today’s dollars is about $14 million, or roughly the same as Mark Trumbo will earn in 2017.
It goes without saying that Babe Ruth fits nicely into the storied history of the New York Yankees. Conversations about Yankees greats die quickly as soon as someone brings up Ruth’s name, and usually, the next thing you hear is, “Yeah well, besides Ruth.” Besides Ruth, there is no one else.
This concludes the segment on the Top Five All-Time Yankees Run Producers. I invite you to weigh in with your thoughts and comments. Next up, we’ll take a look at the other side of scoring runs – preventing runs – and a look at Yankees pitchers who excelled in doing exactly that.