Babe Ruth, born George Ruth, Jr., is considered by many to be the greatest baseball player of all time.  Everybody knows how great a hitter Babe was and how he virtually invented the home run.  Not everybody knows how great of a pitcher Babe was, even though he was one of the best left-handed pitchers of all time.  Babe had a 92 and 44 records, 67.6%, and a 2.24 career earned- run average in 163 games pitched.  Not many career .342 hitters that averaged a home run every 11.8 at bats can say that.

George Ruth, Jr. was born in Baltimore, Maryland, on February 6, 1895, son of George Herman Ruth, Sr. and Kate Ruth.  George took the name of Herman at his confirmation since it was his father’s middle name and the name of his friend at St.Mary’s Industrial School, Brother Herman.   Ruth says he had a “rotten start” in life; he spent his childhood days on the streets and piers of Baltimore.  He led a rather lawless life, his parents were medium-poor and he was mainly on his own.

All this changed when Ruth entered St.Mary’s Industrial School at the age of eight.  Ruth, even though he didn’t realize it, had come in to a good thing.  Brother Matthais took young Ruth under his wing and taught him to read, write, play baseball, do needle work and right from wrong.  Ruth showed a startling natural talent with a baseball bat, so Brother Matthais tried to round young George into a complete baseball player by teaching him to pitch and field.  Ruth says that, “Brother Matthais was the greatest man I ever knew.”  Ruth was taught to make shirts and became quite good at it, he boasted that he could sew a shirt in less than 15 minutes.

Ruth never had to use this skill because he was discharged from St.Mary’s School on February 27, 1914 to join the Baltimore Orioles baseball team of the American League.  Ruth was paid a salary of $600 to play in the International League, one step below the major league, on an Orioles affiliate team.   The team went to Fayettville for spring training and Ruth showed raw talent and didn’t need much formal training but needed lots of controlled practice.  Coach Sam Steinman warned the veterans to go easy with the rookie Ruth, he said, “He’s one of Jack Dunn’s babes.”   Journalist Roger Pippen asked Steinman to explain, Steinman said out of all the players in camp, Ruth was the biggest and most promising babe of the lot.  The players heard this and the name stuck.  Babe Ruth.  At first George thought the name, Babe, was a joke, but after a while it became like a proper name, and everybody called him Babe.

After an impressive showing in the International League, Babe and the rest of the Oriole team were put up for sale.  The Boston Red Sox bought Babe and he saw his first major league action on July 11,1914, as he took the mound against the Cleveland Naps.   Babe ended up the game 4-3 after pitching seven innings and letting up only three runs on five hits.  The Red Sox sent Ruth to the International League to play on the Providence team, to get some more experience.  At Providence, Ruth had a record of 11 wins and 2 loses.  On September 5, Ruth won a game 9-0, only letting up one hit, but more significantly he hit his first and only minor league home run.

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The Red Sox brought Ruth back up after the Providence team won the pennant and Ruth pitched in one game without decision.  While in Boston, Ruth almost always went to Landers coffee shop and his usual waitress was a girl named Helen Woodford.  During breakfast one morning Ruth looked up at Helen and said, “How about you and me getting married, hon?”   After thinking it over for a couple of minutes, Helen accepted his proposal.  After the baseball season, Babe and Helen got married in St. Paul’s Church, Ellicott City, Maryland, on October 17,1914.  Helen Woodford Ruth stayed out of the public eye and was known as the only person in Boston to still call Babe by his proper name, George.

The Red Sox roster of 1915 included Babe Ruth’s name.  Never again did it appear on a minor league roster.  Babe Ruth has made his way to the major leagues quickly and would stay there for a long time.  Babe had one of his best overall seasons as a pitcher going 18-6, winning 75% of his games, and racking up an outstanding 2.44 earned run average (era).   Ruth went 23-12 with a career best 1.75 era the following year, 23-13 the year after that.  In 1918-19 Babe only pitched in a combined 37 games with a 21-12 record in his last seasons as mainly a pitcher.  Between 1915 and 1919, Babe pitched 1,167 innings in 154 games with a record of 85 wins and 43 losses.

At the start of the 1919 season, Ruth started in right field but moved to center after Duffy Lewis switched to right.  Lewis accused Ruth of having little defensive ability in the outfield. To Lewis’ dismay, Ruth ended up being the best fielder in baseball that year with a fielding average of .992.  Ruth hit an unbelievable 29 home runs in 1919, his first full season as a fielder.

In the 1919 World Series, the Chicago White Sox, or as they became known as the “Black Sox,” had a better team than Cincinnati and probably would have won the series. Except some of the players were too concerned about money and a big time gambler paid them to throw the series.  When the commissioner of baseball found this out he banned the eight men who took the money from baseball for life.  Some of the big name players banned were “Shoeless” Joe Jackson, Buck Weaver, Eddie Cicotte and others.

After this horrible incident, most baseball fans were so disgusted they turned on baseball and the American pastime almost died, and probably would have if it wasn’t for a player by the name of George Herman “Babe” Ruth, Jr. When the fan’s turned their collective back on baseball, the Babe emerged as the most well known and most popular figure in American culture.  With his towering home runs and great all around play, he kept the fans coming to the ballpark.  It is hard to believe what the world would be like without baseball and thanks to Babe Ruth we will never have to live in a world like that.

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Even after Babe’s amazing “rookie” season as an outfielder, the Red Sox were ignorant enough to sell him to the New York Yankees for the sum of $125,000, the most ever recorded in baseball annals.  That may have seemed like a good deal at the time, $125,000 for one baseball player was a lot back then, but the Yankees got all they paid for. In the 1920 season, Ruth hit .376 with an unprecedented 54 home runs, crushing the old record by 25 home runs, while driving in 137 runs.  In only his second year as a full-time fielder, Ruth was the most feared and respected batter in baseball.  Not only did he have more power than any other hitter of all-time, he had an outstanding average of well over .300.

In 1921, Babe led the Yankees to their first pennant in their 19 years of existence.  As unbelievable as it sounds, Babe improved on all accounts, hitting .378, breaking his old record of 54 home runs by hitting 59 of them, and driving in 170 runs.  In the 1921 World Series, Babe’s Yankees faced cross-town rival New York Giants.  Ruth played through injury in games 4 and 5 but by physician’s advice sat out games 6, 7, and 8 in which the Yankee’s lost all games, along with the series.

In 1922 Babe and Helen Ruth had their first child, Dorothy.  This was the only highlight for Babe in an otherwise dreadful year.  Ruth was suspended on three different occasions for various reasons and his numbers dropped substantially, but the Yankees still won the pennant. Again they faced the Giants in the World Series.  Babe was not a factor at all in this pitiful series for the whole Yankee team as they got swept by the Giants. Even with this failure, Babe led the Yankee’s to seven World Series, winning five of them.

In Babe’s unbelievable career, he had a lifetime average of .342, hit 714 career home runs, had 2,209 career RBI’s, and 2,873 total hits, all in only 2,503 total games.  As amazing as these stats are, they are not the reason people should be grateful that Babe played the game.  The reason most people should know Babe Ruth is for the most important reason, that being the way he saved baseball from extinction.  Forget how Babe was the best power-hitter in baseball and considered by many the best player in baseball history, and just think about how he kept the American pastime alive.

On August 16, 1948, at 8:01 PM, George Herman “Babe” Ruth, Jr. died.

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