George Herman Ruth was better known as Babe Ruth or The Sultan of Swat, The King of Crash, The Colossus of Clout, The Great Bambino, The Wali of Wallop, The Rajah of Rap, The Caliph of Clout, The Wazir of Wham, The Maharajah of Mash, The Behemoth of Bust, The King of Swing, The Terrible Titan, The Kid of Crash, The Jovial Giant, The Home Run King, or simply The Babe and that’s only the good ones. He earned those nicknames by being the best in the game during his time and ever since.
Time in Boston
The Babe started his career with the Boston Red Sox as a pitcher at the age of 19. He didn’t stick with the club until 1915 when he won a spot in the rotation. He went 18-8 with a 2.44 ERA that year as the Red Sox won the World Series. The Babe didn’t pitch in the series though and had only one at bat in which he made out.
He became a more prominent figure in the Sox rotation in 1916 going 23-12 and lead the league with a 1.75 ERA and nine shutouts. The Red Sox won the World Series again that year and the Babe helped out with a 14 inning complete game victory, allowing just a single run.
In 1917 Ruth went 24-13 with a 2.01 ERA and had established himself as one of the top pitchers in baseball. It was also the first sign of attitude issues as he recieved a 10-game suspension for punching an umpire.
1918 was the start of the transition of Ruth the pitcher to Ruth the outfielder. He had occasionally played in the outfield in years past, but this is the first time he gets over 300 at bats in a single season. On the mound he went 13-7 with a 2.22 ERA and at the plate he hit .300/.411/.555/.966 with a league leading 11 homers. The Sox again won the World Series that year and Ruth was once again dominant on the mound going 2-0 with a 1.06 ERA over 17 innings.
The Babe would play one more season in Boston hitting .322/.456/.657/1.114 with a league leading 29 home runs in 1919. At the end of the season Ruth was sold to the Yankees after demanding a rather sizable raise. The Yankees paid $125,000 plus a $300,000 loan (Fenway Park was put up as collateral).
Ruth joins the Yankees
As a Yankee ruth was primarily an outfielder, pitching just three more times in the next two years and he appeared in just five games overall on the mound for the Yankees in his career. That didn’t matter though because by this time Ruth was firmly established as one of the premire home run hitters during a time when players just didn’t hit home runs.
At this time there was no Yankee Stadium and their home ballpark was the Polo Grounds where Ruth took advantage of the short right field wall by hitting 54 home runs in his first year.
Ruth’s first two seasons as a Yankee were probably the best seasons of his career, even better than 1927 when he hit 60 home runs. Here is what he did in those years: 1920: 158 R, 172 H, 54 HR, 137 RBI, 150 BB, .376/.532/.847/1.379, 255 OPS+. 1921: 177 R, 204 H, 44 2B, 59 HR, 171 RBI, 145 BB, .378/.512/.846/1.359, 238 OPS+.
Ruth was so popular in New York that the Yankees quickly began outdrawing the Giants in their own park. Because of this they were kicked out of the Polo Grounds which lead to the original Yankee Stadium to be built in 1923, hence it was called “The House that Ruth Built.” The park was also tailored to Ruth’s swing as the Yankees installed a short porch in right field for the left handed hitter to take advantage of.
After the Yankees
At the end of his time with the Yankees the Babe desperate wanted to become the next manager after Joe McCarthy. However, the Yankees didn’t see him as managerial type thinking that he couldn’t really control his own life and wouldn’t be able to control an entire ball club. They offered him a job as a minor league manager as a way he could have proved himself, but Ruth turned it down thinking that it was below him.
Ruth was eventually sold to the Boston Braves with the idea that he could possibly be a player manager down the road. In the meantime he would become the team’s vice president and would be consulted on all transactions as assitant manager. There was also the possibilty of him becoming part owner if the team reached certain goals.
In reality, the Braves were a bad ball club and never drew the fans they thought they would with the addition of Ruth. So he never became part owner or manager. He also fell apart in the field and eventually at the plate.
In one of Ruth’s final games of his career he went 4-for-4 with three home runs. Five days later he left the game due to a knee injury and never played again. When he was healthy he could still hit home runs, but everything else came hard to him and he was rarely healthy.
His last job in major league baseball was as the first base coach of the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1938. He wasn’t really a coach though and the Dodgers really only hired him to try to draw more fans. He quit at the end of the season.
Ruth ended up leading the league in home runs in 1918, 1919, 1920, 1921, 1923, 1924, 1926, 1927, 1928, 1929, 1930, and 1931. He only lead the league in batting average in 1924. He lead the league in OBP in 1919, 1920, 1921, 1923, 1924, 1927, 1928, 1930, 1931, and 1932.
Here is how he ranks on the all-time lists: 3rd in home runs, 10th in batting average, 2nd in RBI’s, 2nd in slugging, 2nd in OBP, 1st in OPS, 4th in runs, 6th in total bases, 3rd in walks.
Ruth is also at least partially responsible for professional baseball in Japan. He loved visiting Japan and often barnstormed there. In response to the popularity of American ball players playing over in Japan, they formed their first professional league.
Here are his career stats as a batter:
|NYY (15 yrs)||2084||7217||1959||2518||424||659||1971||1852||1122||.349||.484||.711||1.195||210|
|BOS (6 yrs)||391||1110||202||342||82||49||230||190||184||.308||.413||.568||.981||191|
Here are his career stats as a pitcher:
|BOS (6 yrs)||89||46||2.19||158||105||17||1190.1||290||425||483||125||1.142|
|NYY (4 yrs)||5||0||5.52||5||2||0||31.0||19||16||5||78||1.806|
If you know much at all about the Babe then you know that this post hardly does him justice. I tried to mention the important on the field facts about him, but there literally are way too many to include in a short blog post. To get more information I highly recommend reading Robert Creamer’s Babe: The Legend Comes to Life. This is the only way to really understand Ruth both on the field and off it.
Also, I will try to do similar posts to this one in the upcoming days and weeks on all Yankee Hall of Famers. So stay tuned…