Yankees Hall of Famer: Babe Ruth

photo by Rob AbruzzeseGeorge 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:

Year Tm G AB R H 2B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS OPS+
1914 BOS 5 10 1 2 1 0 2 0 4 .200 .200 .300 .500 50
1915 BOS 42 92 16 29 10 4 21 9 23 .315 .376 .576 .952 188
1916 BOS 67 136 18 37 5 3 15 10 23 .272 .322 .419 .741 121
1917 BOS 52 123 14 40 6 2 12 12 18 .325 .385 .472 .857 162
1918 BOS 95 317 50 95 26 11 66 58 58 .300 .411 .555 .966 194
1919 BOS 130 432 103 139 34 29 114 101 58 .322 .456 .657 1.114 219
1920 NYY 142 458 158 172 36 54 137 150 80 .376 .532 .847 1.379 255
1921 NYY 152 540 177 204 44 59 171 145 81 .378 .512 .846 1.359 238
1922 NYY 110 406 94 128 24 35 99 84 80 .315 .434 .672 1.106 181
1923 NYY 152 522 151 205 45 41 131 170 93 .393 .545 .764 1.309 239
1924 NYY 153 529 143 200 39 46 121 142 81 .378 .513 .739 1.252 220
1925 NYY 98 359 61 104 12 25 66 59 68 .290 .393 .543 .936 137
1926 NYY 152 495 139 184 30 47 146 144 76 .372 .516 .737 1.253 227
1927 NYY 151 540 158 192 29 60 164 137 89 .356 .486 .772 1.258 226
1928 NYY 154 536 163 173 29 54 142 137 87 .323 .463 .709 1.172 208
1929 NYY 135 499 121 172 26 46 154 72 60 .345 .430 .697 1.128 193
1930 NYY 145 518 150 186 28 49 153 136 61 .359 .493 .732 1.225 211
1931 NYY 145 534 149 199 31 46 163 128 51 .373 .495 .700 1.195 218
1932 NYY 133 457 120 156 13 41 137 130 62 .341 .489 .661 1.150 201
1933 NYY 137 459 97 138 21 34 103 114 90 .301 .442 .582 1.023 176
1934 NYY 125 365 78 105 17 22 84 104 63 .288 .448 .537 .985 161
1935 BSN 28 72 13 13 0 6 12 20 24 .181 .359 .431 .789 118
22 Seasons 2503 8399 2174 2873 506 714 2213 2062 1330 .342 .474 *.690* *1.164* *207*
G AB R H 2B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS OPS+
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
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 8/30/2010.

Here are his career stats as a pitcher:

Year Tm W L ERA G CG SHO IP ER BB SO ERA+ WHIP
1914 BOS 2 1 3.91 4 1 0 23.0 10 7 3 70 1.217
1915 BOS 18 8 2.44 32 16 1 217.2 59 85 112 114 1.153
1916 BOS 23 12 1.75 44 23 9 323.2 63 118 170 158 1.075
1917 BOS 24 13 2.01 41 35 6 326.1 73 108 128 128 1.079
1918 BOS 13 7 2.22 20 18 1 166.1 41 49 40 122 1.046
1919 BOS 9 5 2.97 17 12 0 133.1 44 58 30 102 1.545
1920 NYY 1 0 4.50 1 0 0 4.0 2 2 0 94 1.250
1921 NYY 2 0 9.00 2 0 0 9.0 9 9 2 49 2.556
1930 NYY 1 0 3.00 1 1 0 9.0 3 2 3 150 1.444
1933 NYY 1 0 5.00 1 1 0 9.0 5 3 0 81 1.667
10 Seasons 94 46 2.28 163 107 17 1221.1 309 441 488 122 1.159
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
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 8/30/2010.

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…

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.
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One Response to Yankees Hall of Famer: Babe Ruth

  1. Mike S. says:

    Babe's bat was well known in his early years as a pitcher, and WWI and the manpower shortage helped to establish Babe's bat. His bat was so good he had to go to the OF as well as pitch for the 1918 Bosox because some key players were in the service.

    I should mention that Babe had the WS record for consecutive scoreless innings pitched until Ford broke it in 1961. The 29 HR in 1919 was a new record (broken by Babe himself with 54 in 1920, 59 in 1921 and 60 in 1927).

    A few years back, I had the privilege of meeting the Babe's granddaughter, Linda Ruth Tossetti.