Babe Ruth: The King of Swat

Babe Ruth and Joe Jackson
Babe Ruth and “shoeless” Joe Jackson

Overview

Any discussion of Baseball Heroes, Babe Ruth, the King of Swat is always near the top. His accomplishments were astounding. The Babe for 22 seasons in Major League Baseball (MLB) set new records almost every year some was finally overcome some decades later, but it took 162 game season. (In Babe’s time, 154 games ere played in a season).

Ruth is thought of as one the greatest sports figure in American culture of all time and by many to be the greatest baseball player.  Because of his outstanding record as a pitcher and a player, Ruth was in 1936 elected into the Baseball Hall of Fame as one of the first five inaugural members.

Bate Ruth birthplace in Baltimore, Maryland

The Young Years 

George Herman Ruth, Jr.)was born 06 February 1895 in Baltimore, Maryland. His parents were of German ancestry. His father George Herman Ruth Sr. held many jobs from salesman to streetcar operator and eventually opened a saloon in which the young George (Babe) was exposed to the seedier side of life.

At age 7 he was drinking beer, “running the streets” and rarely attending school.  Because of a violent incident at his’s fathers saloon, city authorities decided this was unsuitable for a young boy and on 13 June 1902 was sent to St. Mary’s Industrial School for Boys.

He was considered “incorrigible” by the school authorities but spent most of the next 12 years there.    The boys attending St. Mary’s received the standard academic educations of the day they were also required to learn a trade, maybe more than one.  For example, Babe Ruth was trained as a tailor and a carpenter.

The boys did most of the maintenance and tasks needed to run St. Mary’s. The Xaverian Brothers were in charge of the school and ran a tight ship with corporal punishment as a common thing.  Babe was allowed to visit his family for a short periods of time.  He was permitted to attend his mother’s funeral when he was twelve.

It is uncertain on how the Babe started playing baseball at St. Mary’s.  One account says Ruth was told to join a team when he arrived at St. Mary’s .by the Athletic Director Brother Herman; by another account says when the Babe repeatedly broke windows in the neighborhood playing streetball.  At any rate, maybe both accounts are right, Ruth played several positions including catcher, third base and shortstop all very rare for lefthanders.

Babe’s beginning days in baseball

Then Brother Matthias the Perfect of Disciplnae who was a native of Nova Scotia and a very large man with tremendous strength and fairness. Brother Matthias  was greatly respected by the boys and by the Babe which was astounding, because Brother Matthias was in charge of making the boys behave and Babe Ruth was the chief of the misbehaviors at St. Mary’s

But Brother Matthias was a baseball inspiration to all especially Ruth who copied Brothe Matthias’s hitting and running styles and revered his teacher highly.  The Babe would speak of Brother Matthias throughout his baseball career.

Spiritual life 

Babe Ruth was a lifelong Catholic who would attend Mass after a night of partying and carousing.  He became a member of the Knights of Columbus, visited orphanage schools, and hospitals often avoiding publicity.  He helped support St. Mary’s when he was wealthy and well known.

Ho often donated large sums of money and helped in fundraisers for his school.  In 1926, his mentor, Brother Matthias’s car was destroyed, Ruth bought him a $5,000 Cadillac.

Budding Baseball Carrer 

Most of the boys at St. Mary’s played in organized baseball leagues according to their ability.  Ruth estimated he played in 200 games a year.  The Babe played in every position (including those where right-handed throwers usually play).

One day Ruth was making fun of a pitcher that was doing very poorly and Brother Matthias told him if could do better, then get in there and pitch.

Soon Ruth had become the best pitcher at St. Mary’s and at age 18 he was allowed to leave St. Mary’s premises to play on community teams.  He became known for his tremendous pitching ability and the long home runs he belted.

Professional Baseball Career

In 1914, the Babe signed on with the (then minor-league) Baltimore Orioles of the International League.  There are several accounts on how Ruth obtained his nickname “Babe” but most sources center on the fact that at that time, “Babe” was a common nickname for baseball players.

The most famous, at the time, was 1909 World Series hero Babe Adams of the Pittsburgh Pirates.  In years to come there were Babe Young (New York Giants), Babe Bama (New York Giants) and many others.

Ruth made his first professional baseball appearance in a Baltimore inter-squad game on 07 March 1914 where he played shortstop (tough for a lefthander) and pitcher a couple of innings.

In Ruth’s second appearance time at-bat, he hit a tremendous home run to right field.  The Babe made his first appearance against a Major League team in an exhibition game against the major league Philadelphia Phillies and pitched three innings of relief ball.

He was hit for two runs in the 4th inning then settled down and worked two scoreless innings in the fifth and sixth innings.  The next day in another exhibition game with the Phillies, Ruth came into pitch in the sixth inning and pitched the remainder of the game.

His team scored seven runs in the eighth inning and the Babe pitched scoreless ball against Phillies for his first professional baseball win.

Although the Orioles were in first place in the International League, they were drawing and incredibly low 150 paid attendees due to the upstart Major League, Baltimore Terrapins of the Federal League.

Jack Dunn the part-owner of the Orioles tried to move the team to Richmond Virginia, but that deal fell through.  Since Dunn was losing a lot of money with the Orioles, his only other option was to sell some of his players to any interested buyer.  Dunn sold his contracts with Babe Ruth, Ernie Shore, Ben Eagan to the major league Boston Red Sox.

The Babe remained with he minor-league Baltimore Orioles for a few more days until the Bost Red Sox returned home from a road trip.  Babe reported to the Red Sox 11 July 1914.  Thus beginning his major league carrier.

Boston Red Sox (1914-1919)

When Ruth arrived in Boston on 11 July 1914, the next day he went to a Launders Coffee Shop and was served by waitress Helen Woodford.  What does this have to do with baseball?  Helen became the Babe’s first wife.  Helen and the Babe were married on 17 October 1914, both were underage.

Babe Ruth and wife Helen

That afternoon Ruth won his first game as a pitcher for the Boston Red Sox 4-3 over the Cleveland Naps.  The Babe lost his second start and was rarely used after that.  His first “at-bats”  (no DH in those days) he was 0 -2 (meaning he did not get a hit in two at-bats)

Ruth was not noticed by the fans as the Red Sox cross-town rivals the Boston Braves who performed a miracle that season.  The Braves were in dead last place on the 4th of July and ended winning the 1914 World Series championship that year.

That year the Babe was a brash rookie, in conflict with the veterans.  In those days, rookies were to be quiet and learn the art of playing baseball in humility.  Thus Ruth rarely got in pitching starts or any playtime as a Red Sox, except for starts against minor league teams in exhibition games.

The Red Sox manager Bill Carrigan was also a believer in the humble state for a rookie who was brash and arrogant and this could be the main reason for Ruth’s lack of playing time.

On 30 July 1914 Red Sox owner Joesph Lannin purchased the Providence Grays, a minor league team in the International League. After some baseball politics were resolved, Babe Ruth was sent to the Providence Grays on 18 August 1914 for “training and developing” said Lannin, but many suspected it was to aide the Grays who were in a tight pennant race in the International League.

Both thoughts may have been right.  The Grays did win the pennant that year with the help of Ruth.  The Babe was recalled to the Sox after the International League season was over.  Ruth finished the 1914 season 2-1 as Major Leaguer and 23-8 as Minor Leaguer (Baltimore and Providence).

In March of 1915, the Baber reported to the Boston Red Sox spring training camp in Hot Springs Arkansas.   At the time the Red Sox had two stellar left-handed pitchers, Dutch Leonard who set a major league record for lowest ERA (Earned Run Average) for the 1914 season Ray Collins who was a 20 game-winner in 1913 and 1914 seasons.

So the Babe was delegated to a Spot Starter and Reliever roles.  At least this was the plan during Spring Training but injuries and ineffective pitching from other Bosox pitchers gave the Babe an opportunity.  He did well in relief roles and the occasional start.  When the 1915 RegualarSeason started, Ruth pitched the 3rd game of the season but lost it.  His next start resulted in a 7 inning rain-shortened game.

Ten days later, Bill Carrigan, the manager, had Ruth start against the New York Yankees.  The Yankees overcame the Babe in 13 innings, 4-3.  In that game, Ruth hit a massive home run into the right-field upper deck at the Polo Grounds off Jack Warophop, he was not exactly a household name, but when Jack retired that August, he will go down in history as giving up the first Major League home run to Babe Ruth.

In spite of the Babe’s loss to the Yankees, Bill Carrigan was impressed enough with Ruth to give a slot in the starting rotation.  The Babe finished the 1915  season at 18-8 and as a batter, he had a .315 BA (batting average) and hit four home runs that year.

The Babe pitching for the BoxSox

The Red Sox won the American League pennant in 1915 and played the Philadelphia Phillies in the World Series.  The Boston Red Sox won the World Championship in 5 games.  Babe Ruth did not pitch in the World Series because the Sox’s pitching staff was healthy and the first three starters were sufficiently rested.

The Babe did swing a bat in a pinch-hit role, grounding out off  legendary Phillie ace Grover Cleveland Alexander

In the 1916 season, Ruth had a 5 game pitching duel (throughout the season) with Washington Senator ace Walter Johnson, winning 4 games and the fifth game was no decision for Ruth, won by Johnson.

Two of Ruth’s wins against Johnson were 1-0, one in regulation play and the other in 13 innings.  (in those days, if the pitcher was strong, the manager left him pitch into extra innings.)

The Babe’s stats for the 1916 season were 23-12 (win/loss),1.75 ERA, 9 shutouts (allowing the opposing team zero runs), both of these stats led the American League.  The 9 shutouts would set a record for left-handers in the American League until 1978 when Ron Guidry of the New York Yankees tied it.

The Red Sox won the American League pennant again and played the Brooklyn Dodgers (who were known as the Robins that year) in the World Series in which the Sox won in 5 games.  Ruth started Game #2 and won 2-1 in 14 innings.  Babe Ruth holds the record for the longest complete-game victory in a World Series game.

Not until 2005 was there an another World Series game that lasted 14 innings and but no complete-game victory for the starting pitcher   Ruth’ record stands to this day.

Bill Carrigan (who also played as a catcher) the Red Sox’s manager retired after the 1916 season and retired to his native Maine.  During the off-season, Joe Lannin, Red Sox owner sold the team to a New York group headed by Harry Frazee who hired Jack barry as manager of the Boston Redsox.

In spite of the change in ownership and manager, the Babe was 24-13 with a 2.01 ERA and six shutouts in the 1917 season.  The Bosox finished second to the Chicago White Sox that year, nine games behind.

A memorable event took place that year involving Ruth, one he wished hadn’t happened.  Babe started a game in Washington on 24 June 1917 with home plate umpire “Brick” Ownes calling the first 4 pitches from Ruth as balls.  The Babe being incensed threw a punch at Owens, was ejected from the game and suspended for 10 days and fined $100 (this was 1917!)

Ernie Shore came into pitch and retired the next 26 batters.  This was considered a “perfect game” for many years. However, in 1991, the MLB Committee on Statistical Accuracy changed that listing to be “combined” no-hitter.   Babe was not used very often as a pinch hitter, but his batting average as a pitcher was .325 with two home runs.

In 1917 was significant in another way, the politics of  World War I had brought America into the war.  In September 1917, the draft was started, this meant many baseball players in both major and minor leagues were subject to the draft.

This left holes in the Red Sox lineups for 1918.  Bosox manager Jack Barry tried to beat the draft by joining the Naval Reserves but got called up anyway.  This left Boston with no manager.  Harry Frazee finally found the President of the International Leauge, who had never been a player, Ed Barrow to be the new Boston Red Sox manager.

Babe Ruth was dissatisfied playing only every 4-5 games and wanted to play in the lineup at first base or outfield when he wasn’t pitching.  At the time, Ruth was probably the best left-handed pitcher in baseball and having him play other positions was not the wisest decision by the manager.

Since Barrow was inexperienced as a manager he listened so some of the other Boston players that Ruth being in the lineup would draw more attendance to the games.  In May of 1918 Barrow gave in and put Ruth in the day-to-day lineup.  The Babe promptly hit home runs in four consecutive games.

The first time in Ruth’s career, not counting pinch-hit appearances, he hit higher than the ninth position.  Barrow thought that the Babe would want to return to pitching at his first slump.  The slump never occurred that year and Ruth hit.300 with 11 home runs.

In spite of his “promotion” to the Boston outfield, the Babe managed to have a pitching record 13-7 (W/L) with an ERA of 2.22.  The Red Sox won their third American League pennant in four years. and faced the Chicago Cubs in the World Series.  Because of the war shortened season, the World Series began on 05 September 1918.

Ruth pitched the first and fourth games, winning the first 1-0.  In his second start, the game went back and forth with the Cubs taking the lead and then the Red Sox would move ahead  In the ninth inning with the Red Sox ahead 3-2, Joe Bush came in and relieved Ruth.

Barrow wanted Ruth to stay in the line-up so he sent him into leftfield.  Joe retired the side and a Boston victory and Ruth won his third and final World Series game as a pitcher.

That year the Bosox prevailed with winning four games in the six games played and were the 1918 World Champions.  Before the run scored in the fourth game by Chicago, Ruth and a streak of 29 2/3 consecutive innings allowing no runs.  This World Series record stood until Whitey Ford of the New York Yankees in 1961, broke it.

In the 1919 Season, the Babe was used very sparingly as a pitcher.  The Bosox were not to repeat as the American League Champions.  So Barrow let Ruth work on his batting skills as a right fielder in July 1919. By then Boston, was pretty much out of the pennant race that year.

The Babe started on a home run rampage that year that ended in September with a major league record of 29 home runs.  That doesn’t sound like too many comparted to today’s’  bashers hit many more than that number.  This was still in what was called the “dead-ball era” which lasted until the early 1920s.  After changes in the composition of the baseball and playing rules, the “lively ball ear” begin

Sold to New York

In 1916 New York Theater promoter Harry Frazee and two other partners bought the Boston Redsox.   Many Boston sportswriters and also many fans were suspicious of Frazee as he was not an experienced MLB owner and was from New York.  However, Frazee did provide some of the best players in the game through trades and purchases.

The Bosox won the 1917 and 1918 pennants.  They did slip in 1919 finishing well out of the race.  But Babe Ruth was a hitting sensation during that year with his 29 home runs (“dead-ball era”) bring huge attendance to the Red Sox games.  None the less, on 26 December 1919,  Babe Ruth’s contract was sold to the New York Yankees (Merry Christmas Boston!)  for $100,000, the highest ever paid for a player at the time.

The story goes that Frazee needed cash for theatrical productions and the Yankees needed Ruth to be successful.  A questionable common rumor was Frazee used the money to finance the play “No, No Nanette”, the trouble with that is although that play was a success, it didn’t open on Broadway until 1925.  But there were other productions in the interim.

On 06 January 1920, the deal was announced as Ruth had signed a new contract with a $20,000 bonus for the next two years.  The reaction in Boston was split.  Some fans said the Ruth was too difficult for management to handle, others were embittered at the loss of their slugger.

The reaction in New York was a little different.  The sportswriters said the Ruth would produce a record number of Home Runs due to the short right field at the Polo Grounds ( at the time the Yankees were tenants of the New York Giants).  The New York Times said the “Yankees had pulled off the sports steal of the century”.

The deal proved major changes for the two teams.  The Red Sox had won 5  of the World Series from 1903 to 1919, but did not win another American League pennant until 1946 and finally won a World Series in 2004.

Meanwhile, with Babe Ruth, the Yankees won 7 American League pennants and 4 World Series.  Before obtaining the Babe, they had not even won the American Leauge Championship.

The Yankee Years (1920-1934)

Ruth appeared in over 2,000 games in the fifteen seasons.  He was used exclusively as an outfielder and broke several batting records.  He did appear in 5 games during those fifteen years as a pitcher winning all 5 games.

In his first season as a Yankee, he started slowly due to an injury and the Yanks were 4-7 (W/L) in April 1920.  Meanwhile, the Red Sox were leading the league at 10-2.  As May rolled around, things changed, the Babe hit a record-breaking 11 home runs in May., the most home runs in a month.  In June 1920 he broke his record with 13 home runs.

The Yankee fans numbered 38,000 (max for the Polo Grounds at that time) with 15,000 turned away.  Even when on the road, the Yanks drew large crowds to see the ” the Bambino blast one out of the park”.

On 15 July 1920, Ruth tied his record of 29 home runs, by the end of July he had was well past his old record with 37 “round-trippers”.  The Babe on 03 September 1920 broke the professional record of belting 44 home runs so far in the 1920 season.

Although the Yankees were in the thick of the pennant race most of the summer, Cleveland won the American League Pennant and World Series for `1920.  The team from New York finished third in the American League. with a record 1.2 million fans, which was an all-time attendance record.  The American League drew over 600,000 more fans because of Babe Ruth.

He also led the league in hitting with 54 Home runs, 158 runs scored and 137 RBIs   It might be noted that the A.J. Reach Company developed a machine to wind the yarn more efficiently in baseballs, thus the beginning of the “lively-ball” era  The new baseballs went into play in the 1920 season and 184 more home runs were hit than the previous 1919 season..

The New York Yankees weren’t finished with acquiring players from the Red Sox as Yankee to- be mainstays catcher Wally Schang and Waite Hoyt joined the “Bombers”   The young Hoyt (21 yrs) drew close to Ruth:

“The outrageous lifestyle of Ruth’s fascinated Hoyt, the don’t give- a- hoot,  of the nonstop, pell-mell charge into excess.  How did a man drink so much and never get drunk?  The puzzle of Babe Ruth was never dull, no matter how many times Hoyt picked up the pieces and stared at them.  After a game, Hoyt would follow the to Babe  Ruth’s suite, even on the road and the beer was always iced in the bathtub”.

In the 1921 season, New York got off to a slow start but caught up with Cleveland, the winners of the 1920 World Series.  The Yankees were neck and neck with the Indians in September.  A 4 game series would decide the American League penneant., the Yanks won 3 out of 4 games and won their first American League pennant.  Ruth hit 59 home runs that year ( a new record!), BA of .378 and slugging percentage of .846.

The 1921 World Series played exclusively at the Polo Grames home of both the New Your Yankees and the New York Giants.  Ruth helped the Yanks win the firs two gems but was injured sliding into third base and was used only for pinch-hit roles.

The New York Giants beat the Yanks 5 games to 3 (It was a 9 game World Series then).  In the “Series”, Ruth hit .316, drove in 5 (RBI) and hit his first World Series home run.

On 06 March 1922, the Babe signed a contract for $52,000 a year, the highest wage ever paid a baseball player at the time.  Ruth was also named by the Yankee management the “on-field captain” for the 1922 season.

However, Ruth and two other Yankees had violated a rule of the MLB at the time that World Series participants could not play in exhibition games during the offseason.  They were suspended by Commissioner Mountain Landis until 20 May 1922.

The Babe didn’t keep playing very long as on 25 May 1922, he threw dust at the umpire and was thrown out of the game.  As he was heading for the dugout a heckler let him have it verbally and Ruth took off into the stands after him.  Ruth was again suspended, fined and stripped of his Captain title by Ban Johnson the American  League President.

Ruth, however, did appear in 110 games hit .315, had 35 home runs and drove in 99 RBIs.  In spite Ruth’s “off-year”, the Yankees again met the New York Giants.in the World Series.

The Giants’ manager John McGraw ordered his pitchers to throw nothing but curveballs and Ruth got only 2 hits in 17 times at-bat.  The Yankees lost again to the New York Giants 4 games to 0. (back to a 7 game World Series)

During the off-season, Babe was censured at an Elks Club banquet in New York,  with each speaker censuring Ruth for his poor behavior.  Ruth took this to heart and showed up for Spring Training in the best shape as a Yankee at 210 pounds.

Other developments occurred at the beginning of the 1922 Season as the Yankee’s lease at the Polo Grounds was expiring and the Giants said they would not renew for the 1923 Season.

Yankee owners Rupert and Huston took an option on some land in the Bronx, thus Yankee Stadium was built and ready for the 1923 Season.  The Babe hit the first home run in the new stadium, quickly dubbing it “The House that Ruth Built”.

During 1923 Season, the Yankees easily won their 3rd straight American Pennant by 17 games.  Ruth had a great season hitting .393, 41 home runs and a career-high of 45 doubles getting on base 379 times a major league record.  The Yankees beat the New York Giants 4 games to 2 with Ruth hitting .368, scored 8 times and hit 3 home runs.

In the 1924 Season, the Yanks did not repeat as the American League champions as the Washington Senators won the title by 2 games.  Babe Ruth won his only AL batting title that year at.378 with a league-leading 46 home runs.

The next year in 1925, Ruth suffered from not only being out of shape (260 pounds) but was afflicted with an unknown ailment,  a mystery to this day.  Playing in just 99 games, he had his worst season, hitting .290 and 25 home runs.  The Yankees finished in seventh place in the American League, their worst record 69 W and 85 L, until 1965.

The Yankees “Murders Row “(1926-1928)

During the off-season between 1925 and 1926, Babe Ruth spent a great deal of time at Artie McGovern’s gym getting back into shape.      This provided a great turn-around for Ruth as he hit .372 with 47 home runs 146 RBI’s in the 1926 season.  The Yankees were not expected to win the 1926 pennant but with newcomers Toni Lazzeri and Lou Gehrig, the Yanks had a 10 game lead in June and coasted to the American League pennant of 1926.

Their opponent in the World Series was the St. Louis Cardinals who had the lowest “winning” percentage in National Leauge history.  New York was viewed as a “shoo-in” to be the World Series champions of 1926.

This was not to be as the Cardinals won the Series in 7 games.  The Babe set a record with 3 home runs in game #1.  He also made a spectacular catch of a fly ball while crashing into the right-field wall.  But it was not enough as the “Cards” prevailed.and were the World Series Champions of 1926.

In 1927 the New York Yankees with their budding new talent and veterans were favored to win the American League pennant.   Win the pennant they did, with 110 victories, having secured first place by Labor Day by 19 games.

This was the year of the “Murderers Row” because of power hitters like Lou Gehrig, Tony Lazzeri, Babe Ruth, Earle Combs, Mark Koenig, and Bob Meusel.  Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig had a “race “of their own called a “home run derby”

For most of the season, Ruth and Gehrig were neck and neck with a nearly equal number of home runs.  The Babe took the lead from Gehrig in September permanently as Lou finished the season with 47 home runs.

On 30 day of September 1927, Babe hit his sixtieth home run that lasted until 1961 in which Roger Maris eclipsed it with 61 home runs. (It is noted that in the 1961 season 162 games were played while only 154 games were in the 1927 season).

The 1927 Yankees became a standard for baseball through the coming decades. The Yanks beat the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 1927 World Series 4 games to 0.  Even in batting practice before Game One of the World Series, the Yank sluggers hit ball after ball out of Forbes Field.  It was no wonder the Pirates got skunked after viewing such a display and getting thoroughly “psyched out”.

Babe with Gary Cooper in “Pride of the Yankees”

The following season in 1928, the Yanks started with a huge lead in the Spring.  New York was plagued with injuries, erratic pitching, and inconsistent play.  The Yankees battled with the Philadelphia Athletics toward the end of the 1928 season with Philadelphia briefly taking over first place in the American League.

In the last weekend of the season in September, the Yanks won 3 out of 4 games at Yankee Stadium and clinched the American League Pennant.

Ruth’s season was like his teams as he was hot in the first part of it and slumped in the last two months.  He did hit 54 home runs but his BA dropped to .323 well below his lifetime career average.

The St. Luis Cardinals were favored to win the 1928 World Series.  But New York won in 4 straight games with Ruth BA .625 and hitting 3 home runs in game four.

The Babe’s Final Yankee Years (1929-1934)

In 1929 New York began to permanently place numbers on their players.  It seems rather strange that MLB waited that long for fans to identify the players.  Prior to this, the fan could only determine who was who when the stadium announcer announced the player.  Babe was given #3 as he batted third.

In 1929, the New York Yankees started out well but the Philadelphia Athletics overtook them in May due to a Yankee slump and streaked on to win the American League pennant under the guidance of Connie Mack.

New York finished 18 games behind Philadelphia  Ruth BA was .345 with 46 home runs and 154 RBIs.  The Athletics won the 1929 World Series.

In January 1930, salary negotiations broke down between Ruth and the Yanks.  He wanted $85,000 for 3 years.  Herbert Hoover the United States President was making $75,000 and Ruth was asked if he was worth more then the President of The United States, he replied, “If I hadn’t been sick in the early part of the season I would have broken  my home run record  Besides he gets a 4 year contract and I am asking for 3 years”  New York offered $70,000.  When an agreement was finally made, the Babe got $80,000, the highest ever in MLB.

The 1930 season proved to be good for “The Babe” as he batted .359, hit 49 home runs with 153 RBIs.  The Yankees finished third in the American League race as Philidelphia Athletics won their second American League pennant and World Series.  At the end of the 1930 season, Bob Sawkey was fired as manager and replaced with Joe McCarty for the 1931 season.

The ability of the “1927 Yankees” was now just a memory as the 1931 Yankees finished second to the Philadelphia Athletics 13 1/2 games behind.  The Babe’s BA in 1931 was.373 with 46 home runs and 163 RBIs.  He also had 31 (2B) doubles the most since 1924.

Babe Ruth crashed into the Wall at Griffith Stadium

The Yanks rebounded in 1932 won 107 games and the American League pennant.  Ruth was sidelined twice with injuries and his production dropped with a .341 BA, 41 home runs and137 RBIs.

New York faced the Chicago Cubs in the 1932 World Series, their current  Joe McCarthy managers’ former team.  There were anger and resentment between the two teams (Mark Koenig former Yankeed was given just a 1/2 share in the World Series pay and the Cubs resented their former manager Joe McCarthy).

New York won the first two games at Yankee Stadium.  When the Yanks train rolled into Chicago they were met by a hostile Cub crowd that jeered them at their hotel as well.  Ruth, not one to be quiet, hurled insults back at the Hostile Chicago crowd.

So we go out to the Wrigley Field, where the jeering, booing and throwing of lemons continued.  Ruth silenced the crowd monetarily for awhile with a 3-rung home run in the first inning.  The Cubs tied the game at 4-4 in the bottom of the 4th inning.

When New York came to bat in the top of the 5th inning, the “boo birds” were in full force.  The Babe came to bat and the taunts and insults flew freely. , with one hand Ruth gestured out to the left-centerfield fence the count came 2 balls and 2 strikes, on the next pitch he sent it out over the left center-filed fence and a historical legend was born.  This became the “shot Babe Ruth called”.  The Yankees won this game, the third one of the series.

The next day in-game, 4 Guy Bush was pitching for the Cubs and the Yanks were trailing by a couple of runs then Bush hit Ruth on the arm, words (not pleasant ones I am sure) were exchanged and a near-riot almost started.  The Yanks got fired up over the incident, rallied and won the game, sweeping the Cubs in 4 games to none in the 1932 World Series.

In 1933, the Yankees finished 7 games behind the Washington Senators.  The Babe had a productive year with a BA .301, 34 home runs and 103 RBIs.  He led the American League with 114 walks.

1933 was also a landmark for MLB as the first MLB All-Star game was played at Commiskey Park in Chicago.  Connie Mack the manager for the America League selected Babe Ruth to play right field for the American League (no voting by the public then).  The Babe, in the 3rd inning, hit the first Major League Baseball All-Star home enabling the Americans to a 4-2 win over the National League.

Another landmark in 1933 occurred on the final day of the season, Babe Ruth pitched the final game of his career for the Yanks against the Boston Red Sox.  It was a complete game victory giving Ruth a lifetime 5-0 with the Yankees and a 94 wins-46 losses Major League Baseball lifetime pitching record.

Babe Ruth played his last full season in 1934.  His batting average dropped to.288 with just 22 home runs   New York owner Jacob Ruppert cut Ruth’s salary to $35,000 a $45,000, cut which Ruth agreed to.  The Babe was still the highest-paid player in MLB.

Too many years of riotous living had taken its toll.  Ruth could still wield the bat but his fielding and base running had deteriorated.  Never the less he was selected for the second MLB All-Star game.  The Yanks finished 7 games behind the Detroit Tigers in 1934.

Boston Braves (1935)

Babe Ruth knew he was in the twilight of his career and for a couple of years had made it known that he would take a managerial job if one came along.  The Cleveland Indians, Cincinnati Reds, and Detroit Tigers showed mild interest but nothing came of it.  Ruth even wanted to take-over the Yankee’s manager positon which Joe McCarty had and would have for another 12 seasons.

While Ruth and his wife were on a trip around the world during the off-season between 1934 and 1935 seasons, Ruppert was busy trying to negotiate a deal for him with another team.

The Bost Braves needed a shot in their attendance as they were in a bit of financial trouble meeting the rent at Braves Field.  Jake Ruppert and Braves owner Judge Emil Fuchs set up a deal where Babe Ruth was traded to the Boston Braves then who offered Ruth a Vice-President and Assistant Manager position as well as a player.  At this time in his career, the Babe could only play part-time.

As the 1935 season got underway, Opening Day in Boston was a good start for the Babe that year.  He hit a 2 run home run singled in another and scored himself as the Bost Braves defeated the New York Giants 4-2.  The rest of the season want downhill as the Babe was so badly out of shape even his hitting dropped off.

Ruth realized that Fuchs’s offer of Vice-President and Assistant Manager positions were hollow ones as the task required of him as Vice-President was to sign autographs and make public appearances.  Even as Assistant Manager, little was required or allowed in running the ream.  His play on the field fell off badly.  He made a deal with Owner Braves Fuchs that he would retire near the end of May.

While playing in the third game of a series with Pittsburgh, Ruth went 4 for 4 with 3 home runs off his old nemesis Guy Bush.  The final home run of Ruth’s career sailed over the right file upper deck, the first time in Forbes Field history that a fair ball was hit completely out of the park.

He was urged to retire in a “blaze of glory” but he had given his word to Fuchs that he would stay until Memorial Day.  Babe Ruth ended his lustrous career on 02 June 1935.

Ruth’s BA was only .181 with 6 home runs in part-time play during the 1935 season.  The Braves did very poorly that year winning only 38 games and losing 115 the worst record in National League history.  Emil Fuchs gave up ownership of the Braves before the season was completed to National League ownership.

Retirement (1935-1946)

Although no longer actively playing, Ruth continued to draw large crowds while either playing golf or a few exhibitions games.  The Brooklyn Dodgers in 1938 hired Ruth as a First Base coach but given very little responsibilities, no-sign signaling or any normal duties of a base coach.

The only significant thing he did was in a pre-game contest at Sportsman’s Park in St. Louis win a long ball hitting contest by belting a 430-foot drive into the seats.  He won $50  At the end of the 1938 season, Babe Ruth retired completely from MLB and never again would be part of any activity in baseball.

He made several attempts to find employment in some capacity in baseball.  He sought such things as om-field coaching, administrative positions in the “front office” or even radio game announcing.  But he received no offers.

He appeared at Yankee Stadium 04 July 1939 to speak at Lou Gehrig Appreciation Day with other members of the 1927 Yankees to honor to the premature retirement of the Yankee Firstbaseman who had ALS.  (Lou died two years later)

In 1936 Babe Ruth and four other players were elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame.  It formally opened in July 1939 in Cooperstown, Ohio where Ruth attended.

His last appearance in a plyer uniform was in 1943 in an Army-Navy War Relief benefit game at Yankee Stadium where he hit a long drive off Walter Johnson which curved foul into the right-field bleachers.  The Babe circled the bases anyway.

In a personal nature, we earlier mentioned when the Babe came up from the minor leagues to play for the Boston Red Sox he had met Helen Woodford in a Boston coffee shop.  The two got married shortly later, but she left Ruth in 1925 due to the Babes’ repeated infidelities.  Helen died at age 31 in 1929 in a house fire.  The couple had adopted a daughter Dorothy in 1921, she lived until 1989, claiming she was a daughter of one of Ruth’s mistress.

On 12 April 1929, only 3 months after the death of his wife Helen, Ruth married actress, Claire Hodgson.  It was the last marriage for both.  Each had a daughter by a previous marriage (Babe’s mistress??)

Ruth’s doctors cautioned him to watch his health.  The Babe slowed down his drinking and try to live in a more healthful manner.  In 1946 Ruth experienced sharp pains over the left eye and difficulty in swallowing.

He checked into French Hospital in New York where it was discovered that he had an inoperable malignant tumor in his neck.  Because of his fame, he was allowed to participate in some new (at the time) cancer drugs and other treatments.

Ruth entered French Hospital in November 1946 and was discharged on February 1947 having lost 80 pounds.  He went to Florida to recuperate   He returned to New York after the 1947 season had started.  The new Baseball Commissioner Happy Chandler, replacing the deceased Judge Landis, proclaimed 27 April 1947 as Babe Ruth Day, in all Major League Stadiums and especially at Yankee Stadium where 60,000 fans looked on as some of the 1927 Yankees offered attribute to the Babe, he himself spoke briefly but was weak and ill.

Then although chemotherapy was just coming out of the experimental and development stage, Ruth’s doctors wanted to use it on him.  They hadn’t told Ruth he had cancer for fear of negative actions by the Babe.

They treated the Babe with teropterin, a folic acid derivative.  Babe Ruth may have been the first human to receive this treatment  Ruth showed dramatic improvement during the summer of 1947.  He traveled around the country doing promotional work for MLB.

However, the chemo only worked temporarily as he lost weight and became weaker.  He did press on with assisting in his autobiography and helping with the production of the movie The Babe Ruth Story.

In the 25th year of the “House That Ruth Built” celebration, Babe Ruth appeared for the final time in his life at Yankee Stadium.

Babe Ruth’s Final Appearance at Yankee Stadium

Shortly afterward he entered  Memorial Hospital in New York.  He was never told that he had cancer but probably surmised it.  He left the hospital on a couple of occasions for short trips including a final trip to Baltimore on 26 July 1948 and for the premiere of the movie The Babe Ruth Story.  After the film premiere, he entered the hospital for the final time.  He became just skin and bones and was able only to whisper.

Thousands of New Yorkers including children stood vigil outside of Ruth’s hospital for several days  On 16 August 1948 at 8:05 in the evening, Babe Ruth passed on leaving a legacy that will always be remembered by baseball fans throughout the world.  His funeral was at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York, while an estimated, over 70,000 people, waited outside.  He was buried on a hillside in Section 25 at the “Gate of Heaven” cemetery in Hawthorne, New York.  His second wife Claire Meritt Ruth was buried beside him in 1976.

Memorial and Museum

As already mentioned Babe Ruth was enshrined in the Baseball of Fame in Cooperstown, Ohio in 1936.  On 19 April 1949, a granite monument was unveiled in center-field of Yankee Stadium honoring Babe George Herman Ruth along with other famous deceased Yankees.  This area became known as “Monument Park”.  When the new Yankee Stadium was built in 2008, Monument Park” was moved to the same location as it had been in the old Yankee Stadium.

A monument honoring Babe Ruth

In 1973, Babe Ruth’s birthplace on 216 Emory Street, Baltimore Maryland was restored and opened to the public as the Babe Ruth Birthplace Museum.

The birthplace of Babe Ruth, now a museum

Although Babe Ruth lived a raucous personal at times, he left a legend for all baseball lovers of all ages to remember him by.  It was several decades before some of his MLB records were eclipsed, and some have never been.  He certainly deserves the title of “King of Swat”

 

 

 

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