Babe Ruth Biography

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George Herman Ruth, Jr. The Great Bambino. The Sultan of Swat. The Babe. Perhaps the greatest ballplayer of all time, Babe Ruth set numerous records and excelled in the sport of baseball. He was a premier pitcher, perhaps even the league's best at the onset of his career, but it was his bat that made him a legend.

Ruth was born in Baltimore, Maryland, Feb. 6, 1895. He was one of eight children, but only he and one sister survived past infancy. His youth was wild, and he was a difficult child. Sent off to St. Mary's Industrial School for Boys, he was taught the game of baseball by Brother Matthias, who took to him and became the biggest influence in his life.

When he was 19 his athletic abilities caught the eye of Baltimore Orioles manager Jack Dunn. The Orioles (a minor league team affiliated with the Boston Red Sox at the time) signed George to a contract, and his new teammates began calling him "Jack's newest Babe," hence the nickname "Babe." After a short stay in Baltimore, he was promoted to pro ball in Boston where he would play for the next six years.

In 1916 he compiled a 23-12 record with nine shutouts and a 1.75 earned run average (ERA). During the World Series that year, Babe set a record for pitching the longest complete game in series history, throwing for 14 innings and allowing only one run (in the first inning). But he was often passed over in postseason play by Sox manager Bill Carrigan who preferred to have his right-handers pitch, which often left the southpaw on the bench.

By the end of his third full season with the Red Sox, he had amassed 65 wins and improved his batting average each year. In 1918 he was moved from the mound to the outfield so the team could get his bat into the lineup on a regular basis. That year he broke the home run record, for the first of many times, with 29 long balls. Also that year, the Red Sox won their third world series with Ruth's help. But that was all about to change.

After a sub-par season in 1919, the Sox failed to make the playoffs, and owner Harry Frazee was running out of money. Years of high salaried contracts were used to attract the best players, and funds were low. But he was also a theater promoter who was more concerned with the stage than with the baseball diamond. Falling on desperate times and needing the funds to invest in a new play on Broadway, Frazee would forever change the face of the game. On January 3, 1920, a deal was made and the Red Sox had sold their star player to the New York Yankees. Owner Jacob Ruppert paid a mere $125,000 to Frazee and secured him a loan for $350,000 on Fenway Park, home to the Red Sox. The deal would go down in history as one of the most lopsided transactions of all-time.

Ruth's first season with the Yankees was a great one. He finished with a .376 batting average and belted 54 home runs--almost twice as many as his previous record. He drove in 137 runs, scored 150, walked 150 times and even stole 14 bases. He reached base safely in over half of his plate appearances that year. The next year he helped bring the team to its first World Series appearance but lost to the New York Giants 5-3 in a best-of-nine series.

Things would get ugly in 1922. Despite finishing with a .315 average, he was suspended multiple times for arguing with umpires, missing more than 40 games. His personal life was turbulent also. A new lifestyle in the big city and a faraway wife allowed Ruth to indulge in many vices. Once again the Yankees lost the series to the Giants, this time 4-0 in a best-of-seven series. But Ruth would bounce back the following year.

People came from all over to see the Bambino play. For nearly 10 years the team had shared the field at New York's Polo Grounds with the rival Giants before setting out on their own. The extra inflow of revenue from Ruth's draw earned Ruppert the funds to build a new facility for his team: Yankee Stadium. Nicknamed "The House that Ruth Built" because of the star-power of the Yankees slugger, it is also the first baseball venue to take the name "stadium," a throwback to the classical Greek open-air sporting arenas. Rejuvenated from the off-season, it was only right that the Babe hit the first home run in the park's history on its opening day. And later that year he helped the team to another first--a World Series victory.

During the World Series of 1932, Ruth hit his legendary "called shot" against the Chicago Cubs. Skeptics, critics and fans alike still can't agree on the truth to the matter, but story has it that during game three he stepped up to bat and pointed to the center field seats, arguably with the intent of hitting a home run in that direction. The truth is that he had been making gestures during the at-bat, most of which were directed at the Chicago bench, as many of the players were heckling Ruth during his plate appearance. What isn't so clear is whether or not he actually pointed to center, but in either case what resulted was a 440-foot bomb that would solidify another Yankees championship and make Ruth a legend.

After the '32 Series, his career began its decline. Although still producing for the team, his numbers steadily sunk to mediocrity. His contract expired, and he signed with the fledgling Boston Braves in a deal that made him an assistant manager. He lasted only 28 games into the season, and then he decided to retire. Ruth aspired to one day become a big-league manager, but after multiple stints as an assistant he never reached that goal.

Durimg the mid 30s his health was also in decline. By 1940 he had suffered what were believed to be two mild heart attacks, and in 1946 he was diagnosed with throat cancer. He battled the cancer for two years before succumbing to the disease, and he died on August 16, 1948, two months after his uniform number, 3, had been retired by the Yankees. To sum up Ruth's legendary ability, one of baseball's greatest writers, Tommy Holmes, said, "Some 20 years ago, I stopped talking about the Babe for the simple reason that I realized that those who had never seen him didn't believe me." That's how good he was.

His numbers would tell it all. In his career, Ruth would go on to become one of the game's most prolific hitters, amassing a career total of 714 home runs, a lifetime batting average of .342, and an amazing career slugging percentage of .690. He even had 136 triples for someone of his size--better than six per season. As a pitcher, he amassed a 94-46 record, racking up an unfathomable 1221.1 innings pitched--nearly the equivalent of pitching eight innings in every start. But despite a 2.28 ERA, Babe's accomplishments on the mound will forever be overshadowed by his mighty bat.

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