Ruth - Name
This Famous Person
By Mike McLeod
I had to choose an obscure photo of the Sultan of Swat to make it a little difficult to identify him because Babe Ruth is so famous. Even children know his name; his prowess as a baseball player is world famous. During World War II, Japanese soldiers sometimes yelled in English, "To hell with Babe Ruth!” to make the American soldiers mad.
Larry Williams of Birmingham, Al., and Jeane Waters correctly identified him.
Born Feb. 6, 1895 in Pigtown, Md., near Baltimore, George Hermann Ruth, Jr., had six siblings, but only his sister Mamie lived to adulthood. Babe Ruth was a rowdy kid. His parents, Kate Schamberger and George Hermann Ruth, Sr., owned a tavern, and they spent most of their time tending bar rather than tending to their son. By the age of seven, his father had sent young George to St. Mary’s Industrial School for Boys, a reform school and orphanage. There, he learned how to make shirts-and to play baseball.
George was a pitcher, and he was signed as such by the Baltimore Orioles’ minor league team for $100 per month. It was there he earned his nickname, Babe. Just 19 at the time, the other players referred to him as owner Jack Dunn’s “new babe,” and the name went down in history.
Babe Ruth was a power hitter. He energized the game of baseball with his wallops over the fence, and he drew crowds wherever he played. His lifetime stats during his major-league career, which spanned 1914 to 1935, were:
Home runs: 714
Batting average: .342
Runs batted in: 2,217
Slugging percentage: .6897
The slugging percentage is calculated by taking the total number of bases and dividing it by the number of at bats. Babe Ruth’s career slugging percentage record still stands today, ahead of Ted Williams and Lou Gehrig.
Babe Ruth’s home run record needs an annotation. Before 1931, home runs were called by where they landed or were last seen. Therefore, a home run over the fence that curved foul was called a foul. Today, a hit over the fence in fair territory is a home run, no matter where it lands. One author, Bill Jenkinson, claims that without that rule, Babe Ruth would have hit at least 764 career home runs.1 That number would put the Babe ahead of all-time leader Barry Bonds’ 762 home runs.
Babe Ruth was one of the first five players enshrined in the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1936. For you real baseball fans out there, who were the other four? The answer is at the end of this article.
Babe Ruth was an excellent pitcher. His career record was 94 wins and 46 losses with an earned run average of 2.28. But he was an even better batter; consequently, the Orioles switched him to playing right field so he could play more and bat more often. This strategy was key to Ruth’s great stats. His home run record held until 1974 when it was broken by Hank Aaron.
Babe Ruth was a generous man and often shared his good fortune. He did, however, have a temper that was sometimes seen on the field. He was known to kick dirt on umpires, and he threw a punch at one once, for which he was suspended from play for ten games. He didn’t get along with team managers all the time, and once he refused to play until he got a raise in salary—to $20,000. This was in 1919 with the Boston Red Sox. Ruth was asking for a quarter-of-a-million- dollar salary, in today’s dollars. He was turned down and traded to the New York Yankees, a key turning point in his career. The Yankees gave him the 20K.
Since the formation of the ball club in 1901, the New York Yankees had never been to the World Series or even won a pennant until Babe Ruth joined the team. In 1921, they won the league championship and went on to the World Series, which they lost to the New York Giants. However, they came back and did win the Series in 1923—and ’27, ’28 and ’32. (Ruth had already won the World Series with the Red Sox in 1915, 1916 and 1918.)
The Yankee years would become the highlight of Ruth’s career, but by 1934, his body was in terrible shape. He ate, drank and smoked too much and exercised too little. This took a toll on his body, as did turning 40 in 1935. That year, he was traded to the Boston Braves. He played briefly and then announced his retirement.
Babe Ruth’s salary was incredible for that day and time, particularly considering about one-third of his career was during the Depression. The Sporting News reported his annual salary from 1914 to 1932 as:
1914 Baltimore: $600
1914 Providence, Boston: $1,300
1915 Boston: $ 3,500
1916 Boston: $ 3,500
1917 Boston: $ 5,000
1918 Boston: $ 7,000
1919 Boston: $10,000
1920 New York: $20,000
1921 New York: $30,000
1922 New York: $52,000
1923 New York: $52,000
1924 New York: $52,000
1925 New York: $52,000
1926 New York: $52,000
1927 New York: $70,000
1928 New York: $70,000
1929 New York: $70,000
1930 New York: $80,000
1931 New York: $80,000
1932 New York: $75,000
1933 New York: $52,000 3
1934 New York: $35,000 3
1935 Boston: $25,000 3
After baseball, the Babe was heard on radio shows and seen in a few movies. The Pride of the Yankees, the Lou Gehrig story, was probably his most famous role—he played himself.
Ruth married twice, first to Helen Woodford in 1914 (they divorced) and then to Claire Merritt Hodgson, who survived him. He and Helen adopted a girl, and when he married Claire, who was from Athens, Ga., he adopted her daughter.
In 1946, Babe Ruth developed a tumor in his neck that worked its way around an artery and caused him great pain and headaches. Treatment with an early chemotherapy helped to arrest it for a while, but it returned, and on Aug. 16, 1948, the great Babe Ruth died of pneumonia.
All Babe Ruth memorabilia is sought after. In April 2011, a 1933 Goudey Babe Ruth baseball card (Yellow #53 PSA 7) sold for $19,500. In 2005, Sotheby’s sold the contract trading him from the Red Sox to the Yankees for just under $1 million. Sotheby’s also sold the bat he used to hit a home run on Yankee Stadium’s opening day in 1923. It hammered for $1.26 million.
The great Babe is still making money today, but this time, it is for his fans.
The Year Babe Ruth Hit 104 Home Runs, by Bill Jenkinson.
2 The first five players inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame were: Ty Cobb, Babe Ruth, Honus Wagner, Christy Mathewson and Walter “The Big Train” Johnson.
3 "Babe Ruth," by Paul Adomites and Saul Wisnia.