Babe Ruth, (February 6, 1895 – August 16, 1948), born George Herman Ruth, is baseball's most famous hitter and its all-time leader in slugging percentage (.690). The word "Ruthian" is named after him to describe phenomenal athletic achievements. He also stood up against owners to demand a free market salary commensurate with his talent.
Ruth was born in southern Baltimore, Maryland. His parents were Kate Schamberger-Ruth and George Herman Ruth, Sr., who owned a tavern in a poor, rough neighborhood of Baltimore. Young George was a trouble-maker by the age of 7, and his parents put him in a Catholic orphanage and reformatory, St. Mary's Industrial School for Boys.
Babe Ruth stood up for his Catholic faith, saying it provided him a good standard against which to measure himself. Brother Mathias, a monk at the reformatory, introduced the young Ruth to baseball, and by age 15 he was a phenomenal pitcher and hitter. His talent subsequently caught the attention of the owner of the Baltimore Orioles, then a farm team for the Boston Red Sox, and by age 19 George Herman Ruth had a major league contract. By 1918 Ruth had led the Red Sox to two World Series championships, and still holds the record for pitching 13 scoreless innings in a World Series game.
The Red Sox sold the rights to him for $100,000 in 1919 (a massive amount of money today) because the owner needed the cash to pay off debts. Then Ruth was converted to play in every game as an outfielder for the New York Yankees. He hit 714 home runs, a record until Hank Aaron broke it in the 1970's, and also set a record by hitting 60 home runs in a single season in 1927. That record stood until Roger Maris hit 61 home runs in 1961. It should be noted that the length of the season had been increased by 1961, and Ruth hit 60 home runs in fewer games. More recently several players hit more home runs in a season, but those achievements have been questioned and they were prior to mandatory testing for performance-enhancing drugs.
Many polls place Babe Ruth as the number one player of all time. The New York Yankees, with Ruth on the Team, won seven American League Pennants and four World Series titles. But Ty Cobb received more votes for the Hall of Fame when they were inducted in 1936, and in terms of public perception Ty Cobb may have been disadvantaged for not trying to hit home runs or playing for the media-centered New York Yankees.
Ruth was a capitalist who held out for a higher salary several times. He was one of the few players in any sport who successfully took a tough stance, as an individual without a union, against greedy owners.
Babe Ruth died at age 53, at Memorial Hospital in New York, in 1948. He was buried in the Cemetery of the Gate of Heaven in Hawthorne, New York. Since his death, Ruth continues to be formally recognized for his accomplishments.
Babe Ruth memorabilia commands auction prices higher than virtually any other sports figure:
|“||Babe Ruth New York Yankees professional model road jersey dating to the 1928-30 period soared to $5,640,000 breaking the record for the most expensive piece of sports memorabilia to have ever been sold. ... [It] smashed the previous amount of $4,400,000 previously held by a 1920 Babe Ruth jersey.||”|