The Sultan Of Swat
Babe Ruth

Baseball player. Born George Herman Ruth, Jr., on February 6, 1895, in Baltimore, Maryland. He was the first of eight children born to Kate and George Herman Ruth, Sr. Most of the Ruth children died in infancy and only George Jr. and his sister Mamie survived to maturity. Little George, as he was called, grew up in a poor waterfront neighborhood in Baltimore, where he lived above the family saloon.

In 1902, the Ruth’s sent their son away to St. Mary’s Industrial School for Boys, which was both a reformatory and an orphanage. Ruth developed a love for sports, particularly baseball, which served as his escape from the strict environment at St Mary’s. From an early age he showed potential as an athlete, and in his late teens he had developed into a professional candidate. His tough southpaw pitching attracted Jack Dunn, manager of the minor league Baltimore Orioles. In 1914, the Orioles signed Ruth to his first professional baseball contract. He became the team’s youngest member, and was befittingly nicknamed “Babe.”

Within five months, 19-year-old Ruth graduated to the major leagues, and signed with the Boston Red Sox. He remained with the team for six seasons, alternating positions as pitcher and outfielder. With his great pitching, powerful bat, and winning personality, he was quickly on his way to greatness, overshadowing players like Ty Cobb and Honus Wagner.

After a controversy revealed that the Chicago White Sox conspired to throw the 1919 World Series, the sport of baseball was in need of a hero. The scandal had shaken the public’s faith in the game. However, in 1919, while still a part-time pitcher for the Red Sox, Ruth made his home-run assault on the record books. His 25th home run that year shattered the modern major league record held by the now forgotten Gabby Kraveth. By the end of the year, Ruth’s record was an unprecedented 29 home runs, and he was credited with reviving faith in the game.

In December of 1919, the Boston Red Sox sold the invaluable player to New York Yankee owner Colonel Jacob Ruppert. Ruppert bought Ruth’s contract for over $100,000, which was a staggering price at the time. In 1920, Ruth joined the Yankees, who as yet had never won a pennant. For years they played in the shadow of the New York Giants. Without a baseball park to call their own, the Yankees were forced to hold their games at the Giants’ Polo Grounds.

Ruth started as a full-time outfielder, hitting 54 home runs his first year with the Yankees. Shortly after, he became baseball’s preeminent player, and such a drawing card that New York built a new stadium for the crowds he was attracting. Yankee Stadium had its opening day on April 4, 1923, with a total attendance of 74,000. The stadium became known as “The House That Ruth Built,” and the period became known as the Golden Age of Baseball. On opening day, Ruth made the first home run in Yankee Stadium history.

Ruth's slugging percentages in 1920 and 1921 were .847 and .846. Neither figure has ever been approached. In fact, a slugging percentage higher than .704 has been achieved only 20 times, eight by Ruth. In 1923, hitting .393, he was named the league’s Most Valuable Player, and capped off the year by ushering the Yankees to their first World Series Championship. He also led the American League in home runs from 1919-1924, and again from 1926-1931.

In 1927, Ruth hit 60 home runs, breaking his own record, and setting a new one that would endure for decades (Roger Maris broke it in 1961). With an exceptional year, he assumed almost mythic status, and was nicknamed “The Sultan of Swat,” “The Home Run King,” and “Herman the Great.”

Off the field Ruth reveled in his celebrity status, enjoying a wild and extravagant life. However, his high living and headstrong behavior eventually began to take a toll on his performance. He was still baseball’s premier player but fellow teammate and newcomer Lou Gehrig started to show signs of greatness as well. The year 1931 was the start of Ruth’s 12th season with the Yankees, and it also marked the great days of Lou Gehrig’s career. Ruth was still a force, but Gehrig was closing the gap. At the end of the season the two players were tied in home runs.

In 1933, Ruth’s once great talent began to erode. Realizing that his playing days were numbered, he threatened the Yankees that he would quit if not given the opportunity to become a manager. After they denied his request, he left the Yankees in 1934. Two years later, the Boston Braves offered to take on Ruth as a part-time player, baiting him with an eventual assistant-manager position. He accepted, and his decision met with mixed feelings among New York fans. Some thought that he was deserving of the opportunity, and others felt that he was selling out.

After three months, Ruth became aware of the fact that the Braves only wanted him for his drawing power. They had no intention of giving him a managerial position. He resigned from the team, and made his last appearance as a player in May of 1935, retiring with 714 career home runs (a record that was broken by Hank Aaron in 1974).

In 1936, Ruth was part of the first class inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame, along with Ty Cobb, Honus Wagner, Walter Johnson, and Christy Mathewson. He became a coach with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1938, but never achieved his goal of managing a major league team.

Ruth was diagnosed with cancer in 1946. Although the extent of his illness was kept from him, he knew that his time was limited. He spent the remainder of his life making countless visits to children’s hospitals and orphanages. In 1948, Ruth made his final appearance at Yankee Stadium, celebrating the 25th anniversary of “The House that Ruth Built.” His number was retired, and April 27th was declared “Babe Ruth Day.”

On August 16, 1948, Ruth died at the age of 53. At the time of his death, he held 54 major league records, including most years leading a league in home runs (12), most total bases in a season (457), and highest slugging percentage for a season (.847).

While with the Red Sox, Ruth married 18-year-old waitress Helen Woodford, whom he had known less than three months. In 1929, Ruth’s wife died in a fire. At the time, they had been separated for three years. Her tragic death allowed him to marry Claire Hodgson, a former model and actress. With Claire’s daughter from a previous marriage and Ruth’s adopted daughter (with Woodford), they became an immediate family. Ruth and Hodgson remained together until Ruth’s death.


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