He was born George Herman Ruth Jr. on February 6, 1895 and passed away on August 16, 1948. He was best known simply as, “The Babe” and nicknamed “The Bambino” and “The Sultan of Swat” while playing the game of baseball for 22 seasons in The Major Leagues (MLB) playing for three teams between 1914 and 1935. Known for his hitting brilliance, Ruth set career records for home runs (714), slugging percentage (.690), runs batted in (or RBI) with 2,217 and on-base plus slugging (OPS) (1.164). Ruth originally entered the major leagues with the Boston Red Sox as a starting pitcher (and very good at it), but after he was sold to the New York Yankees in 1919, he converted to a full-time right-fielder. He subsequently became one of the league's most prolific hitters and with his home run hitting prowess, he helped the Yankees win seven pennants and four world series titles. Ruth retired in 1935 after a short stint with the Boston Braves, and the following year, he became one of the first five players to be elected into the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
Ruth was the first player to hit 60 home runs in one season (1927), a mark first eclipsed by Roger Maris in 1961 with 61. Ruth's lifetime record of 714 home runs stood until 1974 when it was surpassed by Hank “Henry” Aaron. Unlike many power hitters, Ruth also hit for a high batting average: his .342 lifetime average is the tenth highest in baseball history, and in one season (1923) he batted .393, a Yankee record. Ruth dominated the era in which he played. He led the league in home runs during a season twelve times, slugging percentage and OPS thirteen times each, runs scored eight times, and RBIs six times. Each of those totals represents a modern record.
Ruth is credited with changing baseball itself. The popularity of the game exploded in the 1920s, largely due to his influence. Ruth ushered in the “live ball era”, as his big swing led to escalating home run totals that not only excited fans, but helped baseball evolve from a low-scoring, speed-dominated game to a high-scoring power game. He has since become regarded as one of the greatest sports heroes in American culture. Ruth's legendary power and charismatic personality made him a larger than life figure in the “Roaring Twenties”, and according to ESPN, he was the first true American sports celebrity superstar whose fame transcended the game of baseball. Off the field he was famous for his charity, but also was noted for his often reckless lifestyle.
Ruth has been named the greatest baseball player of all time in various surveys and rankings. In 1998, The Sporting News ranked him number one on the list of “Baseball's 100 Greatest Players“. In 1999, baseball fans named Ruth to the Major League Baseball All-Century Team. In 1969, he was named baseball's Greatest Player Ever in a ballot commemorating the 100th anniversary of professional baseball. In 1993, the Associated Press reported that Muhammad Ali was tied with Babe Ruth as the most recognized athletes in America. In a 1999 ESPN poll, he was ranked as the third-greatest U.S. athlete of the century, behind basketball (NBA) great, Michael Jordan and boxing legend, Muhammad Ali.
Ruth was born at 216 Emory Street in Pigtown, a rough neighborhood of Baltimore, Maryland. Ruth's German-American parents, Kate Schamberger-Ruth and George Herman Ruth, Sr., owned a succession of saloons and sold lightning rods. Only one of Ruth's seven siblings, his sister Mamie, survived past infancy.
Not much is known about Ruth's early childhood. His mother was constantly ill (she later died of tuberculosis while Ruth was still a teenager). Ruth later described his early life as “rough.” When he was seven years old, his father sent him to St. Mary's Industrial School for Boys, a reformatory and orphanage, and signed custody over to the Catholic missionaries who ran the school (the site of St. Mary's was occupied by Cardinal Gibbons School.) Ruth remained at St. Mary's for the next 12 years, visiting with his family only for special occasions. Brother Matthias Boutlier, the Head of Discipline at St. Mary's, first introduced Ruth to the game of baseball. He became a father figure in Ruth's life, teaching him how to read and write, and worked with Ruth on hitting, fielding, and, as his skills progressed, pitching. During his time in St. Mary's, Ruth was also taught tailoring, becoming a qualified shirt-maker, and was a part of both the school band and the drama club.
In 1936, Ruth was one of the first five players elected into the Baseball hall of Fame. Two years later, Larry MacPhail, the Brooklyn Dodgers general manager, offered him a first base coaching job in June. Ruth took the job but quit at the end of the season. The coaching position was his last job in Major League Baseball. His baseball career finally came to an end in 1943. In a charity game at Yankee Stadium, he pinch hit and drew a walk. In 1947, he became director of the American Legion’s youth baseball program.
Ruth made many forays into various popular media. He was heard often on radio in the 1930s and 1940s, both as a guest and on his own programs with various titles: “The Adventures of Babe Ruth” was a 15-minute Blue Network show heard three times a week from April 16 to July 13, 1934. Three years later, he was on CBS twice a week in “Here’s babe Ruth” which was broadcast from April 14 to July 9, 1937. That same year he portrayed himself in “Alibi Ike” on Lux Radio Theater. His “Baseball Quiz” was first heard Saturdays on NBC June 5 to July 10, 1943 and then later that year from August 28 to November 20 on NBC, followed by another NBC run from July 8 to October 21, 1944. His film roles included a cameo appearance as himself in the Harold Lloyd film “Speedy” (1928). His first film appearance occurred in 1920, in the silent movie “Headin’ Home”. He made numerous other film appearances in the silent era, usually either playing himself or playing a ballplayer similar to himself.
Ruth's voice was said by some biographers to be similar to that of film star Clark Gable, although that was obviously not evident in the silent film era. He had an appropriate role as himself in “Pride of the Yankees” (1942), the story of his ill-fated teammate Lou Gehrig. Ruth had three scenes in the film, including one in which he appeared with a straw hat. He said, “If I see anyone touch it, I'll knock his teeth in!”. The teammates convinced young Gehrig (Gary Cooper) to chew up the hat; he got away with it. In the second scene, the players go to a restaurant, where Babe sees a side of beef cooking and jokes, “Well, I'll have one of those…” and, the dramatic scene near the end, where Gehrig makes his speech at Yankee Stadium ending with “I consider myself the luckiest man …”
Ruth married Helen Woodford in 1914. Owing to his infidelities, they were reportedly separated around 1926. Helen died in a fire in Watertown, Massachusetts, on January 11, 1929, in a house owned by Edward Kinder, a dentist whom she had been living with as “Mrs. Kinder“. Kinder identified her body as being that of his wife, then went into hiding after Helen's true identity was revealed; Ruth himself had to get authorities to issue a new death certificate in her legal name, Margaret Helen Woodford Ruth.
Ruth had two daughters. Dorothy Ruth was adopted by Babe and Helen. In her book, “My Dad, The Babe”, Dorothy claimed that she was Ruth's biological child by a girlfriend named Juanita Jennings. She died in 1989.
Ruth adopted Julia Hodgson when he married her mother, actress and model Claire Merritt Hodgson. Julia Ruth Stevens currently resides in Arizona, and threw out the ceremonial first pitch before the final game in the original Yankee Stadium on September 21, 2008.
By one account, Julia and Dorothy were, through no fault of their own, the reason for the seven-year rift in Ruth's relationship with teammate Lou Gehrig. Sometime in 1932 Gehrig's mother, during a conversation which she assumed was private, said, “It's a shame (Claire) doesn't dress Dorothy as nicely as she dresses her own daughter.” When the remark inevitably got back to Ruth, he angrily told Gehrig to tell his mother to mind her own business. Gehrig in turn took offense at what he perceived as Ruth's disrespectful treatment of his mother. The two men reportedly never spoke off the field from that moment until the famous “bear hug” in Yankee Stadium on Lou Gehrig Day in 1939.
Ruth and Claire regularly wintered in Florida, frequently playing golf during the off-season and while the Yankees were spring training in Tampa, Florida. After retirement, he had a winter beachfront home in Treasure Island, Florida near St. Petersburg.
For decades, the Baby Ruth candy bar was believed to be named after Babe Ruth and some sports marketing practitioners used this example of one of the first forms of sports marketing. However, while the name of the candy bar sounds nearly identical to the Babe's name, the Curtiss Candy Company has steadfastly claimed that Baby Ruth was named after President Grover Cleveland’s daughter, Ruth Cleveland. Nonetheless, the bar first appeared in 1921, as Babe Ruth's fame was on the rise and long after Cleveland had left the White House and 15 years after his daughter had died. The company failed to negotiate an endorsement deal with Ruth, and many saw the company's story about the origin of the name of the bar as merely a ploy to avoid having to pay the baseball player any royalties. Ironically, Curtiss successfully shut down a rival bar that was approved by, and named for, Ruth, on the grounds that the names were too similar in the case of George H. Ruth Candy Co. v. Curtiss Candy Co, 49 F.2d 1033 (1931). Sports marketing experts now believe that the Curtiss Candy Company employed the first successful use of an ambush sports marketing campaign, capitalizing on the Babe's name, fame and popularity.
The New York Times supports the evidence of the ambush marketing campaign when it wrote “For 85 years, Babe Ruth, the slugger, and Baby Ruth, the candy bar, have lived parallel lives in which it has been widely assumed that the latter was named for the former. The confection's creator, the Curtiss Candy Company, never admitted to what looks like an obvious connection - especially since Ruth hit 54 home runs the year before the first Baby Ruth was devoured. Had it done so, Curtiss would have had to compensate Ruth. Instead, it eventually insisted the inspiration was “Baby Ruth” Cleveland, the daughter of President Grover Cleveland. But it is an odd connection that makes one wonder at the marketing savvy of Otto Schnering, the company's founder.”
Thus, in 1995, a company representing the Ruth estate brought the Baby Ruth candy bar into sponsorship officialdom when it licensed the Babe's name and likeness for use in a Baby Ruth marketing campaign. On page 34 of the spring, 2007, edition of the Chicago Cubs game program, there is a full-page ad showing a partially unwrapped Baby Ruth in front of the Wrigley ivy, with the caption, “The official candy bar of Major League Baseball, and proud sponsor of the Chicago Cubs.” Continuing the baseball-oriented theme, during the summer and post-season of the 2007 season, a TV ad for the candy bar showed an entire stadium (played by Dodger Stadium) filled with people munching Baby Ruths, and thus having to hum rather than singing along with “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” during the seventh-inning stretch.
In 1946, Ruth began experiencing severe pain over his left eye. In November 1946, a visit to French Hospital in New York revealed Ruth had a malignant tumor in his neck that had encircled his left carotid artery. He received post-operative radiation therapy. Before leaving the hospital in February 1947, he lost approximately 80 pounds.
Around this time, developments in chemotherapy offered some hope. Teropterin, a folic acid derivative, was developed by Dr. Brian Hutchings of the Lederle Laboratories. It had been shown to cause significant remissions in children with leukemia. Ruth was administered this new drug in June 1947. He was suffering from headaches, hoarseness and had difficulty swallowing. He agreed to use this new medicine but did not want to know any details about it. All the while he was receiving this experimental medication, he did not know it was for cancer. On June 29, 1947, he began receiving injections and he responded with dramatic improvement. He gained over 20 pounds and had resolution of his headaches. On September 6, 1947, his case was presented anonymously at the 4th Annual Internal cancer Research Congress in St. Louis. Teropterin ended up being a precursor for methotrexate, a now commonly used chemotherapeutic agent.
On August 16, Babe Ruth died at age 53 due to pneumonia. An autopsy showed the cancer Ruth died from began in the nose and mouth and spread widely throughout his body from there. His body lay in repose in Yankee Stadium. His funeral was two days later at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, New York. Ruth was then buried in the Cemetery of the Gate of Heaven in Hawthorne, New York. At his death, the New York Times called Babe Ruth, “a figure unprecedented in American life. A born showman off the field and a marvelous performer on it, he had an amazing flair for doing the spectacular at the most dramatic moment.”
Ruth's impact on American culture still commands attention. Top performers in other sports are often referred to as “The Babe Ruth of ______.” He is widely regarded as one of the greatest baseball players in history. Many polls place him as the number one player of all time.
Source: Wikipedia - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Babe_Ruth
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