The Great Bambino
Babe Ruth at 20 years old and playing as a pitcher for the Boston Red Sox. Source: (Wikimedia Commons)
The most famous baseball player in history, Babe Ruth, was born George Herman Ruth Jr. on February 6, 1895, in Baltimore Maryland. He was one of eight children born to George Herman Ruth Sr. and Kate Schamberger-Ruth. Sadly, of the eight children, only Ruth and his sister Mamie survived infancy.
Ruth’s parents owned a tavern and worked long hours. This left him with plenty of time to get into trouble. As a result, at the age of seven, he was sent to St. Mary’s Industrial School for Boys which was run by Catholic monks. The stricter environment proved good for young Ruth and he soon bonded with Brother Matthias who became a positive role model and father figure to him. It was Matthias and the other monks who introduced Ruth to baseball and eventually invited Jack Dunn, the owner of the Baltimore Orioles, to come out and watch him play.
Dunn was so impressed with Ruth’s skill that he immediately offered him a contract. Ruth was only 19 at the time and by law had to have a legal guardian sign his contract so Dunn became his legal guardian. As a result, Ruth’s teammates referred to him as Dunn’s “new babe” and that is how he got the nickname Babe. Ruth played so well for the Orioles that he soon made the major leagues, where he led the Red Sox to three championships over the next five years.
In 1919, Harry Frazee, the owner of the Red Sox, facing financial difficulties, was forced to sell Ruth to the New York Yankees to pay off his debts. This was the stroke of death for the Red Sox, who would not win another World Series until 2004. This losing streak was often referred to as “The Curse of the Bambino.” However, it was anything but a curse for the New York Yankees who won four World Series titles over the next fifteen seasons.
Not only did Ruth continuously lead his team to victory but he was also constantly breaking records. In 1919, he set a single-season home run record of 29. The next year, he broke his own record with 54 home runs. In 1921, in what many consider to be the greatest season in MLB history, he hit 59 home runs. He would break his own record once again in 1927 with 60 home runs and it would be 34 years before anyone would top it. By the end of his career, he hit a total of 714 home runs, a record that would not be broken until 1974.
When Ruth retired in 1935, he held 56 major league records. In 1936, he became one of the first five inductees into the Baseball Hall of Fame. His jersey number was retired by the Yankees on June 13, 1948. He passed away on August 16, 1948, having been diagnosed with a malignant tumor two years earlier. His body lay in repose at Yankee Stadium and his funeral was held two days later at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York with more than 100,000 people lining up to pay their respects. A large portion of his estate was left to the Babe Ruth Foundation for underprivileged children. While most of his records have since been broken, Babe Ruth is still considered the greatest baseball player in history.
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