Sunday, March 31, 2013

Hall of Fame Profile: George Herman Ruth

From now until June 23rd (Yankees Old-Timer's Day), I will be releasing Hall of Fame profiles for the 21 Major League Baseball players that were inducted as New York Yankees.  The first of which was George Herman Ruth more commonly known as Babe Ruth.

Full Name: George Herman Ruth, Jr.

Born: February 6, 1885  Died: August 16, 1948

Nickname(s): The Babe, The Great Bambino, The Sultan of Swat

Hall of Fame Induction: 1936 (Inaugural HOF Class receiving 95.13% of vote by BBWAA)

Teams Played for: Boston Red Sox (1914-1919), New York Yankees (1920-1934), and Boston Braves (1935)

Retired Jersey: #3 by the New York Yankees

Career Statistics (courtesy of

Batting Average: .342 (10th all-time)
On-Base %: .474 (2nd all-time)
Slugging %: .690 (1st all-time)
OPS: 1.164 (1st all-time)
HR: 714 (3rd all-time)
RBI: 2220 (2nd all-time)
Runs: 2174 (4th all-time)
Hits: 2873 (42nd all-time)
2B: 505 (51st all-time)
BB: 2062 (3rd all-time)

WAR: 183.2 (1st all-time)
Strikeouts: 1330


Babe Ruth was a lefty who wore the #3 (after 1929) as he batted 3rd in the vaunted Murderer's Row for the New York Yankees in 1927 and was almost single-handedly responsible for the increased gate that led to Yankee Stadium being built, hence the name "The House that Ruth Built."  He changed the game of baseball in his day wowing crowds with his towering home runs and winning them over with his charisma.

On January 3rd, 1920, Babe Ruth was sold to the New York Yankees by the Boston Red Sox for $100,000, which would begin an extended period of time known as the "Curse of the Bambino" for the Sox as they won the Series in 1915, 1916, and 1918 and then didn't see World Series champagne again until 2004.  Prior to coming over from the Red Sox, Babe was known more for his pitching as he recorded 89 wins as a starter.  He didn't become an everyday player until 1918 in which he hit 11 home runs in 317 at-bats.  The 1919 season saw Ruth hit 29 home runs, breaking the record that had stood since 1884 of 27 by Ned Williamson of the Chicago White Stockings and more than doubling his career total of 20.

As a Yankee, Ruth flourished as a hitter with 659 home runs, 1959 runs, and 1978 runs batted in.  Along with Lou Gehrig, he was able to appear in 7 World Series winning 4 Championship Rings in 1923, 1927, 1928, and 1932.  His .349 batting average, .711 slugging percentage, and 1.195 OPS for the Yankees are unheard of numbers as he owns the career record for SLG and OPS to this day.  Numbers outside of the triple slash weren't used in his time but his career WAR (wins above replacement) of 183.2 ranks as first all-time and probably will remain so.  The first 2 seasons as a Yankee, he compiled 54 and 59 home runs, respectively, absolutely demolishing his previous record of 29.  His 139th career home run set a new MLB record for home runs occurring on July 18, 1921 and reportedly traveled 575 feet.  It is no surprise that long home runs became known as "Ruthian."

The Yankees moved from the Polo Grounds to the newly minted "House that Ruth Built" in 1923 in which he quickly hit the first home run there against the Boston Red Sox.  That year he batted .393 with 41 home runs en route to the New York Yankees first World Series title.  He batted .368 in that Series with 3 home runs and 8 runs scored.  After "down" years in 1924 and 1925 in which his weight became a subject of concern, perhaps due to his gregarious off-field antics, he returned to the Babe Ruth of '23 in 1926 obtaining a triple slash of .372 / 47 / 146, but ultimately losing the World Series in 7 games to St. Louis.  1927 marked the advent of the "Murderer's Row" in which Ruth and Gehrig's Yankees won a record 110 games and easily took the Series over the Pittsburgh Pirates in 4 games.  That season Ruth recorded his 60th home run on September 30th which was the Yankees next to last game of the year.  That single-season record stood until Roger Maris broke it in 1961.

Ruth would go on to win 2 more World Series as a Yankee and finished his career with 714 home runs, which would stand as a Major League record until Hank Aaron broke it in 1974.   Who knows how many more home runs Ruth would have hit had he started his career as a hitter instead of a pitcher and not been walked 2,062 times.  In 1935, after a few years of "diminishing stats" only hitting 34 and 22 home runs in 1933 and 1934, respectively, after a successful 1932 campaign, Ruth headed to the Boston Braves where he would retire later that year only hitting 6 out of the park but drawing fans to see Boston's National League franchise.  

A week after joining his 1927 teammates in honoring a dying legend on Lou Gehrig Day: July 4th, 1939, Ruth was inducted into the inaugural Hall of Fame class in Cooperstown, New York nearly 3 full years after being elected along with 4 other members.  In 1948, Babe Ruth would get his own day commemorating the 25th anniversary of the House that Ruth Built making his final appearance at Yankee Stadium after battling cancer.  The frail and weak Ruth made his way onto the field using a bat as a cane and addressed the crowd.  The Yankees retired his #3 that year to join the #4 of Gehrig.  Ruth to this day is known as one of the if not the best hitters of all-time and deservedly so.


4. Pictures sourced from and (Babe Ruth Day-copyright 1948 World Wide Photos)

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