|Nat Fein's Pulitzer Prize-winning photograph of Ruth at Yankee Stadium, June 13, 1948 just two months before his death.|
Born on February 6, 1895, in Baltimore, Maryland, Ruth attended St. Mary's Industrial School for Boys, where he learned to play baseball and was a top athlete. He was signed by the Baltimore Orioles at the age of 19. The nickname 'babe' came after his teammates and media consistently referred to him as team owner Jack Dunn's newest babe. As his legend grew, he was also referred to as "The Sultan of Swat" and "The Bambino."
Ruth started his Major League career with the Boston Red Sox as a left handed pitcher in July 1914 and pitched 89 winning games for the team before 1920. When he was traded to the New York Yankees, "the curse of the Bambino," plagued his former team since the Red Sox didn't win another World Series until 2004. As a Yankee, Ruth's position changed to outfielder where he led the Yankees to seven American League pennants and four World Series victories. He had so many fans in New York that when the team opened the new Yankee stadium in 1923, it also became known as "The House That Ruth Built."
Ruth married Helen Woodford in 1914 but separated around 1926. She died in a fire in Watertown, Massachusetts in 1929. They had an adopted daughter Dorothy Ruth. When the Babe married Claire Hodgson he adopted her daughter Julia. Julia threw out the ceremonial first pitch before the final game in the original Yankee Stadium on September 21, 2008. As a retired couple, Ruth and Claire spent winters in Florida where he had a beachfront home in Treasure Island, Florida, near St. Petersburg.
Ruth's career ended with the Boston Braves where he was trying to play one last year with the hope of managing the team the next season. The job never materialized probably due to his drinking and womanizing ways. He died of throat cancer August 16, 1948, in New York City. Ruth was just 53 years old and his body lay in state at Yankee Stadium for two days, visited by over 100,000 fans.
Records and Awards
- Ruth's 714 career home run record and 40 home runs in each of 11 seasons
stood until 1974, when it was broken by Hank Aaron.
- Ruth's record of 60 home runs in a single season (1927) of 154 games stood until 1961, when Roger Maris knocked out 61 homers in an extended season of 162 games.
- His career slugging percentage of .690 remains the highest in Major League history.
- World Series Champion, 1916, 1918, 1926, 1928
- Led League in home runs 12 times
- 7-time American League Pennant winner
- The Associated Press' Athlete of the Century, 1999
- The Sporting News' Greatest Player of All Time, 1999