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Babe Ruth


Babe Ruth photo

Babe Ruth, 1930

MPI/Getty Images
Updated June 13, 2012

Vital Statistics:

Born: Feb. 6, 1895

Hometown: Baltimore

Height: 6-2

Weight: 215

Batted: Left

Threw: Left

Family: First wife Helen Woodford died in 1929. Second wife was Claire Hodgson. Two daughters, Dorothy Ruth (died in 1989) and Julia Ruth Stephens.

Primary position: Right field

Before the bigs:

  • One of eight children, George Herman Ruth was one of two who survived past infancy. Was sent to an orphanage at age 7.
  • Signed to the minor-league Baltimore Orioles at age 19 in February 1914 and got the nickname "Babe" with the team. He was sold to the Boston Red Sox that July.
  • A pitcher, he was 22-9 with a 2.39 ERA in 35 games and batted .231 with a home run in 121 at-bats with Baltimore and Providence, on par with the Double-A level today.

Career Highlights:

  • Considered the greatest player ever by many and the greatest right fielder, he changed the game almost single-handedly with his prowess at home runs, changing the game from the dead-ball era to the live-ball era. He was the first player to hit 700 home runs and hit 60 home runs in a season (19), both records that stood for decades. As of 2012, he ranks third on the all-time home run list (714) behind Barry Bonds and Hank Aaron and second on the all-time RBI list (2,217) behind Aaron.
  • Ruth is the all-time career leader in OPS (on base plus slugging) at 1.1636.
  • His .342 lifetime batting average is the 10th highest in baseball history as of 2012.
  • Led the American League in home runs 12 times in a 14-year span from 1918 to 1931.
  • Made his debut with the Red Sox in 1914 as a pitcher and was 2-1 with a 3.91 ERA, winning his big-league debut on July 11.
  • Joined the starting rotation with the Red Sox in 1915 and helped lead them to back-to-back world championships, becoming one of the top left-handed pitchers ever. He won 23 games and led the AL with a 1.75 ERA in 1916, and won 24 games with a 2.01 ERA in 1916. Boston won a third championship with Ruth in 1918, when he split time between pitching and the outfield, leading the AL for the first time with 11 home runs in 217 at-bats. Won Game 1 and Game 4 of the World Series as a pitcher.
  • Set a major-league record with 29 homers as an outfielder (and part-time pitcher) with the Red Sox in 1919. It was a record he broke in each of the next two seasons, and one more time in 1927.
  • In one of the most infamous trades in baseball history, Ruth was sold to the New York Yankees after the 1919 season by Red Sox owner Harry Frazee for $200,000 and a loan for $300,000. Frazee used the money to find a Broadway play: "No, No, Nanette." It was considered to bring a curse to the Red Sox that lasted 84 years.
  • Giving up pitching, he hit a then-unthinkable 54 home runs in 1920 and batted .376. His .847 slugging percentage that season was a record that stood until 2001. Was even better in 1921, when he hit .378 with 59 home runs.
  • Set a Yankees record with a .393 batting average in 1923, their first year in Yankee Stadium, which was dubbed "The House That Ruth Built." The .393 average has never been surpassed. Was selected MVP for the only time in his career, and won his fourth World Series and his first with New York, hitting three home runs in the series against the New York Giants.
  • Won his only batting title in 1924, batting .378.
  • Won another World Series in 1927 on a team that's considered perhaps the greatest ever, teaming with Lou Gehrig and others in a lineup called "Murderers Row." The Yankees went 110-44, won the World Series in four games and Ruth set a record with 60 home runs.
  • Batted .625 in the 1928 World Series, another Yankees win, his sixth of his career.
  • Won his last World Series in 1932, hitting his famous "called shot" in Game 3 at Wrigley Field against the Cubs. It was his last of 15 World Series home runs.
  • Was on the first All-Star team in 1933.
  • Wanting to be a manager, which wasn't going to happen with the Yankees, Ruth was traded to the Boston Braves.
  • Hit three homers in a game on May 25, 1935, with the last homer of his career clearing the roof at Pittsburgh's Forbes Field, the only time that had ever happened. Hurt his knee five games later and never played again..

Off the field:

  • Was also well known for a reckless and carousing lifestyle, but was beloved by fans and remains perhaps the most popular athlete in American sports history.
  • He once was suspended for throwing dirt on an umpire and climbing into the grandstands to quiet a heckler.
  • Missed much of the 1925 season with a mysterious illness (speculated to be alcohol poisoning or venereal disease).

After retirement:

  • Was one of the first five players selected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1936.
  • Had a radio career and also appeared in many films.
  • Died of nasopharyngeal carcinoma in 1948 at age 53.
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