The Sultan of SwatNo figure ever dominated a major professional sport quite the way George Herman "Babe" Ruth did in the game of baseball. During a career that spanned 22 seasons, Ruth was easily the greatest performer of his day and, many believe, of all time. Born on February 6, 1895, Babe Ruth was brought up in a poverty stricken area of Baltimore, Maryland. At the age of seven, he entered St. Mary's Industrial School in Baltimore, where he remained until he was 18. After that he joined the Baltimore Orioles, then a minor league baseball club, in 1914. Before the season ended, he was traded to the Boston Red Sox for approximately $2,900. Not only was Ruth a powerful and consistent hitter, he was unsurpassed as a pitcher. In 1915, during his first full season, the Babe won 22 games as a pitcher and batted .315, an excellent average for any hitter. The following year, he led all American League pitchers with 23 victories. Of all the baseball records Babe Ruth set, he himself was most proud of pitching 29 2/3 scoreless innings against the Chicago Cubs in the 1918 World Series. In 1919, Ruth shocked the baseball world by hitting 29 home runs, an unprecedented feat for those days. His next surprise was being traded to the New York Yankees in 1920 for $125,000. Ruth's arrival in New York, where he was converted from a pitcher to a fulltime outfielder, began a brilliant 15-year stay with the Yankees that catapulted him into international stardom. Dubbed "the sultan of swat" by sportswriters, he drew thousands of fans to ballparks across the country. When Yankee Stadium was built in the Bronx in 1923, it was called "the house that Ruth built." In a short time, he was baseball's highest paid player, reaching his peak at $80,000 for the 1930 season. Ruth's accomplishments defy belief. His career batting average was .342 and he hit more than 40 home runs in each of 11 seasons, with at least 50 in four of those seasons. He led the American League in home runs for 12 years, including his legendary 1927 season when he hit 60, a record that stood in both major leagues for 34 years until Roger Maris (New York Yankees) hit 61 homers in 1961. Perhaps Ruth's greatest achievement was in hitting 714 lifetime home runs, a record that lasted until 1974, when Henry Aaron passed him. Babe Ruth was unanimously elected to Baseball's Hall of Fame in 1936. He died of cancer on August 16, 1948, in New York City, but his place in baseball history is secured forever.
Illustration: The Babe batting another ball for a home run.
© 1979, Panarizon Publishing Corp. USA Photo: Van der Schlagmollen
Printed in Italy