e first child bornto a saloonkeeper and his wife in Baltimore, Maryland.
The family livedupstairs over the bar, and Mrs. Ruth had seven children after Babe,although only one, a daughter Mary Margaret, called “Mamie,” survived. Babe was an absolute terror as a child. At the tender age of seven, he wasplaying hooky from school, stealing fruits and vegetables, chewing tobacco,and drinking his father’s whiskey. He told Fred Lieb, “I learned early todrink beer, wine, whiskey, and I think I was about five when I first chewedtobacco. There was a lot of cousin’s in Pop’s saloon, so I learned a lotof swear words, some really bad ones”.Order now
Finally, his parents were no longerable to force him to go to school and sent him away to receive formaltraining and reform at St. Mary’s Industrial School for Boys. While livingat “The Home,” Babe took up baseball and was a left-handed catcher on theschool championship team, the Red Sox, and he soon became the school’s bestplayer. After several failed “parole” attempts and the death of his motherin 1910, Ruth was released from St. Mary’s at the age of nineteen and foundthat his reputation as a baseball player had spread.
Jack Dunn’s Baltimore Orioles, then a minor league team, signed Ruth toa $600 contract in February of 1914. Barely a week later, he hit his firsthome run, which prompted one newspaper reporter to remark, “The hit willlive in the memory of all who saw it. The ball carried so far to rightfield that Ruth walked around the bases”. Despite his powerful bat,however, while with the Orioles, Ruth was considered strictly a pitcher andmanaged to win 14 games (and acquire his nickname “Babe”) before Dunn soldhim to the Boston Red Sox in July of the same year.
Ruth kept up hisamazing left-handed pitching, winning 18 games in 1915 and 23 in 1916, andin the 1918 World Series, he pitched 29 consecutive scoreless innings, arecord that lasted more than 40 years. By 1919, Ruth had cemented his reputation as a great hitter as well,hitting 29 home runs in a single season, breaking the major-league record. Also in 1919, a Red Sox owner sold Ruth, who was by then a nationalcelebrity, to the New York Yankees desperate for cash. The Babe and NewYork City was a perfect match.
In his first season, Ruth belted an unheardof 54 home runs. In 1921, he hit 59. In only three seasons, Babe hadamassed a whopping 124 home runs, more than any other batter had hit in anentire season. Attendance soared and Babe began to react and play to hisfans, especially those of the opposing team.
While playing for the Yankeesin the 1928 World Series in St. Louis, Ruth was “booed cheerfully” byCardinal fans as he trotted to left field to take his position. He grinnedplayfully and pointed beyond the right field wall, indicating thedestination of his forthcoming hit. In his next at bat, Babe delivered onhis promise, (his alleged “Called Shot” would not take place until 1932),then again, and again, and by the end of the game he had hit three homeruns, the second time he’d managed to do so in a single World Series game.
Between 1926 and 1931, Babe averaged 50 home runs a year, including 60 in1927, as a member of the infamous “Murderer’s Row. ” He led the AmericanLeague in home runs 12 out of 14 seasons. On January 16, 1920, eleven daysafter the announcement of Babe Ruth’s sale to the New York Yankees,Prohibition went into effect in the United States. The country was nearlyon the verge of social revolution, and accordingly, baseball had alreadybegun to experience an explosive “revolution” of its own. In the firsthalf of the century, a “safe,” “scientific” strategy, low scores, andeffective pitching had dominated the game. Standout players like Cobb,Wagner, and others could certainly hit, however, the emphasis was on teamscoring rather than individual performance.
Then Babe Ruth arrived in NewYork. “What caused the explosion?” Robert Creamer asks, “The end of thewar, Ruth, money and the lively ball”. While Ruth’s seemingly effortlessability to hit home runs did much to attract a record 38,600 spectators toPolo Grounds one Sunday afternoon during his first season, his timing alsohad a profound effect on his success. Ruth arrived in New York after WorldWar I, when the Yankees had money and were financially able to takeadvantage of the widespread interest in their newly acquired sensation. “The result was a rising zest for public spectacles, and Ruth rose with theflood, in just the right place”.
Other hitters also seemed anxious to”rise with the flood,” by copying Ruth’s full swing, causing battingaverages to jump from . 250 in the fifteen seasons before 1919, to above. 285 by 1921, and they remained in the . 280s through the 1930’s.
While with the Yankees, Babe also met with his share of trouble, buthis rebel streak lent itself quite nicely to his emerging larger-than-lifeheroic image. In 1922, he was suspended five times for “objectionable”behavior, which included bad-mouthing umpires and chasing after an abusivefan. By 1925, Babe’s first marriage to Helen Woodford was falling apartamid rumors of his affair with the woman who was to become his second wife,he was betting on horse races, drinking heavily, speeding, sleeping with”an endless parade of women,” and missing much of the season due to variousillnesses. In Field of Screams: The Dark Underside of America’s NationalPastime, Richard Scheinin has this to say about “The Bambino’s” behavior:Red Smith once wrote, “Many players are physical animals with a layerof muscle enclosing the intellect. ” That describes Babe Ruth to a T. Hewas a man-child, egocentric and out of control: the very prototype for themodern athlete, drunk on headlines, who can’t get enough money, enoughdrink or drugs, enough women.
These characters had been in the game allalong, but Ruth truly delivered the whole ball of wax. He set thestandard. Bibliography:Smelser, M. (1975), The Life That Ruth Built: A BiographyThe Life That Ruth Built: A Biography Richard Marth 6/8/033rd PeriodGym