Babe Ruth

Babe Ruth in 1921.
Babe Ruth in 1921.

Library of Congress

Babe Ruth is often referred to as the greatest baseball player who ever lived. In 22 seasons, Babe Ruth hit a record 714 home runs. Many of Babe Ruth's numerous records for both pitching and hitting lasted for decades.

Dates: February 6. 1895 - August 16, 1948

Also Known As: George Herman Ruth Jr., Sultan of Swat, the Home Run King, Bambino, the Babe

Young Babe Ruth Gets Into Trouble

Babe Ruth, born as George Herman Ruth Jr., and his sister Mamie were the only two of George and Kate Ruth's eight children to survive childhood. George's parents worked long hours running a bar and so little George ran the streets of Baltimore, Maryland getting into trouble.

When Babe was seven years old, his parents sent their "incorrigible" son to St. Mary's Industrial School for Boys. With only a few exceptions, George lived at this reformatory school until he was 19 years old.

Babe Ruth Learns to Play Baseball

It was at St. Mary's that George Ruth developed into a good baseball player. Although George was a natural as soon as he stepped onto the baseball field, it was Brother Matthias, the prefect of discipline at St. Mary's, who helped George fine-tune his skills.

Jack Dunn's New Babe

By the time George Ruth was 19, he had drawn the eyes of minor league recruiter Jack Dunn. Jack liked the way George pitched and so signed him to the Baltimore Orioles for $600. George was ecstatic to get paid to play the game he loved.

There are several stories about how George Ruth got his nickname "Babe." The most popular is that Dunn was often finding new recruits and so when George Ruth showed up at practice, another player called out, "he's one of Dunnie's babes," which eventually was just shortened to "Babe."

Jack Dunn was great at finding talented baseball players, but he was losing money. After only five months with the Orioles, Dunn sold Babe Ruth to the Boston Red Sox on July 10, 1914.

Babe Ruth and the Red Sox

Although now in the major leagues, Babe Ruth didn't get to play much in the beginning. Babe was even sent to play for the Grays, a minor league team, for a few months.

It was during this first season in Boston that Babe Ruth met and fell in love with the young waitress Helen Woodford who worked at a local coffee shop. The two married in October 1914.

By 1915, Babe Ruth was back with the Red Sox and pitching. Over the next few seasons, Babe Ruth's pitching went from great to extraordinary. In 1918, Babe Ruth pitched his 29th scoreless inning in a World Series. That record stood for 43 years!

Things changed in 1919 because Babe Ruth demanded to spend more time hitting and thus less time pitching. That season, Babe Ruth hit 29 home runs -- a new record.

The Yankees and the House That Ruth Built

Many were surprised when it was announced in 1920 that Babe Ruth had been traded to the New York Yankees. Babe Ruth had been traded for a whopping $125,000 (more than twice the amount ever paid for a player).

Babe Ruth was an extremely popular baseball player. He just seemed to succeed at everything on the baseball field. In 1920, he broke his own home run record and hit an amazing 54 home runs in one season.

Again in 1921, he broke his own home run record with 59 home runs.

Fans flocked to see the amazing Babe Ruth in action. Babe drew in so many fans that when the new Yankee Stadium was built in 1923, many called it "The House That Ruth Built."

In 1927, Babe Ruth was part of the team that many consider the best baseball team in history. It was during that year that he hit 60 home runs in a season! (Babe's single-season record for home runs stood for 34 years.)

Living the Wild Life

There are nearly as many stories of Babe Ruth off the field as there is on it. Some people described Babe Ruth as a boy that never really grew up; while others just considered him vulgar.

Babe Ruth loved practical jokes. He frequently stayed out late, completely ignoring team curfews. He loved to drink, ate copious amounts of food, and had sex with large numbers of women. He often used profanities and absolutely loved to drive his car very, very fast. More than a couple of times, Babe Ruth crashed his car.

His wild life put him at odds with many of his teammates and definitely with the team's manager. It also greatly affected his relationship with his wife, Helen.

Since they were Catholic, neither Babe nor Helen believed in divorce. However, by 1925 Babe and Helen were permanently separated, with their adopted daughter living with Helen. When Helen died in a house fire in 1929, Babe married model Claire Merritt Hodgson, who tried to help Babe curb some of his worst habits.

Two Popular Stories About Babe Ruth

One of the most famous stories about Babe Ruth involves a home run and a boy in the hospital. In 1926, Babe Ruth heard about an 11-year-old boy named Johnny Sylvester who was in the hospital after having an accident. The doctors weren't sure if Johnny was going to live.

Babe Ruth promised to hit a home run for Johnny. In the next game, Babe not only hit one home run, he hit three. Johnny, upon hearing the news of Babe's home runs, started to feel better. Babe later went to the hospital and visited Johnny in person.

Another famous story about Babe Ruth is one of the most famous stories of baseball history. During the third game of the 1932 World Series, the Yankees were in a heated competition with the Chicago Cubs. When Babe Ruth stepped up to the plate, Cub players heckled him and some fans even threw fruit at him.

After two balls and two strikes, the incensed Babe Ruth pointed out to center field. With the next pitch, Babe struck the ball exactly where he had predicted in what has been termed the "called shot." The story became immensely popular; however, it's not exactly clear whether Babe meant to call his shot or was just pointing at the pitcher.

The 1930s

The 1930s showed an aging Babe Ruth. He was already 35 years old and although still playing well, younger players were playing better.

What Babe wanted to do was manage. Unfortunately for him, his wild life had caused even the most adventurous team owner to consider Babe Ruth unsuitable to manage an entire team. In 1935, Babe Ruth decided to switch teams and play for the Boston Braves with the hope of having a chance to be assistant manager. When that didn't work out, Babe Ruth decided to retire.

On May 25, 1935, Babe Ruth hit his 714th career home run. Five days later, he played his last game of major league baseball. (Babe's home run record stood until broken by Hank Aaron in 1974.)


Babe Ruth didn't stay idle in retirement. He traveled, played a lot of golf, went bowling, hunted, visited sick children in hospitals, and played in numerous exhibition games.

In 1936, Babe Ruth was chosen to be one of the first five inductees to the newly created Baseball Hall of Fame.

In November 1946, Babe Ruth entered a hospital after suffering a monstrous pain above his left eye for a few months. The doctors told him he had cancer. He underwent surgery but not all of it was removed. The cancer soon grew back. Babe Ruth died on August 16, 1948, at age 53.