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101 Awesome Babe Ruth Facts

On Saturday, July 11th, the Red Sox and Yankees played a routine regular season game at Fenway Park, in which Boston ultimately won 5-3 to improve their long-shot playoff hopes by just a bit. On that same day 101 years before, the player that would end up defining the same two franchises for nearly a century made his official major league debut. Of course we are talking about none other than George Herman “Babe” Ruth, arguably the best and most famous player in baseball history.

Little did the BoSox know that the July 11, 1914 debut of a burly pitcher would end up redefining the sport and the industry as a whole. With the momentous occasion in mind, I took upon the task of recouping some of the most interesting biographical and statistical facts of the mythical Babe. Don’t worry, they are not in the vein of the internet-famous Chuck Norris facts or any other kind of legend, but rather real hard data retrieved from the likes of Baseball Reference, the SABR project, and his Hall of Fame biography.

Prepare to be enlightened and blown away.

  1. On the day of his debut, he became the 4,196th player in MLB history.
  2. To this day, he remains the only ballplayer with the last name Ruth to play in a major league game.
  3. On his debut, the first batter he faced was Cleveland left fielder Jack Graney. Ruth won that game with 7 innings of 2-run ball. At the plate, he went 0 for 2.
  4. He’d only play in four more games during the 1914 season, getting his first hit against the Yankees on October the second. It was a double amidst his first career complete game.
  5. Ruth was born and raised in Baltimore, and was actually supposed to be part of the Orioles. However, a team fire sale by owner Jack Dunn saw him shipped to the Red Sox.
  6. Ruth hit his first homerun on May 6th, 1915 against the Yankees’ Jack Warhop. It was a solo shot.
  7. 27 days later, he hit his second homer also against Warhop. This time, it was 2-run blast.
  8. He made 127 appearances as a pitcher before ever taking another position on the field. Still, he did hit a pinch-hit homer in 1916.
  9. In all, he hit 14 homeruns as a pitcher, with the last coming on July 21st, 1919.
  10. Ruth’s performance as a pitcher for Boston yielded an 89-46 record, with a 2.19 ERA over 1190.1 innings.
  11. He also went 3-0, 0.87 ERA over 3 World Series starts for Boston.
  12. According to Baseball Reference’s similarity scores, the fourth-most Babe-Ruth-like pitcher in history is Clayton Kershaw.
  13. The Red Sox won 3 World Series in six seasons with Ruth. In the 96 ensuing years, they have won only 3 more.
  14. Ruth became a regular outfielder in 1918, and by 1919 he had already set a new single-season homerun record with 29.
  15. After the season, he was controversially sold by owner Harry Frazee to the New York Yankees. Allegedly, the sale was motivated by Frazee’s cash needs to fund No, No, Nanette as a Broadway musical. However, the play would be staged until 1925.
  16. Ruth hit only 49 homers for the Red Sox.
  17. Ruth’s first game as a Yankee came on April 14, 1920. He went 2-for-4 with a couple of singles.
  18. His first homerun for the Yankees had to wait until May 1, against the Red Sox’s Herb Pennock.
  19. Despite not hitting a homerun in April, Ruth broke his own record by hitting 54 during that season. He also led the league in runs, RBI, walks, OBP, and slugging.
  20. He led the league in those same categories again in 1921, 1923, 1924, 1926, 1927, 1930, and 1931.
  21. Ruth had 7 seasons of 40+ homers, 3 with at least 50, and one with exactly 60.
  22. During Ruth’s first season with the Yankees, the franchise became the first one to ever top 1 million fans in attendance.
  23. The title of the original Yankee Stadium as “The House that Ruth Built” may be more literal than you believe. When Ruth came to the Yankees, the team shared the Polo Grounds with the Giants. As the stadium owners, the Giants tried to force the Yankees out in part due to resentment towards the rising star and franchise. This is why the Yankees sought to build a stadium of their own, acquiring land in the Bronx to open a stadium by 1923.
  24. Ruth hit 85 of his homers in the Polo Grounds.
  25. In Yankee Stadium’s opening game, Ruth hit the park’s first homer – a 3-run bomb against Boston’s Howard Ehmke.
  26. Ruth would finish his career with 90 homers against his former team.
  27. The Babe was appointed as the Yankees captain in 1922, but that all lasted for only six games. After being ejected from a game in May 25, Ruth went up in the stands chasing after a heckler. He was suspended by the league for a game, and stripped of his new title.
  28. Despite finishing with a career .342 average, Ruth only won one batting title: in 1924, with a .378 mark.
  29. However, his best-ever batting average came a year before, when he hit .393. He finished second to Harry Heilmann’s .403
  30. With the Yankees, Ruth made 7 World Series and won 3.
  31. In 36 World Series games for the franchise, Ruth hit 15 homers and drove in 30 runs. His OBP was of .490
  32. In the 1926 Series against the Cardinals, Ruth became the first player ever to hit 3 homers in a single World Series game. That feat has been matched later by Reggie Jackson, Pablo Sandoval, and Albert Pujols.
  33. Ruth repeated this power barrage when he hit 3 homers again in the clinching game 4 of the 1928 Series against the same Cardinals. He remains the only player ever with multiple 3-homer games in the postseason.
  34. Despite his many WS accolades, Ruth is also remembered for a huge mistake. On game 7 of the 1926 Series, with the Yankees trailing 3-2, Ruth drew a two-out walk in the bottom of the ninth. Ruth decided to try for second and was caught stealing – the only time in World Series history in which a series ended that way.
  35. Ruth hit his 100th homerun against Jim Shaw.
  36. Ruth hit his 200th homerun against Herman Pillette.
  37. Ruth hit his 300th homerun against Buster Ross.
  38. Ruth hit his 400th homerun against Rube Walberg.
  39. Ruth hit his 500th homerun against Willis Hudlin.
  40. Ruth hit his 600th homerun against George Blaeholder.
  41. Ruth hit his 700th homerun against Tommy Bridges.
  42. The Babe chose 3 as his jersey number because that was his spot in the batting order. He first wore it in 1929, as baseball uniforms were barely beginning to use numbers.
  43. In 1922, Ruth was the first ever player to earn more than $50,000 dollars for a season. Converted to today’s dollars, it would amount to roughly a cool million.
  44. Despite moving to an everyday outfielder with the Yankees, Ruth scattered 5 pitching appearances in New York. He went 5-0 with a 5.22 ERA for his efforts.
  45. Ruth only won one MVP award during his career, and it came in 1923. However, this point is surely tainted by the fact that the American League made each winner ineligible for future distinctions. This took out of consideration most of Ruth’s historic seasons.
  46. In a similar fashion, Ruth only made two All-Star teams. With the game first being played in 1933, Ruth god the nod as a 38-year-old.
  47. However, Ruth did hit the first-ever homerun in an All-Star game, sparking the American League’s 4-2 win in Comiskey Park.
  48. On July 18, 1921 Ruth hit his 139th career homer. That broke Roger Connor’s record for homeruns in a career. This meant that each homerun hit by Ruth from that point forward was just an extension of his own record.
  49. Ruth led the American League in homers 12 times.
  50. Ruth retired with what seemed as unbreakable records, with 714 homers and 2,220 RBI.
  51. Hank Aaron would break those two records. He hit his 715th homer in 1974, and recorded his 2,221st RBI in 1975. Aaron finished his career with 755 dingers and 2,297 RBI.
  52. However, Ruth did it all in 10,622 plate appearances. Aaron needed 13,941.
  53. After his conversion to the outfield, Ruth only had more strikeouts than walks in a season twice: in his injury-plagued 1925, and once again in his final season in 1935.
  54. In 1923, Ruth set the single-season record for walks, as he received 170 free passes. That record stood until 2001, when Barry Bonds walked 177 times. It is still an AL record.
  55. Ruth also retired as the record holder with 2,062 total walks. That mark stood also until 2001, when it was broken by Rickey Henderson.
  56. Despite his huge physique, Ruth managed to steal 123 bases during his career (though he was caught 117 times).
  57. He also hit 10 inside-the-park homeruns!
  58. Ruth is only one of 5 players in history to appear in 4 different positions during World Series games, as he pitched, and played first base, left and right field. The others are Jackie Robinson, Elston Howard, Tony Kubek, and Pete Rose.
  59. He remains the only player in history with consecutive games hitting a grand slam, twice.
  60. Ruth finished his career with 16 grand slams.
  61. He hit more homeruns with men on base (365) than solo shots (349).
  62. In 1927, Ruth set a single-season record, with 60 homers, that would stand until 1961, when Yankee Roger Maris broke it.
  63. Also in 1927, Ruth and Lou Gehrig became the first teammates to surpass 30 homers in a season.
  64. Ruth’s 659 homers with the Yankees remain the all-time record for homeruns with a single team.
  65. During Ruth’s Yankee years, 1920 to 1934, he hit an MLB-leading 659 homers. During that span, the second place was actually Gehrig, with only 348.
  66. During Ruth’s Yankee years, 1920 to 1934, he drove an MLB-leading 1,975 RBI. During that span, the second place was also Gehrig, with only 1,450.
  67. Ruth is also the all-time leader in ISO (basically slugging minus average), with a .348 mark. Second place belongs to Mark McGwire, with .325
  68. Ruth also is the all-time leader in slugging, OPS, and OPS+
  69. If you prefer more advanced stats, he is also tops in wOBA, wRC+, and WAR (both Baseball Reference’s and Fangraphs’).
  70. Ruth’s 1923 season, which included a 14.1 WAR, remains the most valuable season on record.
  71. Ruth has 10 acting credits to his name, 4 of which came as part of feature films.
  72. He lost 40 pounds to play his young self in 1942’s “Pride of the Yankees”.
  73. The popular candy bar Baby Ruth was introduced in 1921, but the manufacturer denied it had anything to do with the ballplayer, but rather was a tribute to Grover Cleveland’s late daughter Ruth. Many years later, Baby Ruth would become an MLB official sponsor.
  74. Ruth’s most common victim was Rube Walberg, against whom he hit 17 homers.
  75. He also hit 10 against legendary Walter Johnson. No other player hit more than 5 against Johnson in his 21-year career.
  76. In terms of teams, Ruth’s most common victim were the Tigers, who allowed 123 long balls from Ruth.
  77. For his career, Ruth played at least one game in each position in the batting order, though 701 of his career homers came from the 3 or 4 spot.
  78. In his lone game as a lead-off hitter, he went 0-for-2 with a walk and a run scored.
  79. As a fielder, he was credited with 179 errors during his whole career.
  80. Ruth finished with a career mark of a homerun per 11.76 at-bats. That record was later eclipsed by Mark McGwire (10.61 HR/AB).
  81. Due to a fielding mishap involving the sun on 1922, Ruth refused to play left field in the Polo Grounds. From that point on, he only played right field on that stadium and for the subsequent move to Yankee Stadium. However, the favorable shadows of other AL stadiums allowed him to play left field, as he did in Boston, Chicago, Detroit, St. Louis, and Philadelphia.
  82. A Babe Ruth plaque stands outside Osaka’s Koshien Stadium in Japan. It was erected after Ruth hit 14 homers in 17 games against Japanese All-Stars in an exhibition tour following the 1934 season.
  83. In 1983, he was also honored with a US Postal Service stamp.
  84. Ruth was release by the Yankees in 1934, with a previous agreement stating that he would sign with the Boston Braves of the National League.
  85. As a hobbled 40-year old, Ruth could only suit up for 28 games with Boston, hitting six homers and 12 RBI.
  86. Ruth’s final hit in the majors came as part of a 3-homer game in Pittsburgh. Ruth’s final hit, and homerun, came against Guy Bush.
  87. It was only the second 3-homer game by Ruth in the regular season, but he finished his career with 70 2-homer games.
  88. Ruth’s last game as a player came on May 30, 1935. He struck out against Jim Bivin, then hurt his knee, and came out of the game.
  89. Ruth’s final official position in the majors came as a first base coach for the 1938 Brooklyn Dodgers. He never got a chance to manage.
  90. Ruth was part of baseball’s inaugural Hall of Fame class of 1936. He was inducted along Ty Cobb, Honus Wagner, Walter Johnson, and Christy Matthewson.
  91. Ruth was amazingly not voted in unanimously, instead receiving 95.1% of the votes.
  92. His plaque famously states him as the “Greatest drawing card in the history of baseball”.
  93. Ruth’s number 3 was retired by the Yankees in 1948.
  94. In 1949 the Yankees also presented a granite plaque of Ruth that was located in Yankee Stadium’s field. It later became the central part of Monuments Park, which was then moved to the New Yankee Stadium.
  95. Ruth’s plaque was always touched for good luck by Roger Clemens during his Yankees tenure.
  96. After Ruth was diagnosed with cancer and his deteriorating health signaled the end, commissioner Happy Chandler declared April 27, 1947 as Babe Ruth Day around the league.
  97. Ruth’s final appearance in a baseball stadium came with the Yankees on June 13, 1948, leading to a Pulitzer prize-winning famous photograph.
  98. Ruth died on August 16, 1948. His body lied at Yankee Stadium for two days.
  99. Ruth’s tombstone, located in Hawthorne, New York, still receives thousands of visitors year after year.
  100. In 1999, the fan vote selected Ruth to MLB’s All-Century Team as the top player of all time.
  101. Aside from his notorious presence in Cooperstown’s Hall of Fame, Ruth’s descendants and foundation set up the Babe Ruth Birthplace Museum in Baltimore. It is well worth a tour.

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