Babe Ruth, who was born on February 6, revolutionized baseball with his home run hitting. Ruth starred for the New York Yankees in the American League during the 1920’s and early 1930’s. His hitting success helped change the way baseball was played. More batters tried to hit home runs rather than settle for base hits, and home runs permanently became a leading part of the game. In 1927, Ruth hit 60 home runs, which became perhaps the sport’s most famous record until Roger Maris hit 61 home runs in 1961.
Ruth’s spectacular batting and his colorful personality made him an enormous attraction in major league baseball. He became the highest paid player of his time. His eating and drinking excesses and late-hours partying off the field were legendary. Ruth’s huge ego and his charisma, combined with his baseball skills, made him the sport’s first modern superstar and one of the biggest American celebrities of the early 1900’s. Ruth’s fame became so great that in baseball, the 1920’s are often called the Babe Ruth Era. Large numbers of people who knew nothing about baseball began following Ruth’s career and the game. Ruth attracted so many fans that Yankee Stadium, which opened in 1923, was nicknamed “the House that Ruth Built.”
Ruth was born in Baltimore. His real name was George Herman Ruth. Early in his career, he acquired the nickname of the Bambino, the Italian word for Babe. Ruth began playing organized baseball in 1914 with the Baltimore Orioles, then a minor league team. Later that year, he joined the Boston Red Sox of the American League. Ruth began his major league career as a pitcher and from 1915 to 1919, he was one of the best pitchers in the American League. However, in 1918, because of his talent as a hitter, Boston increasingly started Ruth in the outfield so he could get more at bats as an everyday player.
In 1920, Boston sold Ruth to the New York Yankees in one of the most famous transactions in baseball history. Playing the outfield full-time, Ruth helped the Yankees dominate baseball during the 1920’s and early 1930’s. The Red Sox did not win a pennant from 1918 to 2004. For decades, Boston fans and sportswriters blamed the Red Sox failure to win a pennant on Ruth’s departure, calling it “the curse of the Bambino.”
The Yankees released Ruth after the 1934 season, and he ended his playing career in 1935 with the Boston Braves of the National League. In the final game that he started in the outfield for Boston, Ruth hit three home runs. In 1936, he became one of the first five players elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame. Ruth died of throat cancer on Aug. 16, 1948, at the age of 53.