Babe Ruth

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Babe Ruth : biography

6 February 1895 – 16 August 1948

Thousands of New Yorkers, including many children, stood vigil outside the hospital in Ruth’s final days. On August 16, 1948 at 8:01pm, Babe Ruth died in his sleep at the age of 53. Instead of a wake at a funeral home, his casket was taken to Yankee Stadium, where it remained two days; 77,000 people filed past to pay him tribute. His funeral Mass took place at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, outside of which a crowd estimated at 75,000 waited. Ruth rests with his second wife Claire on a hillside at the Gate of Heaven Cemetery in Hawthorne, New York.Montville, pp. 366–367.

All-time ranks

  • 1st on all-time slugging % with 0.690
  • 1st on all-time OPS with 1.164
  • 1st on all-time OPS+ with 206
  • 2nd on all-time on-base % list with .474
  • 2nd on all-time RBI list with 2,213
  • 3rd on all-time home run list with 714
  • 3rd on all-time bases on balls list with 2,062
  • 4th on all-time runs list with 2,174
  • 6th on all-time total bases list with 5,793
  • 10th on all-time batting average list with .342

Radio and films

Ruth made many forays into various popular media. He was heard often on radio in the 1930s and 1940s, both as a guest and on his own programs with various titles: The Adventures of Babe Ruth was a 15-minute Blue Network show heard three times a week from April 16 to July 13, 1934. Three years later, he was on CBS twice a week in Here’s Babe Ruth which was broadcast from April 14 to July 9, 1937. That same year he portrayed himself in "Alibi Ike" on Lux Radio Theater. His Baseball Quiz was first heard Saturdays on NBC June 5 to July 10, 1943 and then later that year from August 28 to November 20 on NBC, followed by another NBC run from July 8 to October 21, 1944.

His first film appearance unofficially occurred in 1920, when a newly formed company called Educational Pictures decided to take advantage of Ruth’s growing popularity by creating a series of "educational films" based on Ruth. Ruth never committed to the project or compensated for the series, and decided to take Educational Pictures to court. However the judge cited with the company stating that Ruth was a "public figure", and anybody were allowed to film Ruth without requiring permission.Reisler, p. 167. The matter was dropped when the series did poorly at the box office. However the case convinced Ruth to sign a film contract as the star of the silent movie Headin’ Home, also made in 1920. His film roles included a cameo appearance as himself in the Harold Lloyd film Speedy (1928). He made numerous other film appearances in the silent era, usually either playing himself or playing a ballplayer similar to himself. For his final film, an out of shape Ruth was contacted to appear as himself in the 1942 biopic about Lou Gehrig, Pride of the Yankees, in which he lost 40 pounds for the role.Creamer, pp. 403-404.

References and notes

Legacy

Creamer termed Ruth "a unique figure in the social history of the United States". Ruth has even entered the language: a dominant figure in a field, whether within or outside sports, is often referred to as "the Babe Ruth" of that field. Montville noted in 2006 that more books have been written about Ruth than about any other member of the Baseball Hall of Fame. At least five of these books (including Creamer’s and Wagenheim’s) were written in 1973 and 1974, timed to capitalize on public interest in Ruth increased as Henry Aaron approached his career home run mark, which he broke on April 8, 1974.Montville, pp. 1–6. Aaron stated as he approached Ruth’s record, "I can’t remember a day this year or last when I did not hear the name of Babe Ruth."

Montville suggests that Ruth is probably even more popular today than he was when his career home run record was broken by Aaron. The longball era which Ruth started continues in baseball, to the delight of the fans. Owners build ballparks to encourage home runs, which each evening during the season are featured on such programs as SportsCenter and Baseball Tonight. The questions of performance enhancing drug use which have dogged recent home run hitters such as McGwire and Bonds do nothing to diminish Ruth’s reputation; his overindulgences with beer and hot dogs seem part of a simpler time.Montville, pp. 4–5. Reisler suggests that the poor quality of film depictions of Ruth, both in the 1948 The Babe Ruth Story and the 1992 film, The Babe, (starring John Goodman) have perpetuated fictions about Ruth, and in the case of the latter film, the impression that Ruth was overweight throughout his career, rather than just in the later part of it.Reisler, p. xii.