Babe Ruth

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Babe Ruth : biography

6 February 1895 – 16 August 1948

During spring training in 1925 concern over Ruth’s weight was a major topic of discussion. While playing in Hot Springs, Arkansas he developed a mild case of influenza, but felt well enough to travel with the team to Asheville, North Carolina. On his arrival at the team hotel he collapsed in front of Yankees main scout Paul Krichell.Montville, pp. 199-201. A local physician attributed the fainting episode to flu, and recommended that Ruth return to New York to rest. News of his illness quickly spread among the sports journalism community. A rumor circulated that he had died, prompting British newspapers to print a premature obituary.Montville, p. 202. In New York, Ruth collapsed again and was found unconscious in his hotel bathroom. He was taken to a hospital where he suffered multiple convulsions.Montville, p. 203. After sportswriter W. O. McGeehan wrote that Ruth’s illness was due to binging on hot dogs and soda pop before a game, it became known as "the bellyache heard ’round the world". However, the exact cause of his ailment has never been confirmed and remains a mystery.Montville, p. 204. Playing just 98 games, Ruth had what would be his worst season as a Yankee; he finished with a .290 average and 25 home runs. The Yankees finished next to last in the American League with a 69–85 mark, their last season with a losing record until 1965.

1926–1928

Babe Ruth performed at a much higher level during 1926, batting .372 with 47 home runs and 146 RBIs. The Yankees won the AL pennant and advanced to the World Series, where they were defeated by Rogers Hornsby and the St. Louis Cardinals in seven games. In Game 4, he hit three home runs, the first time any player achieved this in a World Series game. Despite his batting heroics, he is also remembered for a costly base running blunder. Ruth had a reputation as a good but overaggressive base runner (he had 123 stolen bases, including ten steals of home, but only a 51% career percentage). With two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning of the decisive seventh game and with the Yankees trailing 3–2, Ruth tried to steal second base. However, he was thrown out by ten feet, ending the game and the Series. (Yankee team president Ed Barrow later called this the only on-field boner Ruth ever made in his career.) This remains the only time that the final out of a World Series was a "caught stealing".

The 1926 series was also known for Ruth’s promise to Johnny Sylvester, a seriously ill 11-year-old, that he would hit a home run on his behalf.Thomas, Robert McG., Jr. , The New York Times, January 11, 1990. Retrieved June 28, 2009.

Ruth was the leader of the famous 1927 Yankees, also known as Murderer’s Row because of the strength of its hitting lineup. The team won a then AL-record 110 games(a mark for a 154-game season eventually surpassed by the 1954 Cleveland Indians), took the AL pennant by 19 games, and swept the Pittsburgh Pirates in the World Series.

With the race long since decided, the nation’s attention turned to Ruth’s pursuit of his own home run mark of 59. Early in the season, Ruth expressed doubts about his chances: "I don’t suppose I’ll ever break that 1921 record. To do that, you’ve got to start early, and the pitchers have got to pitch to you. I don’t start early, and the pitchers haven’t really pitched to me in four seasons. I get more bad balls to hit than any other six men…and fewer good ones." Ruth was also being challenged for his slugger’s crown by teammate Lou Gehrig, who nudged ahead of Ruth’s total in midseason, prompting the New York World-Telegram to anoint Gehrig the favorite. But Ruth caught Gehrig (who would finish with 47), and then had a remarkable last leg of the season, hitting 17 home runs in September. His 60th came on September 30, in the Yankees’ next-to-last game. Ruth was exultant, shouting after the game, "Sixty, count ’em, sixty! Let’s see some son-of-a-bitch match that!" In later years, he would give Gehrig some credit: "Pitchers began pitching to me because if they passed me they still had Lou to contend with." In addition to his career-high 60 home runs, Ruth batted .356, drove in 164 runs and slugged .772.