Ask fans who was the greatest American baseball player, and you’ll probably get several answers. However, one name that’s bound to be on everybody’s list is Babe Ruth. Each year, baseball lovers celebrate Babe Ruth Day on April 27. The first celebration was at Yankee Stadium on April 27, 1947, according to Holiday Insights.
The Babe’s Early Life
George Herman Ruth was the first American sports superstar. U-S-History.com says that while he was born George Herman Ruth in Baltimore on February 6, 1895, he gained the nickname “Babe” after Baltimore Orioles’ owner Jack Dunn was forced to adopt him so that he could fulfill his first professional contract.
While his parents were busy running a tavern they also owned, young Babe Ruth got into a fair amount of trouble. They turned over custody of their son to the Jesuits who ran St. Mary’s Industrial School when he was 7. Though the youngster detested the school’s strict regimen, he learned how to play baseball there. He was both pitcher and catcher on the varsity team by the time he turned 15.
Jack Dunn spotted Babe Ruth when the latter was 19. Since the young man was supposed to remain at the school until age 21, Dunn had no choice but to legally adopt him to get him under contract. The “Babe” nickname that resulted from this stayed with him forever.
After Ruth was on the Orioles’ roster for five months, the team sold him to the Boston Red Sox, where he was mainly a pitcher. In three regular seasons, his record was 84-46. Although considered a solid pitcher, Ruth’s hitting was attracting growing attention. In 1919, he moved permanently to the outfield.
At the end of the season, the Red Sox sold Babe Ruth to the New York Yankees for $125,000, an astronomical sum at the time. When Yankee Stadium opened to the public four years later, some called it “The House That Ruth Built.” By 1930, he was earning a yearly salary of $80,000, more than the compensation of U.S. President Herbert Hoover. During the 1932 World Series, he hit a pitch 500 feet into the stands, the longest home run ever hit there.
In 1935, Babe Ruth ended his career with the Boston Braves. His dream of managing a major league team never materialized. However, his lifetime record of 714 home runs remained until Hank Aaron surpassed it in 1974. His lifetime batting average of .690 remains legendary, and he was one of the first six men inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1936.
In 1946, Ruth received a diagnosis of a malignant neck tumor. Fans organized the first Babe Ruth Day, an event celebrated by every organized U.S. baseball league. The Yankees retired his number 3 jersey on June 13, 1948, and he died on August 16.
Although Babe Ruth had already passed away before I was old enough to play sports, his memory was alive in every local baseball game played in my Ohio home town. All of the children knew who he was. “Hit it like the Babe” was a familiar yell when a youngster took a turn at bat.
Fans will remember Babe Ruth on April 27 in many ways. It’s the perfect time to go outside and toss around a ball with the smallest family members or to take in a game outdoors or on TV. It’s also an opportunity to organize community and organizational teams not already in place for the season.