Saturday would have been the 115th birthday of George Herman Ruth, known simply as the Babe. Of course, no one except maybe some Estonian woman, living in the mountains, makes it to that age. I read an article that pointed out, that since Ruth retired in 1935, the number of Major league records he owns has dropped from 17 to now, just 4. Career and single season marks for home runs and other categories have been obliterated by the good (Hank Aaron) the bad (Barry Bonds) and the ugly (Mark McGwire). I think though, that if you ask people of a certain age or generation, Babe Ruth is still the gold standard. I realize he died in 1948, but to me, (born in 1961) he was the player to which all others are compared.
We talk about performance enhancing drugs, human growth hormones, steroids. All the things that modern players thought would make them bigger, stronger and better. From what I read, Babe Ruth was on the hot dog and beer diet. A carouser of epic proportions, that answered the bell every night. Ruth would be a megastar even today. He loved people and loved being loved. He was an orphan who himself, had a soft spot for kids. I’ve never been much for the arguments about Ali/Louis or Russell/O’Neal because they’re strictly speculation. There really is no way to know how a players’ skills would translate in a different era. The exception in my mind is Ruth. I am pretty sure he could hit a fastball of Nolan Ryan or Tim Lincecum or Sandy Koufax. Any pitcher, any time.
You can’t help but wonder how the complexion of the game would have been different if Red Sox owner Harry Frazee hadn’t sold Ruth to the Yankees to help finance his play “No No Nannette”. There would have been no Murderer’s Row, no teaming with Lou Gehrig, no multiple crowns for New York. It all may have happened in Boston instead.
One term I don’t miss is “Curse of the Bambino”. Fabricated by Dan Shaughnessy of the Boston Globe, it was finally eradicated when Boston defeated St. Louis in the 2004 World Series (Not after the GREATEST collapse in the history of sports- by the Yankees in the ’04 American League Championship Series). About 15 years ago I interviewed Ruths’ daughter, Julia Ruth Stevens on a radio show I was hosting. I asked and she kindly consented to lift the “Curse”. It did take about 8 or 9 years to catch on, but it finally did.
Babe Ruth seemed like a really cool guy. One of my favorite photos in the vast McCoy Stadium collection, is of Ruth and Ted Williams sitting and talking. I imagine it would have been fun to sit and have a beer with a guy like Ruth. I’d buy the first round. After all, it is his 115th birthday.