Babe Ruth
Figure 1.--This News Service photo shows a young Babe Ruth handing out gifts to kids with American flags. It is undated, but has to be early in his career as he is so slim. We would guess the early 1920s, but it could even be 1919 while he was still in Boston.

George Herman "Babe" Ruth Jr. (U.S., 1895-1948)

The "Babe" also knon as "The Bambino" and "The Sultan of Swat" is perhaps the greatest ikon in American sports. The only close competitor has to be Michael Jordon. George was born into a working-class family of German ancestry. (This is a fact often ignored in Ruth biographies, probably becuse of the animosity of everything German during and right after World War I. The Babe was such an American hero in his age that people wanted toi view him as wholy American.) George was a handful as a boy as he grew up in Baltimore, Maryland. He was a big boy getting into trouble, so his parents decided to turn into a Catholic orphanage--St. Mary's. The Catholic brothers probably saved him and chaneled his energy into baseball. They got him on the Baltimore Orioles--then a minor league team (1914). Within months he was playing for the Red Sox in the majors. He played in the major leagues from 1914 to 1935. The Boston Red Sox sold Ruth to the New York Yankees (1919). This became known as the "curse of the Bambino", Boston never won a World Series again until 2004. It was, however, the making of the then moribund Yankees. Ruth was a central figure in launching the Yankee dynasty. The Yankees and Yankee Stadium became known as "the house that Ruth built". The Yankees moved him permanently to the outfield. This was important because it meant he could play every day and his hitting could come to the fore. His home run record of 60 held for 60 years (1927). He was much more than just a slugger. He became the greatest hitter in baseball history, dominating the American league during the 1920s. He lived large, his personal charm made him a major figure of the "Roaring Twenties". He kept had a soft place in his heart for kids all his life. He would visit orphans and pass out gifts.


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Created: 6:27 PM 7/7/2008
Last updated: 6:27 PM 7/7/2008