February 6, 1895
Babe Ruth was one of the greatest baseball players in history. His genuine charm and generosity, wild lifestyle, and amazing talent for home runs made him the first true American sports celebrity superstar. He helped baseball to explode in popularity, evolving it to a high-scoring power game. By his retirement in 1935, he had achieved a lifetime total of 714 home runs. That record was unbroken for 39 years.
Babe Ruth was born George Herman Ruth, Jr. on February 6, 1895 in Baltimore. His family lived above his father’s saloon. Uncontrollable as a child, his parents sent him at age seven to a reform school, St. Mary’s Industrial School for Boys. His father gave the school full custody. Over the next twelve years, he rarely saw his family. He hated the school’s ridged atmosphere. Only Brother Matthias Boutlier, the Head of Discipline at St. Mary’s, was kind to him. He became a father figure to Ruth, gave him an education, and introduced him to baseball.
In 1914, Brother Matthias brought Ruth to the attention of the then minor league Baltimore Orioles. The other players nicknamed Ruth “The Babe,” due to his age (Ruth was nineteen, and at that time the age of majority was twenty-five). A few months later, Ruth was sent to the major league Red Sox. On December 26, 1919 Red Sox owner Harry Frazee sold Ruth to the New York Yankees so that Frazee could finance a Broadway play.
From 1920 – 1935, Ruth’s powerful batting skills helped make the Yankees legendary. But his continued unruliness often got him into trouble on and off the field. On May 25, 1920, he was ejected from a game for throwing dirt on an umpire, then leaping into the stands to brawl with a heckler. He loved wild parties, fast women, eating, and boozing.
Babe Ruth was also warm-hearted, giving large sums of money to charities. Remembering his own miserable childhood and Brother Matthias’ encouragement, he was especially kind to children. He frequently visited orphanages, reform schools, and children’s hospitals, always laded down with gifts. He truly delighted in the children’s joy at meeting their hero.
In 1935, hoping to become the Yankees manager, he was refused. Heart-broken over the rejection, Babe Ruth defiantly retired from baseball. His legendary status as a player was acknowledged when he was among the first five inductees into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1936.
Babe Ruth spent his post-baseball years giving talks on the radio, and at orphanages and hospitals. He also served as a spokesperson for United States War Bonds during World War II.
In the fall of 1946, he was diagnosed with throat cancer and spent three months in the hospital. The operations impaired his voice, caused him to lose 80 pounds, and rendered him nearly immobile. In his honor, April 27, 1947 was declared Babe Ruth Day for every organized baseball league in the U.S.
On the 25th anniversary of the opening of Yankee Stadium the Yankees honored the player that made them the most recognizable team in the world by retiring his number 3. This would be the last time the Babe was ever seen in the famous pinstripes.
Babe Ruth died on August 16, 1948. His body lay in state at the entrance of Yankee Stadium on August 17 and 18. Thousands of fans came to pay their final respects. Even sixty-one years after his death, Babe Ruth is still one of the most respected American athletes in history.
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