In a no-doubt vote, Babe Ruth far outdistanced all competitors to earn induction to the Circle of Greats with the highest ballot share yet recorded. Ruth achieved mythical stature in baseball and as a cultural icon to a degree that none before or since have approached. Ruth’s impact on the game was immense and permanent, ushering in the live ball era with feats of power hitting never before imagined.
More on Ruth after the jump.
Ruth was playing for his hometown Baltimore Orioles of the International League when he was purchased by the Red Sox together with teammates Ernie Shore and Ben Egan. Later in that 1914 season, Ruth made his major league debut, starting and winning against Cleveland. Ruth would be a mainstay in the Red Sox rotation for the next three seasons, logging over 800 IP with a 65-33 record and a 2.02 ERA (134 ERA+). Ruth proved equally potent at bat, compiling 5.6 batting WAR in only 397 PA over those three seasons (by way of comparison, there is only one season since 1901 with as high a WAR total in fewer PAs, just last year when Steve Pearce reached 6.0 WAR in 383 PA). That offensive prowess compelled Boston to use Ruth more as an everyday player in 1918 and 1919, though he still logged almost 300 IP for those two seasons with a 22-12 record and 2.55 ERA.
Ruth’s 1919 campaign was his first qualified season as a batter during which he led the majors in Runs, HR, RBI and total bases despite appearing in only 130 games. His 29 home runs set a new single-season record, a mark that would be his alone for over 40 years. Ruth’s century totals in Runs, RBI and BB to go with a 1.000 OPS was a 20th century first, a combination he would repeat 10 more times. The Yankees took note of this prodigious young talent, prying Ruth away from Boston for the then spectacular sum of $100,000.
As a Yankee, Ruth switched to everyday play and turned in a season that dwarfed his dominating campaign of the year before. Ruth almost doubled his home run total to 54 while posting 1.379 OPS and 255 OPS+ scores, all new single-season records. Thus began a stretch of 13 seasons that included eleven campaigns (1920-21, 1923-24, 1926-32) exceeding 500 PA in which Ruth never fell below 120 runs, 120 RBI, 40 home runs, 1.100 OPS or 190 OPS+ (and fell below 110 walks only once). Ruth posted league-leading totals in HR, SLG, OPS and OPS+ in all but the last of those 11 seasons, as well as a league-leading walks total in all those seasons save the 1929 campaign. Needless to say, such dominance by one player for such an extended period has not been witnessed since.
To give some perspective on Ruth’s dominance and how his achievements have withstood the test of time, here’s a table showing how long Ruth held various single-season and career records.
Ruth also turned in legendary post-season accomplishments, appearing in 10 World Series, 7 times for the winning side. Ruth’s 0.87 ERA was the World Series career record for starting pitchers in 30+ IP until eclipsed by Harry Brecheen‘s 0.83, with those two plus Sherry Smith the only starters below 0.90 until Madison Bumgarner last year demolished that mark (for now) when he passed 30 career IP in the WS with a 0.27 ERA as a starter. Included among Ruth’s starts was a 14-inning CG, still a WS record, and a run of 29 consecutive scoreless innings, unsurpassed until Whitey Ford‘s 33 goose eggs in 1960-62. As a batter, Ruth’s .625 BA in 1928 was the WS record (min. 12 PA) until eclisped by Billy Hatcher in 1990, while he and teammate Lou Gehrig posted the two best SLG and OPS scores in that same series, with Gehrig’s marks still the WS standards and Ruth’s surpassed only by Hatcher’s 1990 OPS and Hideki Matsui‘s SLG and OPS in 2009. Ruth’s four multi-HR games, including two with 3 jacks, and his 5 consecutive multi-hit games are all World Series records, while his 15 home runs and 22 extra-base hits were career WS standards until surpassed by Mickey Mantle.
The 38 year-old Ruth closed out the 1933 season by taking the mound for the Yankees and collecting a complete game win in which his 6th inning home run provided the margin of victory. In so doing Ruth joined a host of pitchers (including HOFers Walter Johnson and Dazzy Vance) to homer in the final pitching start of their careers. Quiz: which player logged over 1000 IP after homering in the final start of his career?