Two Words: Babe Ruth… Hands down. The Yankees have had some great ones over the years… Gehrig, Joe D, the Mick, Joe Pepitone… and then there are the contenders from other clubs… Mays, Clemente, Hammerin’ Hank… All of those gentlemen excelled at the plate and a few of them even had the “five tool” thing going. What sets the Bambino apart from the others statistically is that in addition to his 714 home runs and .342 career batting average, the man won 94 big-league games (20+ twice) as a pitcher and had a career ERA of 2.28! At one time, he also held the major-league record for consecutive scoreless innings in the World Series.
Last week I caused a bit of a row with some Yankee faithful by suggesting Mr. Ruth may have achieved his great fame illegitimately. My hypothesis was as follows:
“It’s a well known fact that back in the 20’s and 30’s, the Babe’s nutritional staple was Nathan’s Famous Hot Dogs. What is not so well known is that Nathan’s injected their cows with steroids. The sheer volume of dogs provided by the Yankees and consumed by the Babe provided him more steroids than those used by cheaters Giambi and Sheffield combined. So, in short, the Yankees coerced the Babe into hot dog gluttony and in fact, began the steroid scandal that still plagues the game today. Oh, and the Babe didn’t “use” when he was with the Sox. Fenway Franks are, and always have been, steroid free.”
I was only kidding! Jeez. Nathan’s are great! I enjoyed a couple when I visited the shrine in the Bronx in 2003. Man, Yankee fans can be so sensitive. I mean it’s as if they haven’t won a championship this century or something… Hey, they always have their great history… OK, OK… that’s enough Yankee bashing. I’m sorry, but I just can’t help myself. I’m one of those pathetic Red Sox fans “who cannot talk about baseball without skewering the Yankees.”
Let’s get back to the “Sultan of Swat” and his undisputed legacy, shall we? Beyond the statistics, Babe Ruth the man was adored by millions. Legendary Detroit Tigers broadcaster Ernie Harwell said of Ruth, “He wasn’t a baseball player. He was a worldwide celebrity, an international star, the likes of which baseball has never seen since.” What I didn’t realize was that he was also a great philosopher of life. Here’s a quote that has meaning well beyond the diamond he so thoroughly dominated:
– George Herman “Babe” Ruth