Do you think 100 years from now, people will remember Beyoncé, Eminem or Bruno Mars? How about Miley Cyrus, Justin Bieber or Pink?
I ask because, 100 years after he first began playing major league baseball and 80 years after he retired, George Herman ‘Babe’ Ruth is better known than ever.
That’s due, in part, to a significant new museum wing being opened at Baseball’s Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY, this June.
But, Ruth’s name remains top-of-mind because whenever other the monikers of other all-timers (from Joe D. and Willie to Henry and Ty), come up in conversation, Ruth’s accomplishments always dwarf those of his fellow Hall of Famers.
Why? I’ll allow HOF member and current vice chairman of the Hall’s board, Joe Morgan, to explain: ‘Babe Ruth is the best of all-time. But, it’s not just because of the home runs. It’s also because he was one of the best pitchers EVER. People always forget that. When you hit the way he did and pitch the way he did, that makes you the best player of all time in my opinion.’ I agree.
Consider these facts about Ruth’s pitching accomplishments:
– He amassed a pitching record of 94-46 in the big leagues. His 2.28 ERA is the 17th lowest in baseball history.
– In 1916, he pitched nine complete game shutouts, a record that stood until Ron Guidry tied it in 1978
– He set a World Series record that remains unrivalled to this day by tossing all 14-innings in a 2-1 victory over Brooklyn.
– Ruth pitched, and won, the first and fourth games of the 1918 World Series against the Cubs.
– Last, but not least, Ruth tossed 29.2 consecutive scoreless World Series innings, a record that stood until Whitey Ford broke it in 1961.
Who else but Ruth can lay claim to being the best pitcher in baseball in one era and the best hitter in another?
When one compares Ruth with legends of other sports, they, too, pale in comparison: aside from Bo Jackson, who briefly played at an all-star level in both pro football and pro baseball, I cannot think of another such dominant athlete (save Jim Thorpe).
It’s nice to know the Babe’s fame (if not fortune) lives on, especially in an era when sports and entertainment ‘stars’ routinely pound their chests and strut their stuff during their nanosecond of fame.
In fact, I’d be willing to wager a bet I won’t be around to collect: in 200 years, more people will remember Babe Ruth than Rihanna, Daft Punk and Katy Perry combined.
And, as Ruth did when he ‘called’ a home run in the 1932 World Series (again against the hapless Cubs), I guarantee it.
Now. Who wants to argue the case?
Thanks, Buster. No question Mays could have outrun the Babe any day of the week. But, again, what set the Bambino apart was his ability to dominate the sport in one era as a pitcher and in another as a power-hitting outfielder. Despite the “Say Hey Kid’s” many accomplishments, he never pitched an inning (as far as I know).
“I can’t believe that Babe Ruth was a better player than Willie Mays. Ruth is to baseball what Arnold Palmer is to golf. He got the game moving. But I can’t believe he could run as well as Mays, and I can’t believe he was any better an outfielder.” – Sandy Koufax
baseball-almanac.com Top Ten Players by Joe Morgan (1998)
1. Willie Mays
2. Babe Ruth
Sad to see you play the race card, Lance. If Joe Morgan says Babe Ruth was hands-down the best ever, I’ll take him at his word.
Wow…some Bert Cooper racism. No I don’t think that Black ballplayers are better than whites…it was just that the talent pool was watered down. I think the Bambino was a case of “Horses for Courses”…I don’t think he would have been successful in another era.
Yeah Lance, that’s just crap. And you are implying that all black players are better than white players? Stay in CT or wherever the hell you are.
Blasphemous stuff, Lance. Keep in mind that Joe Morgan said Babe Ruth was simply the best. And, Joe Morgan knew of all the great black ballplayers of the past. Are you also suggesting the Sultan of swat was actually the Sultan of Smack?
Walter Johnson yes…but no Bob Gibson…because the Bambino never faced a Black player…the game was watered down during the Bambino era. He may have been in a Methadone Clinic if he had played in the 70’s.
Regardless of the speed of the ball, The Bambino dominated on the mound and at the plate. No one else has ever come close to duplicating that feat, Lance. And Walter Johnson was routinely clocked at 100 miles per hour plus.
Hard to compare players from different eras…the Bambino was hitting 75 MPH fastballs…R.A. Dickey throws his knuckleball at that speed today…but for hot dogs and beers here is a good video.
Yup. He was also heavily (pun intended) in charities long before it became the “right thing to do.”
Another reason for Babe’s long lasting notoriety actually points to the power of brand.
Unlike some of the other baseball greats who were arguably as good or better than Babe, Babe understood the power of branding and it was his charisma and the story behind him (e.g. The Curse of the Bambino) that inspired one generation after another to admire him. He was a fan favorite when he played and is still today despite not having taken the field in more than half a century. He’s an ambassador of baseball, athletics and America.
Brand matters and Babe should be a case study in how to build and sustain one.