The Babe-- still the best
Today marks the 99th anniversary of Babe Ruth's entrance into the Major Leagues. George Herman Ruth broke in with the Boston Red Sox on July 11th, 1914, and was-- as teammate Harry Hooper described him-- "an overgrown, green pea." He also met the woman he eventually married-- Helen Woodford-- his first day in Boston, and settled in on a farm in Sudbury, Massachusetts.
Who would have known that this kid-- 19 years old when he broke in with the Sox-- would become the greatest icon in baseball history. He also broke in as a pitcher-- a good enough pitcher to be considered by some as the best lefthanded pitcher in all of baseball in the 1910's. He also set a scoreless inning streak in the World Series in 1916 and 1918 that would stand for 43 years, until Whitey Ford broke it in 1961. Later, in the 1980's, the Los Angeles Dodgers' hurler Orel Hershiser would break Ford's record, and Hershiser's mark still stands today.
Remember now, that was in pitching. But Babe Ruth isn't known as a pitcher-- he is known as a hitter. The dead-ball era lasted until 1921; before the ball became lively, Ruth still had an over 20-home run season in 1920. It was his 59 home runs in 1921 that caused baseball to change for good-- and he topped THAT with a 60 home-run season in 1927.
He is also remembered for living the the same way he was hitting-- fast and loose. Today, the papers are filled with players using performance-enhancing drugs; in his day, Ruth filled the papers-- at least until 1929-- with his, let's say, indulgences. But something changed in 1929. That year, he married for the second time-- to Claire Hodgson-Ruth. She put him on a short leash-- and suprise of surprises, he loved it-- and her.
Old-timers said there was none like him. I agree. In the series "Baseball," editor Daniel Okrent said Ruth's dual abilities as a pitcher early, and as a hitter late, was like (composer) "Beethoven and (painter) Cezanne being one person doing the same work." Columnist George Will compared Ruth to "an Everest in Kansas." One this is for sure-- there will be great players, and great characters of the game, but NO ONE will match Ruth. He changed the game-- in more ways than one.
That's my take...I'm Tom Lee.