Babe Ruth: Fact or fiction?
During COVID-19, I’ve discovered Lancaster Public Library’s e-books collection, and I recently read “Babe: The Legend Comes to Life,” Robert W. Creamer’s biography of Babe Ruth. It’s not a new book (1992), but I doubt much has been discovered about the Sultan of Swat in the 28 intervening years, so I figured it would hardly be outdated. I enjoyed it, and here are some things I learned:
- Babe’s “stomach ache heard ’round the world” was actually an abdominal problem that required surgery. I long knew that the explanation put forward for public consumption, that he ate too many hot dogs, was a cover story. But I never knew what happened. There also had been rumors it was a venereal disease flare-up; however, Babe’s surgical scar proved otherwise.
- The Yankees were the first team to wear numbers, and Babe got No. 3 because he batted third in the lineup. (Lou Gehrig was No. 4.)
- We know Babe ate prodigiously (consuming whole pies for dessert, for example), yet I had no idea how out of control he was in so many areas. He disobeyed curfews, stayed out all hours, ignored his managers. He seemed to settle down a little after marrying his second wife, but he was a real handful. Babe was no dummy: He knew people were coming out to see him hit home runs, so he filled the seats. Babe figured he could play by his own rules because he was the one making the Yankees’ owner his money. Eventually, he pushed too far and ended up suspended.
- Remember that famous quote where Babe said, of his making more money than the president, “I had a better year”? Apparently it never happened.
- And his career? What he did on the baseball field was stupendous. It still is! In 1919, Babe’s last year with the Red Sox and his first as an everyday player, he clobbered 29 homers, a new MLB season record. The next year, his first as a Yankee, he hit 54, breaking his own record – and almost doubling it. He hit more taters himself than entire teams did. Think about that.
- I also didn’t realize Babe belted so many of his home runs after age of 30. At that point he didn’t have even have 300 lifetime round trippers, yet he finished with 714. If he hadn’t been a full-time pitcher his first four seasons in Boston, just imagine how many would he have ended up with.