Babe Ruth was born to German immigrant parents and given the name George Herman Ruth. His childhood was rough. Although his dad worked full-time running a saloon, the family struggled to put food on the table. George’s mother was often ill, so George ran wild. He was one of eight children where he and a younger sister were the only ones to survive to adulthood. George was incorrigible, skipping school, chewing tobacco and drinking whiskey before he was eight years old. In his autobiography, Ruth wrote, “Looking back on my boyhood, I honestly don’t remember being aware of the difference between right or wrong.”
This uncontrollable behavior forced his family (and reportedly the courts) to send him to St. Mary’s Catholic Boys Reformatory School. It was here where Ruth was introduced to baseball and his life would change.
In February of 1914 George Ruth signed a contract for $10,000 with the Boston Orioles under Jack Dunn. George became one of Jack’s young baseball newbies who were referred to as “Dunn’s babes,” and that name stuck with Ruth. It was ironic considering Ruth’s size and powerful abilities. Jack Dunn would sell Babe to the Red Sox where Ruth led the Sox to three World Series titles in the 6 seasons he played for them.
The Red Sox owner, sold Babe to the New York Yankees in June of 1920. The timing of the move was not only good for the Yankees, but good for the sport of baseball. After years of the tactical hit and run game, Ruth’s explosive long balls and scoring style was a welcome and exciting change to for the fans. His popularity with the Yankees enabled the Yankees to move from their shared field with the Giants to their own field. The new field was often referred to as the “House That Ruth Built.”
Babe is often credited with turning baseball in to America’s game. In 1919 eight players of the Chicago White Sox were indicted for throwing the World Series, earning the team the name of the Black Stockings. Whether Ruth turned the game around or not, he brought people to the ballpark. Babe Ruth managed his public persona well and was viewed as a likeable guy who treated people well.
Babe became a legend despite a very dysfunctional childhood. While he was not perfect, he had amazing talent which entertained a generation of fans. He overcame many challenges because he aligned his passion with his skills. The fans loved him even after his retirement. So when he was dying of cancer, Commissioner Happy Chandler made April 27th, 1947 “Babe Ruth Day,” a national event to honor the man who made the country fall in love with baseball.