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George Herman "Babe" Ruth

George Herman "Babe" Ruth (1895-1948) has been judged by many to be the greatest baseball player of all time. Also nicknamed the "Bambino" and the "Sultan of Swat," Ruth was a great fan favorite. His athletic excellence, high earnings, and flamboyant lifestyle appealed to the imaginations of the Americans who flocked to see him. Babe loved his fans and would autograph baseballs and other mementos for them.

Not merely famous, Babe Ruth was great. Born into extreme poverty, he was "discovered" at Baltimore's St. Mary's Industrial School for Boys. The Orioles--then a minor International League team with whom he first played in 1914--were unable to keep this brash kid who could both hit and pitch. After being sold by the Orioles to the Boston Red Sox, Ruth developed into the best left-handed pitcher in the American League. And he could hit. The Babe broke the major league home run record with 29 in 1918. After leading the Red Sox to two World Series titles, Ruth was traded to the New York Yankees, leading them to four titles. In his career, Babe hit 714 home runs, a record that stood until Hank Aaron broke it in 1974, almost 40 years later.

After retiring in 1935, Ruth had hoped to manage a major league team, but his wild reputation prevented him from gaining a position of such responsibility. Lacking neither money nor adulation, he spent his last days making public appearances, doing his own radio show, playing golf, bowling, and fishing. A long-time smoker, he died at age 53 of throat cancer. At his funeral--an event on a par with President Franklin D. Roosevelt's--his teammate Waite Hoyt spoke for all Americans: "God, we liked that big s.o.b. He was a constant source of joy."

 


"Baseball Crowd-Crack of bat and cheers"

"Baseball Crowd-Crack of bat and cheers," from the recording entitled Documentary Sounds, Volume One, Folkways SFW CD FX 6181, provided courtesy of Smithsonian Folkways Recordings. ©. Used by permission.

Folkways Records was founded in 1948. Led by Moses Asch (1905-1986), Folkways sought to document the entire world of sound. The 2,168 titles Asch released on Folkways include traditional and contemporary music from around the world, spoken word in many languages, and many documentary recordings of individuals, communities, and current events. Folkways grew to be one of the largest and most influential independent record companies in the world. Folkways Records, the business papers, and files were acquired by the Smithsonian Institution in 1987, and every recording is kept in print.

 

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Babe Ruth-autographed ball
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Babe Ruth-autographed ball
George Herman “Babe” Ruth (1895-1948)
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George Herman “Babe” Ruth (1895-1948)


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