view of case containing Babe Ruth's uniform pants

Major league baseball suffered a horrible blow when it was revealed that members of the Chicago White Sox were paid money by underworld figures to “throw” the 1919 World Series. Americans were stunned and a little boy was said to have exclaimed, “Say it ain’t so, Joe. Say it ain’t so,” to the White Sox’s premier star, Shoeless Joe Jackson.

Sports writers, players, and club owners all wondered whether fans would return to the ball parks after this tragic betrayal. Their answer arrived in New York Yankees pinstripes, and the message was delivered with thunderous swings from his mighty bat. Fans thrilled to see the “wunderkind,” the man who hit towering homeruns in Yankee Stadium, Babe Ruth. Traded to the New York Yankees by the Boston Red Sox, Ruth held nearly all of Boston’s pitching records before the majors discovered he was even better as a hitter; after all, he set the all time single season homerun record in 1919 when he swatted 29 round-trippers. His first full season with the Yankees in 1920, he hit an incredible 54 homeruns bettering the total of seven entire teams. For a modern perspective, Barry Bonds would have had to hit 162 homers as opposed to his record 73 to equal Ruth’s accomplishment.

It is not a stretch to say that Ruth saved baseball as fans pored over box scores to see if the Babe did it again. And he was a likeable hero, one who gave all he could to kids and greeted adoring fans with a quick smile and a wink. Retiring in 1935, he had hit an incredible 714 career homeruns, over 300 more than his closest rival. One can only wonder what his career totals would have been had he not been drinking to excess, partying to the wee hours of the morning and had he eaten better (he regularly consumed ten or more hot dogs at a sitting).

The Babe may be America’s greatest sports hero, leaving behind records of mythical proportion and writers at a loss to describe them by any term other than “Ruthian.”

Pin-striped uniform pants worn by Babe Ruth while playing for the New York Yankee’s.
Baseball autographed by Babe Ruth inscribed “Little Mary from Babe Ruth.”
Loan courtesy of Babe Ruth Birthplace and Museum, Baltimore, Maryland.
A Batrite brand “Hornsby Type” bat most likely used by Rogers Hornsby while playing for the St. Louis Cardinals during the 1920s.
An original 1922 Rogers Hornsby baseball card.
Loan courtesy of the St. Louis Cardinals Hall of Fame.