Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The Sultan of Swat – Babe Ruth hits 60th Home Run of the season

Babe Ruth is known by many nicknames: The Sultan of Swat, the King of Crash, and the Colossus of Clout. On September 30, 1927, Babe Ruth entered the record books, and in doing so, continued to evolve into the mythic nicknamed character we remember today. In the 1927 season, Babe Ruth hit 60 home runs. No one would be able to touch Ruth’s single season home run record until Roger Maris in 1961. Most recently, Mark McGuire and Sammy Sosa vied to break Maris’ record, but their achievements have been tainted by the suspicion of steroid use. In a world in which home run records are increasingly paired with steroid allegations or some indication of an unfair advantage, Ruth’s record is all the more impressive today.

As a career home-run hitter, Ruth’s numbers are particularly incredible. Ruth entered the major leagues at the age of nineteen in 1914. In 1919, Ruth hit 27 home runs, which was considered an incredible feat for his time. Ruth’s hitting ability was bolstered by rule changes which benefited the hitter. In an earlier era of baseball, the rules made for a faster more strategy -ridden game. The object was not often to hit home runs with the towering swing Ruth made famous, but to instead get runners on base and then maneuver to advance them towards home. Economy was also a concern, so the same game balls were used until they literally came apart at the seams. When foul balls were hit into the stands, they were thrown back by the crowd and used in the same game.

After hitting 60 home runs in 1927, Ruth was unable to surpass his single season home run record in any of his subsequent seasons. In his last year in the major leagues, Ruth hit just 6 home runs. In popular culture depictions of Ruth, many focus on his own personal excesses, which seemed only to find their match in the grand scale of his baseball talents. That said, many films also focus on Ruth’s inability to walk away from the game he so loved at his prime. Ultimately, Ruth could not abandon the game that brought him so much joy. In his farewell address at Yankee Stadium in 1948 just months before his death, Ruth spoke of the power of baseball in his own life and in the life of the youth in general:

You know this baseball game of ours comes up from the youth. That means the boys. And after you’re a boy and grow up to know how to play ball, then you come to the boys you see representing themselves today in your national pastime. The only real game – I think – in the world is baseball.

Here is a clip from Ruth’s farewell address:

Check out this video which shows Babe Ruth hitting his 60th home run of the 1927 season.

[Image via family-ancestry and NYDailyNews]

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