Why is Babe Ruth important

How baseball player Babe Ruth became the first sports superstar despite her tummy

Georg Hermann Ehrhardt Ruth was born 125 years ago today - the baseball player was only 53 years old. The story of a man who fundamentally changed the nature of his sport.

The man with the full moon face and the tummy stepped onto the field and, as the New York Yankees' batsman, now has only one last try after sweeping past the first two balls. High tension all around, because everyone knows: An era could come to an end here. Because “The Babe”, the living legend, is 37 years old. Even if he is the best of all, the first superstar in sport, things will go downhill for him too.

We are in the fall of 1932, America's favorite game is the World Series. That means: the exclusively American teams with exclusively white players reserved world championship. Because the supposedly classless society of the USA is neatly separated according to race, also in sport; It will still be a few years before Joe Louis, the "brown bomber" wins the world title in heavyweight boxing, or black athlete Jesse Owens wins four times in Berlin, and a full decade and a half before Jackie Robinson in the major leagues of baseball as the first non-white person to be admitted.

Back to the 1932 World Series. As expected, the New York Yankees are ahead of the Chicago Cubs, and now “The Babe” is once again showing its class. Blinks in the sun, sees the ball fly up and hits: Home run! At a light trot, the Yankees star circled the square of the bases, waved his cap at the raging audience, put on his boyish smile. The match is won and with it the title, his status as an idol of an entire country is confirmed. In the midst of the Depression, where any distraction is welcome, the masses have reason to cheer. Because isn't someone shining down there like you and me, someone who has made the American dream of unlimited possibilities come true, who has come up thanks to the strength of his hands and the cleverness of his brain?

Beware of the boy

The humble origins are of course part of the American Dream. Born in Baltimore into a German-speaking family who got by rather poorly than well with an inn, Georg Hermann Ehrhardt (later Americanized to George Herman) Ruth preferred to drive away his childhood on the street with a ball and bat instead of going to school. That didn't always turn out well, once even brought him to the educational institution, but soon his talent as a pitcher (ball thrower) was noticed. It wasn't long before the 19-year-old had his first professional contract under his belt. He, of all people, who was nicknamed "Babe" due to his youthfulness.

As naive as the boy might look out into the world and as little athletic it looked due to thin legs and massive torso: When it comes to coordination of the eye and hand, the first prerequisite for success in baseball, nobody fooled him. As a 20-year-old Ruth won his first World Series with the Boston Red Sox, at 21 he was the best thrower in the Major League and, as he was getting along better and better with the bat, moved to an outfield position. When his club ran into financial difficulties, he was transferred to the New York Yankees in 1919 for the then gigantic sum of 125,000 dollars.

In the “Big Apple” of the crazy twenties, professional sports, above all baseball, flourished alongside the stock market and nightlife. Everyone wanted to see "The Babe" in action, the newspapers exaggerated his actions; to cope with the general crowd, the New York Yankees built a new stadium, popularly known as "The House That Ruth Built": The House That Ruth Built. Meanwhile, the star hit home run after home run, becoming the first to hit 60 in a season after 20 had previously been considered noteworthy. And he led his team to title wins in 1923, 1927, 1928 and 1932 - an unparalleled triumphal procession. The Yankees became the emblem of the city of New York because they did their competition down by the grain. They were called “Murderers Row” up and down the country, but their leader was “The Bambino”.

Hot dogs, beer and women

What did it do that the man with the full moon face and the tummy, as a lover of hot dogs and alcohol - which was forbidden due to prohibition - grew more and more corpulent? That he, although married for the second time, attracted attention through women’s stories? The main thing was success, and it was practically on Ruth's heels. From year to year he expanded his home run record; By the end of his career in 1934, he had smashed the ball into the spectator stands an incredible 714 times, a record that was only surpassed 39 years later.

Consumed and tired, at the age of 39 and a monument to himself, he withdrew into his private life at the end of his playing career and succumbed to cancer in August 1948 after suffering for a long time. The nation fell into deep sorrow. Tens of thousands paid their last respects to what was laid up in Yankee Stadium; 75,000 people gathered around Saint Patrick's Cathedral in Manhattan to abdicate. A year later, the Yankees won the World Series again and then four more times in a row. The club are record champions to this day, but - with the possible exception of Joe DiMaggio - have never again produced a personality like Ruth's.

Even the new home run king, Hank Aaron, who scored his 715th "homer" in 1974, had to stand back. Because part of the predominantly white audience did not like it that a black man of all people was approaching Ruth's record, which was believed to be inviolable, and finally surpassing it, death threats were received for months. Aaron was not deterred, finally stepped back with 755 home runs and, at the age of 86, still lives in his hometown of Atlanta today. His record also fell in 2007: thanks to the equally dark-skinned Barry Bonds (762 home runs).

Reinventing baseball

Unfortunately, no one lives anymore who has seen the most legendary of all baseball players play with their own eyes. The few films that show us “The Babe” in action hardly provide any information about the potency and presence of the number 3 of the New York Yankees. Nonetheless, sports historians are unanimous of the opinion that Ruth fundamentally changed the nature of his sport. While baseball was a team sport based on a tricky ball game with only a few stars up until the 1920s, the "Grand Old Game" - played professionally in North America since 1876 - thanks to the strength of the "Sultan of Swing" (for example: Sultan des Schwungs, another nickname) is more individualistic and more attractive to the public. To this day, there is nothing more intoxicating than the "crack of the bat": the electrifying sound that the ball flying in at the speed of an express train produces when it hits a club that is ready to swing. Just like in the glory days of Babe Ruth.

It was logical that the chubby fellow from Baltimore became a folk hero at a time when baseball was by far the dominant sport in the United States, the field of dreams had not even begun to compete with basketball and football. In the pantheon of American sport, even decades after the death of “The Babe”, neither basketball players like Michael Jordan or Magic Johnson nor football players like Joe Namath or Joe Montana have made it as far. Only Muhammad Ali was able to keep up with Ruth, but there are other reasons besides sporting to play with "The Greatest". In 2018, US President Donald Trump posthumously awarded Ruth the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the country's highest civil medal.

In American drug stores and kiosks there are lots of lollipops. One of the sweets is called “Baby Ruth”, a bar made from milk chocolate, peanuts and caramel. Invented in 1921, the product enjoys unbroken popularity in the paradise of fast food. It is not known whether his namesake, as famous as notorious for his irrepressible appetite, spoke to him.