Decades after his death, Babe Ruth remains America's best-known and loved baseball player. Ruth, who set numerous records as a pitcher and outfielder that outlived him, would turn 121 Saturday were he alive today.
Born George Herman Ruth Jr. in Baltimore, Ruth hit 714 home runs during his career, which set the record until 1974. He was one of the first five baseball players inducted into the sport’s Hall of Fame.
Ruth was born in 1895 and was raised in a poor Baltimore waterfront neighborhood to parents who owned a tavern, Biography.com notes. He was one of eight children, but one of just two that survived beyond the first few years of life. Ruth’s childhood wasn’t easy, and at a young age, Ruth routinely got himself into trouble. His parents sent him away to the St. Mary’s Industrial School for Boys, where he spent 12 years in a Catholic reformatory program.
— Dugout Legends (@DugoutLegends) January 31, 2016
A monk named Matthias became an influential figure in Ruth’s life and introduced him to baseball. By 15, he was already an exceptional player and by 19, caught the eye of the Baltimore Orioles organization. Because of his age, he needed a legal guardian to sign his minor league contract, hence the nickname “babe.” Not long after, he was brought up to the majors by the Boston Red Sox, where he led the team to repeated successes. But with financial problems, Boston agreed to sell Ruth to the New York Yankees in 1919 for $100,000. He helped the team win four World Series.
He set new records for home runs repeatedly: 29 in 1919, 54 in 1920, 60 in 1927. He broke various other records, including most total bases in a season and highest slugging percentage in a season.
In May 1935, Ruth announced his retirement after a short stint with the Boston Braves. On Aug. 16, 1948, Ruth died of cancer. He donated his estate to the Babe Ruth Foundation and was survived by his wife and two children.
Here are some quotes attributed to the celebrated sportsman by BabeRuth.com:
“Never let the fear of striking out get in your way.”
— Academy (@Academy) February 1, 2016
“I have just one superstition. Whenever I hit a home run, I make certain I touch all four bases.”
“All ballplayers should quit when it starts to feel as if all the baselines run uphill.”
“I won't be happy until we have every boy in America between the ages of six and 16 wearing a glove and swinging a bat.”
“Every strike brings me closer to the next home run.”
— SalenaZito (@SalenaZitoTrib) January 29, 2016
“I said I'm going to hit the next one right over the flagpole. God must have been with me.”
“How to hit home runs: I swing as hard as I can, and I try to swing right through the ball... The harder you grip the bat, the more you can swing it through the ball, and the farther the ball will go. I swing big, with everything I've got. I hit big or I miss big. I like to live as big as I can.”
“I've never heard a crowd boo a homer, but I've heard plenty of boos after a strikeout.”
“Never let the fear of striking out keep you from coming up to bat.”
“It's hard to beat a person who never gives up.”