Babe Ruth is the most legendary and game-changing athlete in sports history.
Jan. 3, 1920: Red Sox sell Babe Ruth to Yankees.
Possibly the most famous deal in baseball history, as it gave Boston’s Dan Shaughnessy millions of inches of column space for whining about why the Red Sox were cursed. The Red Sox sold The Babe to New York for $125,000. The Red Sox didn’t win a title for 86 years. The Yankees won 26. Damn. Yankees. (Sept. 20, 1921)
Lou Gehrig (4) greets Babe Ruth after the “called shot’’ HR in Game 3, 1932.
. . . 1938 and his season as first-base coach for the Brooklyn Dodgers.
This man re-invented the game of baseball and became America's first true sports icon. The phrase "out of left field" was created because of Ruth, since he rendered the left-fielder useless during his at-bats. And he did all that for 15 seasons while wearing the Yankees uniform. Of course, there was the whole Boston thing and the Curse of the Bambino before that, but let's not forget . . .
1. BABE RUTH
Right field, 1920-34
If he wasn?t the greatest player of all time ? and the argument here is that he was, given his pitching records before he became a legend as a slugger ? he is the most influential. He hit 60 home runs in 1927, when no other American League team had that many. He essentially created baseball as a mainstream American pastime, basically building the Yankees and Yankee Stadium along the way.
SINGLE-SEASON BASES ON BALLS: BABE RUTH (1923), 170
Runner up: Babe Ruth (1920), 150
Ruth's 170 walks stood as a major league record for 78 years until Barry Bonds broke it in 2001 (and again in 2002 and 2004). Playing in an era when reputation might have been all that opposing pitchers had to go on, Ruth was an intimidating sight in the batters' box. It's not surprising to learn that his name appears eight times on the Yankees' top ten single-season walks list. (Above: Ruth, left, with fellow slugger Jimmie Foxx.)
SINGLE-SEASON RUNS SCORED: BABE RUTH (1921), 177
Runner up: Lou Gehrig (1936), 167
A breakdown of Ruth's runs in 1921: He drove himself in 59 times with home runs. He got himself into scoring position another 60 times with 44 doubles and a career-best 16 triples. He also stole 17 bases. He batted third, ahead of Bob Meusel (135 RBIs) and Wally Pipp (97 RBIs). That's a recipe for 177 runs.
SINGLE-SEASON BATTING AVERAGE: BABE RUTH (1923), .393
Runner up: Joe DiMaggio (1939), .381
In 1923, Ruth led the majors in runs, home runs, RBIs, walks, strikeouts, on-base percentage and slugging and set a career-high with a .393 average. Shockingly, that was his only MVP season. Almost as shocking is the fact that DiMaggio's 1939 season (not the one that contained his 56-game hit streak -- that was '41) is the only one of his 13 seasons that appears on the Yankees' top 10 list in this category. Ruth and Lou Gehrig have the other nine spots.
CAREER BATTING AVERAGE: BABE RUTH, .349
(min. 500 plate appearances)
Runner up: Lou Gehrig, .340
Active leader: Derek Jeter, .313
His gaudy average is one of the reason why many historians still consider The Babe to be the greatest hitter of all-time. While many of today's best home run hitters sacrifice average for power, Ruth proved the best players don't need to do that. He batted over .300 in every season in which he hit 30 home runs or more, including: 1923, when he batted .393 and hit 41 home runs; 1924 when he hit .378 with 46 home runs; and 1927, when he hit .356 with 60 home runs.
CAREER BASES ON BALLS: BABE RUTH, 1,852
Runner up: Mickey Mantle, 1,733
Active leader: Derek Jeter, 994
Only Rickey Henderson and Barry Bonds drew more walks in MLB history than Ruth. No statistics were kept on intentional walks during the Babe's days, but it's safe to say more than a few hurlers pitched around the original Bronx Bomber. From the time he joined the Yankees in 1920 until his departure in 1934, he led the majors in walks 11 times, averaging 145 a season.
CAREER HOME RUNS: BABE RUTH, 659
Runner up: Mickey Mantle, 536
Active leader: Alex Rodriguez, 284
Who else but the man who single-handedly killed the "Dead Ball Era?" The majors' third-all time home run leader belted 40-plus home runs 11 times in his remarkable Yankees career. During a 13-year span from 1920-32, he averaged 46 homers, better than any span of the same length for Barry Bonds or Hank Aaron. He did this while playing most of his career in a ballpark that yielded virtually no home runs to centerfield and left-centerfield. For a Yankees player to someday pass Ruth, he'd have to average 33 home runs for 20 seasons, or 40 home runs for 17 seasons.
YANKEES WIN FIRST CHAMPIONSHIP
POLO GROUNDS, OCT. 15, 1923
At the finish of their first year in Yankee Stadium, the Yankees score five in the eighth inning of Game 6 and beat the Giants, their former landlords, 6-4. Sad Sam Jones pitched two scoreless innings for the save as the Yankees won the World Series for first time.
CAREER RUNS: BABE RUTH, 1,959
Runner up: Lou Gehrig, 1,888
Active leader: Derek Jeter, 1,769
The grainy images of a portly Ruth chugging around the bases after swatting home runs belie his run-scoring prowess. Babe led the majors in runs eight times, including 1921, when he scored 177 runs, the highest total of the 20th Century. His reputation as a fearsome slugger forced pitchers to put him on base via the walk, and he was a recklessly aggressive baserunner. Of course, it helps that he drove himself in 659 times (as a Yankee) with the long ball.
CAREER RBIs: LOU GEHRIG, 1,995
Runner up: Babe Ruth, 1,971
Active leader: Derek Jeter, 1,196
Though Ruth (above, right) ranks second all-time in MLB runs batted in (Gehrig is fifth), Gehrig tops him in Yankee RBIs. From 1927-37, Gehrig averaged 153 RBIs per season. That included his career best 184-RBI season in 1931, one of four seasons in which he led the majors and one of three in which he topped 170 RBIs. Baseball-reference.com estimates that Gehrig earned $360,250 in his career. What would that kind of production been worth today?