On July 11, 1914, 19-year-old George Herman “Babe” Ruth played his first major league baseball game as a pitcher for the Boston Red Sox.
The Babe’s First Season
George Herman Ruth, a 19-year-old Baltimore schoolboy, was signed before the 1914 season by Jack Dunn, manager of the minor league Baltimore Orioles. Teammates called him “Jack’s newest Babe,” and the nickname stuck.
In July, Dunn sold the “Babe” to the Boston Red Sox of the American League. Ruth arrived in Boston on the morning of July 11, 1914, and that afternoon was the starting pitcher against the Cleveland Naps.
“Ruth, formerly of Baltimore, made his debut as a local pitcher and held Cleveland to five scattered hits in the first six innings,” wrote the July 12 New York Times. “In the seventh three singles and a sacrifice netted two runs for Cleveland and tied the score.”
Ruth was lifted in the bottom of the inning for pinch hitter Duffy Lewis, who reached base and scored the go-ahead run. Boston went on to win 4-3, with Ruth picking up the win.
His next start wouldn’t go so well, as he was knocked out in the fourth inning. He wouldn’t pitch again for more than a month, and his teammates grew to dislike his “crude manner, wild eating habits, and … carefree playing style that hard-nosed veterans viewed as lackadaisical,” writes HowStuffWorks.
On Aug. 18, he was sent down to Providence, where he starred on the mound and in the batter’s box, leading the Grays to the International League pennant. He was recalled to Boston, where he received one more start, defeating the New York Yankees on Oct. 2.
Biography: Babe Ruth
Sources in this Story
- BabeRuth.com: Biography
- The New York Times: Ruth Batted Out by the Naps
- HowStuffWorks: Babe Ruth
- SABR: The Baseball Biography Project: Babe Ruth
- ESPN: Lovable Ruth was everyone's Babe
George Herman Ruth was born in Baltimore, Md., on Feb. 6, 1895. He spent his formative years at St. Mary’s Industrial School for Boys, where he rarely saw his parents and was essentially raised by the Catholic missionaries who ran the school.
“Little George was an unruly student, infamously classified as ‘incorrigible.’ Much of this was due the young man’s inability to adapt to the regimented and structured environment or St. Mary’s,” according to BabeRuth.com.
Beginning in 1915, his first full season in the majors, Ruth excelled at both pitching and hitting. In 1916, he led the league with a 1.75 ERA and pitched 14 innings to win a World Series game against the Dodgers.
In 1918, the Red Sox began putting Ruth in the lineup when he wasn’t pitching, and he soon became one of the game’s best sluggers. Ruth led the team to another World Series title that year, extending his streak of consecutive scoreless innings to 29 2/3.
Though he was dominant on the field, the Red Sox were tiring of his boorish behavior off of it. Owner Harry Frazee, believing the team would come together without Ruth and—according to legend—needing money to finance his Broadway play, sold him to the New York Yankees in 1920 for an “astronomical” sum of $125,000, explains Allan Wood for SABR’s Baseball Biography Project.
“Babe Ruth arrived in New York City at the best possible time for his outsized hitting and hedonistic lifestyle,” writes Wood. “It was the Roaring Twenties, the Jazz Age, a time of individualism, more progressive social and sexual attitudes, and a greater emphasis on the pursuit of pleasure.”
Ruth hit 54 home runs in his first season with the Yankees, out-homering all but one other team. Three years later, Ruth homered in the first game at Yankee Stadium, which became known as “The House That Ruth Built.”
In 1927, he became the first man to hit 60, homers, setting a record that would stand until 1961. In the 1932 World Series against the Cubs, Ruth is said to have pointed to the center field bleachers before a pitch and then hit “one of the longest home runs seen at Wrigley,” says Wood.
Ruth was let go by the Yankees after the 1934 season, and played 28 games with the Boston Braves before retiring. He held many of baseball’s hitting records, including most home runs in a season (60) and in a career (714). He died of throat cancer on Aug. 16, 1948, at the age of 53.
“Sometimes I still can't believe what I saw,” said Harry Hooper, a teammate with the Red Sox. “This 19-year-old kid, crude, poorly educated, only lightly brushed by the social veneer we call civilization, gradually transformed into the idol of American youth and the symbol of baseball the world over—a man loved by more people and with an intensity of feeling that perhaps has never been equaled before or since. I saw a man transformed into something pretty close to a god.”
Retrosheet provides Ruth’s season-by-season stats, as well as box scores between 1920 and 1930.