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The Babe Ruth Story—The Fierce Rivalry of the Red Sox and the Yankees

May 9th 2006

The Babe Ruth Story—The Fierce Rivalry of the Red Sox and the Yankees

Babe Ruth

Near the end of the 1919 season, Harry Frazee, then owner of the Boston Red Sox, decided to sell a group of his star players to the New York Yankees. Among them was George Herman Ruth, also known affectionately as "Babe". Ruth's career reflects the change in strategy and the shift in dominance from pitching to hitting at this time.

Babe Ruth had a reputation for being one of the fiercest “leftys” to ever take the mound. It was soon discovered that he wasn’t too bad with a bat either, and Ruth became the most celebrated and successful player in Boston. He was practically an institution. When many Bostonians awoke on January 6, 1920, and opened their morning newspapers, they mourned the fact that an icon had been sold to New York. The Babe was gone.


Boston did not seem to be able to recover from this catastrophe until the 2004 World Series, when the “Curse of the Bambino” was finally put to rest after 86 years. From 1903, when the Red Sox were established, until 1920, the club had appeared in five World Series, and won every one of them.

In the 1916 and 1918 World Series, Babe Ruth set a record, not for hitting home runs, but for pitching when he notched a 0.87 ERA while pitching 29 and 2/3rds scoreless innings. This record for shutout innings would stand for 43 years. In 1919, Ruth hit 29 home runs, the most ever by any player at the time. Unfortunately, the Red Sox finished in sixth place that season. For a club accustomed to tremendous success, this was a disaster.


Frazee responded by selling players, Ruth included, that started a rebuilding period in Boston. The strategy did not work and Boston finished in last place nine out of the next eighteen seasons. They wouldn’t win another pennant until 1948.

When Ruth arrived in New York, the Yankees had never won the American League pennant, let alone been to a World Series. They won their first pennant in 1921, and then won their first World Series in 1923. In 1920, the Babe hit 54 home runs, a mind-boggling number given that baseball was just coming out of its Dead Ball Era. Yes, this was a new era, an exciting one with tremendous offense and tremendous flamboyance on and off the diamond.


Ruth hammered 59 homers the following year (1921), and was showcased in the World Series. Babe Ruth’s 1921 season was arguably the best batting year of any player ever. He played in 152 games and hit .378, collecting 204 hits, 44 doubles, 16 triples, 59 home runs, 177 runs scored, 171 RBIs, 144 walks, 119 extra base hits (a record that still stands), an .846 slugging average, and 457 total bases (another standing record).

From 1923- 1931, Ruth led the league in homers each season, except for one. In 1927, he had his best year for round trippers, knocking 60, a record that would stand for 34 years. Some still say to this day that the 1927 Yankees’ “Murderers Row” was the best offensive team to ever play the game of baseball.

The sheer numbers for the Yankees in 1927 make their own argument. The Curse of the Bambino may have been a nightmare for Boston Red Sox fans, but for the rest of the baseball world, Ruth was the messiah of a very worried and downtrodden sport. The 1919 White Sox (eight of them) had just thrown the World Series, causing the integrity of the game to be questioned by a disenchanted public.

Ruth lived with great enthusiasm, and he seemed to immediately become a living legend after arriving at the media capital of the world. When he started producing monstrous offensive firepower, baseball was suddenly exciting again, and the fans that had turned away in light of the White Sox gambling scandal started returning to the ballparks. He was “bigger than life,” and he was the drum major that marched America into “the Roaring Twenties.”

He was a media magnet and hype machine. Some sports reporters surmised that in one season with the Yankees the Sultan of Swat “might” slug more than his single season record of 29 homers. When Ruth destroyed the home run records year after year, Yankee fans were overjoyed. When he continued to raise the expectations of fans everywhere, baseball had been resurrected from the depths of despair and corruption to a bright and shining era of hope and enthusiasm.

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By FR Penn
This article was written by FR Penn sponsored by If you’re looking for baseball tickets to see your favorite team live in action, look no further than where fans buy and sell the hottest baseball tickets. Reproductions of this article are encouraged but must include a link back to


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