On this day in history, May 25, 1935, at Forbes Field in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, baseball great Babe Ruth hit his 714th home run — a record for career home runs that would stand for almost 40 years.
“This was one of Ruth’s last games, and the last home run of his career,” noted History.com of the accomplishment.
“Ruth went four for four on the day, hitting three home runs and driving in six runs.”
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During that memorable baseball game, Ruth smashed his 712th, 713th and 714th home runs.
These last career home runs set a Major League Baseball record that would stand until 1974, when Hank Aaron surpassed it on his way to 755, according to multiple sources.
Ruth had only played in Pittsburgh one previous time, when the Yankees defeated the Pirates in the 1927 World Series.
By the time he returned to Pittsburgh’s Forbes Field in 1935, Ruth “had become an aging player whose titanic hits would become his final hurrah before retiring eight days later, after several less impressive performances,” Sports Illustrated noted.
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“Had Ruth retired in Pittsburgh, the epitaph on his playing career would have been even more heroic.”
Ruth boasted an impressive tally of home runs over a 22-season career — but the game on May 25 was only the second time he’d hit three home runs in a single game, says the same site.
Born George Herman Ruth on Feb. 6, 1895, in Baltimore, Maryland, he was the first of eight children. Only he and a sister survived infancy, says History.com.
His father was a saloon keeper on Baltimore’s waterfront.
As a youngster, Ruth was known as “Gig” to his family, and faced some trouble in his youth, says the same source.
At age seven, his truancy from school led his parents to send him to an orphanage, St. Mary’s Industrial School for Boys.
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“Ruth lived there until he was 19 in 1914, when he was signed as a (minor league) pitcher by the Baltimore Orioles,” says History.com.
Ruth, who was also known as “The Bambino” and “The Sultan of Swat,” was given the name “Babe” because he was a favorite of Orioles owner Jack Dunn, according to baseball folklore.
Other players started calling him “Jack’s newest babe,” and the name stuck.
There’s also the legend that Ruth obtained the nickname “Babe” when a sportswriter referred to him as one of “Dunn’s babes,” notes Britannica.com.
Ruth had a commanding stature: He stood more than six feet tall and weighed more than 200 pounds, says the site.
Before the 1914 season ended, Ruth’s performance as a pitcher was so impressive that Dunn sold Ruth to the American League’s Boston Red Sox.
That same year, Ruth courted and wed waitress Helen Woodford, Britannica notes.
Ruth shined as a pitcher.
Between 1915 and 1919, he won 87 games, yielded an earned run average of only 2.16 and won three World Series games (one in 1916 and two in 1918). During a streak for scoreless World Series innings, he set a record by pitching 292 in three consecutive shutout innings.
Then, it was announced on Jan. 5, 1920, that Ruth was headed to the Bronx to join the New York Yankees, according to the Baseball Hall of Fame.
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The transaction had been formalized one week earlier; Ruth would become a rival of the American League franchise.
Newspapers across the country shared the news, the source indicates, with such headline as: “Red Sox Sell Ruth for $100,000 Cash” from the Boston Globe; “Ruth Bought by New York Americans for $125,000, Highest Price in Baseball Annals,” from The New York Times; and “New York Yankees Buy Babe Ruth from Boston Red Sox” from the Chicago Tribune.
Ruth had a slow start in 1920 as a Yankee, says the Society for American Baseball Research, and had a disappointing April, due to a strained right knee.
But he turned it around — and started May with home runs in consecutive games against the Red Sox.
“He went on to set a Major League record for the month with 11 homers,” says the Society for American Baseball Research. “He finished the year with the unfathomable total of 54 home runs. He out-homered 14 of the other 15 major league teams.”
Ruth hit 14.6% of the American League’s 369 home runs, the same site indicated.
Major League Baseball is memorialized by number 714, says Smithsonian Magazine, and has been a benchmark for home run sluggers ever since Babe Ruth clubbed his last one on May 25, 1935, while he was playing for the Boston Braves.
He hit three home runs that game, and his final blast, which was also his last hit before he quit baseball for good, soared out of the ballpark. That home run ball, says the same source, rests in the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York.
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His tally of 714 would obliterate the 138 career homers logged by the former record holder, Roger Connor, the publication adds.
On Jan. 29, 1936, the U.S. Baseball Hall of Fame elected its first members in Cooperstown, New York: Ty Cobb, Babe Ruth, Honus Wagner, Christy Matthewson and Walter Johnson, reported History.com.
Ruth passed away from throat cancer on August 16, 1948.
Ruth’s record for career home runs was not broken until Hank Aaron hit his 715th home run on April 8, 1974 — 39 years later — says History.com
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