Goldman: Babe Ruth made his MLB debut 100 years ago today

From SABR member Steven Goldman at SB Nation on July 11, 2014:

“To hell with Babe Ruth,” the Japanese soldiers would shout out to the Americans during World War II combat in the Pacific. It’s funny how things change. Years earlier, Ruth had visited Japan and had been so popular he had helped raise the popularity of baseball in that country to the point that it has endured down to the present day. They liked him as much as we did, so perhaps that’s why it was easy for them to intuit that profaning the big man (and one really doubts they said “to hell;” war generally inspires harsher language) would hurt us more than anything else, perhaps even more than, “The 4-F guys at home are sleeping with your wives and girlfriends while you’re rotting in the jungle” — something that they also tried via propaganda DJ Tokyo Rose.


Babe Ruth began his journey to national symbol-hood 100 years ago today, on July 11, 1914, when he made his major league debut with the Boston Red Sox. He pitched, he won. Later he transitioned to the outfield, and well, you know the rest. Ironically, his is not a quintessentially American rags-to-riches story, not a Horatio Alger story — Alger was a pedophile, so let’s delete him and his no-longer-read stories as a byword for boy-makes-good tales anyway — but a Dickensian one, a juvenile delinquent so recalcitrant that his family gave up on him, had him officially labeled, at age seven, “incorrigible or vicious,” and “beyond… control” of his parents.

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Originally published: July 11, 2014. Last Updated: July 11, 2014.