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October 31, 2019

The Impossible Record: The Legend Behind Babe Ruth’s 1927 Season

Babe Ruth is one of the greatest legends to ever step onto a baseball field. From batting average to slugging, Ruth topped basically every statistical leaderboard during his time with the 1920’s and early 1930’s New York Yankees. His fame and popularity knew no bounds. His fortune was immense. His lifestyle was vivid. Yet, even with all of his accomplishments, Ruth yearned for something more. Earlier in his career, Ruth hit an astonishing 59 home runs and became obsessed with reaching the 60 mark. He knew that hitting 60 would be something that the league had never before seen, and would keep his name prominent for years to come. Going into the 1927 season, he was eager to do just that.1

If one were to view the sport of baseball as a country, Babe Ruth and the rest of the 1920’s Yankees would be the revolutionaries within it. Before Ruth reached the MLB, home runs were few and far between, as pitchers had dominated hitters for years. However, whenever Ruth stepped up to the plate, he would swing for the fences. This was his style, and it was extremely successful. Opposing pitchers at the time described facing Ruth on the field as the last thing they ever wanted to do. His early years with the Yankees only placed him on a pedestal within the industry, and his unparalleled success is the very reason why people still idolize him today. Throughout this time, Ruth became a superstar, gaining wealth and recognition, and it was well deserved, given his prowess as a hitter. While he played, attendance rose to new heights. Yankees stadium would even come to be known as “The House that Ruth Built.” While his career was shining, other issues would come to haunt Ruth.2

Babe Ruth in his first career game with the New York Yankees, 1920 | Courtesy of Wikipedia

Before becoming a professional, Ruth was living in St. Mary’s Orphanage. At St. Mary’s, the brothers who ran the school were heavily devoted to baseball. They had their own fields and had over 44 teams. This was where Ruth learned the trade that would launch him into stardom. Also, St Mary’s was the place where scouts signed him up with the Orioles as a pitcher. He was eighteen. So, as a kid from a sheltered orphanage, Ruth had barely any knowledge or experience of the real world.3 This led Ruth toward a livid lifestyle. While he was not on a baseball field, he was out partying and throwing money at everything he could find. His teammates described his off-the-field attitude to be nothing short of unhealthy. Ruth was drinking every night and flirting with every woman at every bar he visited, or he was cussing up a storm at anyone around him. As one could imagine, this way of life did not reflect well on him as an athlete. Ruth was traded to the New York Yankees in 1920, and he played well in his early seasons for them. By the 1925 season, Ruth weighed over 250 lbs, 30 lbs overweight of the Yankees projected goal for him. He took the off-season as a time to enjoy his successes rather than to prepare for upcoming seasons. While he was at the 1925 Spring Training, he was ordered to stop drinking by team management, but he relapsed during this time. Then, during a road trip on the same season, Ruth collapsed and was rushed to the hospital. His health kept him there for a while, and a rumor even started that he had died, since he was not playing at the time. But eventually Ruth was released and finished the season. After this, Ruth had a change of heart about his health. The next off-season, he actually took care of himself and trained properly. Unknown to him, this would be the year the Yankees became special.4

Yankees management during the 1926 season added a few younger weapons to their arsenal, the most famous being Lou Gherig. Ruth and the Yankees had low expectations for their season as the newer look of the team was uncertain to mesh with Ruth and his veteran status. But as the season began, Ruth slingshotted forward to his old form. Once again, he led the league statistically, but this time with a close second of Lou Gherig, the Yankees rookie. This success brought about a new form of competition for Ruth, one that would improve his game even higher. The media at the time embraced this Ruth/Gherig time as newspapers everywhere guessed at who would come out on top of which hitting categories. While locked in this competition, the Yankees never seemed to lose games, eventually going on to reach the playoffs, then the semifinals, then win the World Series in a sweep. According to many analysts, even to people one hundred years later, this 1926 Yankees team was the greatest team to ever play the game of baseball. They dominated all of the competition on levels that seems unmatched by any other sports team in history. This level of winning led to them being called the “Murderer’s Row” Yankees, as their first six hitters were effectively a line of batters that would “murder” pitchers. Ruth was the largest part of this, ending the season hitting with an average of .372 with 47 home runs and upwards of 140 RBIs. Finally, Ruth was again playing like his previous self. While the game is completely different now, some analysts believe this team could have hung with others around the late century. From this success, Ruth and the Yankees were once again held to the highest expectations as their domination seemed untouched by other teams in the league. So, heading into the 1927 season, it once again felt like World Series or bust.5

A team portrait of the “Murderers’ Row” New York Yankees, a nickname given as a token of their success | Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

This off-season would prove vital to Ruth as he took this time off more seriously than the previous ones. Still overweight and unhealthy from before, he improved his physical state greatly during this time. He lost close to forty pounds and reduced nine inches off his waistline. He practiced harder than he ever had at any Spring Training before, and he was determined to achieve something special during this season. No one expected anything too much from him. After all, he was thirty-two years old and by no stretch in his prime. While his health had improved, some speculated that he would return to his previous bad habits. Some even felt that the team was turning over toward the newer players as its new elite members. This was the overall attitude surrounding the team heading into the season, but the Babe had a different idea. He was still determined to exceed his previous home run record.6

As the season began, Ruth started out hot, like he was younger again. He posted strong stats all across the board, only contested by his own teammates. Lou Gherig was the one who followed closest to Ruth. Seemingly whenever Ruth would launch one over the wall, Gherig would not be far behind in sending one back. Both Ruth and Gherig would joke about their home run “race,” and the media loved it as well. Newspaper headlines always reported on which player would be leading, and give their own predictions on who would prevail.7 As the season progressed, Ruth showed no signs of slowing down. Then, later in the season, Gherig finally overtook Ruth in a 45 to 44 lead. This was short lived as Ruth maintained his pace by launching a couple more in the following games. Luckily for Ruth in the race, Gherig would cool off, ending the season with only two more home runs. By this time, the Yankees were well ahead of their competition, and were already guaranteed a division win. Ruth, despite this and determined to bring his dream to life, stayed focused on his game. Going into the final series, Ruth had 57 home runs, meaning he needed to hit three more in three games. If he followed his previous pace for the season, he would fall short.8

On September 30, fans flooded into Yankee Stadium hoping to witness history. At this point, the Babe was just one home run shy of his goal, but the season was quickly coming to a close as today would be the Yankees’ second to last game of the season. Anticipation loomed over the stadium as the Yankees took the field. A sold out crowd roared at the announcement of Ruth’s name in the starting lineup, as they all knew what could happen. Then, in the bottom of the first, Ruth stepped up to the plate. Once again, the cheering rose throughout the stands, and everyone was on the edge of their seats. Ruth knew what he wanted to do. The pitcher knew what he wanted to do. Everyone knew. Then, in that appearance, Ruth launched a ball high in the air. The screaming fans shook the walls of the stadium as the ball soared over the outfield fence. Ruth had done it. His 60 home run season was complete, and Ruth’s legacy would be untouchable. 9

George Herman Ruth’s plaque in the Baseball Hall of Fame, one of the Hall’s most famous pieces | Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

This season stapled Ruth as a baseball legend. The 1927 Yankees would go on to the postseason to assert their dominance even further. The team would end up winning the World Series in a four game sweep with Ruth once again dominating. The Babe would continue to play for six more years, becoming even more infamous for the “called shot.” His record would hold for close to thirty years before being busted by someone who played many more games in a season. Ruth would then come to be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame, being known as one of, if not the greatest baseball icon to have ever lived.10

  1. George Herman Ruth, The Babe Ruth Story : As Told to Bob Considine ; with 49 Photos (New York: E. P. Dutton, 1948), 23.
  2. St. James Encyclopedia of Popular Culture, 2013, s.v. “Ruth, Babe,” by Peter Kalliney.
  3. Bill Bryson, One Summer : America, 1927 (New York: Doubleday, 2013), 23.
  4. James H. Toner, Babe Ruth (Pasadena: Salem Press, 2008), 23.
  5. St. James Encyclopedia of Popular Culture, 2013, s.v. “Ruth, Babe,” by Peter Kalliney.
  6. George Herman Ruth, The Babe Ruth Story : As Told to Bob Considine ; with 49 Photos (New York: E. P. Dutton, 1948), 23.
  7. George Herman Ruth, The Babe Ruth Story : As Told to Bob Considine ; with 49 Photos (New York: E. P. Dutton, 1948), 23.
  8. Bill Bryson, One Summer : America, 1927 (New York: Doubleday, 2013), 23.
  9. Bill Bryson, One Summer : America, 1927 (New York: Doubleday, 2013), 23.
  10. UXL Encyclopedia of World Biography, 2003, s.v. “Babe Ruth,” by Laura B. Tyle.

Recent Comments


  • Lyle Ballesteros

    Really interesting article. I had heard of Babe Ruth but didn’t know many details about him and his life other than he played baseball and was really good at it. But I enjoyed the story that he wasn’t always in a healthy condition and needed to go to the hospital to get to grips and improve his health, which ultimatley led to him being able to play and break the record he always wanted, hitting 60 home runs in a season.

  • Vanessa Rodriguez

    Growing up, I always heard about the infamous Babe Ruth, but never knew what he went through for so many years. First off, I never knew that he suffered with addiction and was still able to overcome so much and end up successful in the long run. It is so crazy how much he accomplished over the years to the point they named a chocolate bar after him. Great article, I definitely learned so much over him.

  • Nnamdi Onwuzurike

    This article was very well written and helps me visualize the kind of man and ball player Babe Ruth was. It’s incredible that Babe Ruth was able to change his lifestyle to achieve his goals. It just goes to show that there’s no problem with doing things wrong but the important thing is how you bounce back.

  • Clarissa Liscano

    Even though I’m not a huge baseball fan, this article kept me interested. I discovered that he was living in an orphanage and had been signed up to play baseball there.  I had no idea Ruth had a problem with addiction, but it’s fantastic that he overcame it and set a record with 60 home runs. Great written article, I was intrigued the entire time.

  • Isabel Soto

    This article brought a light to me because when i was younger my grandpa love to talk about Babe ruth and all he did. I never really got into watching baseball but this article amazed me about what he accomplished.i love learning about all his struggles he had to face to end up where he was.this was one amazing article to read about Babe Ruth and get to know thing that i never knew before reading this article.

  • Katarina Sanchez

    As someone who grew up loving baseball and also having one of my favorite movies being ‘The Sandlot’ as a kid, of course, I knew about “The Great Bambino”, Babe Ruth. However, I did not know about his struggles with partying or that he was raised in an orphanage. Babe Ruth seemed like he was cocky because of his abilities before he was introduced to a potential threat. You can consider something he needed in his life and career for him to reach his full potential! I enjoyed how the story was told of Babe Ruth’s record-breaking game, I can picture the crowd roaring in excitement.

  • Bryon Haynes

    This was a beautifully written article detailing one of the most iconic names in American history. Babe Ruth is a name wecall hear about, but he’s someone no one could truly describe if they were asked about him. It was nice to learn about how transformative his early years in the Yankees were and how that would lead to such an incredible legacy. His battle with addiction and relapse inspiring him to take his life more seriously was the best part of the article because that’s something we all need to hear when things get tough for us.

  • Laurel Cox

    This article was incredible; I didn’t think that I could be so interested in Baseball, but here I was on the edge of my seat hoping the Ruth would hit that 60th home run. It is also an incredibly well told triumph of a man who rested on his prior accomplishments so much so that he lost his fire altogether, however, in a moment of realization he returns to work to ensure that he maintains and breaks all prior records. I really do love this article and the way it was told. Simply beautiful.

  • Madison Magaro

    This was a great article that described the legend Babe Ruth and what he did in his career to make him a legend. I like how he was able to over come his addiction from the pressures from fans of being a great hitter and athlete and make the record of 60 homeruns. It is an inspiration to all baseball players to push through any hard times because it will all work itself out.

  • Iris Reyna

    Wow! Good job on the article. It was intriguing to learn more about the legend himself. Of course, everyone knows who the greatest baseball player is, Babe Ruth, but what I didn’t know was the struggles he had before playing the greatest season of his life and getting his 60 home runs in one season. To learn that he fell into alcoholism due to the pressure but was able to get himself out of the bottle was really astonishing to hear about because even though he is known for the legend he is his life story shows how human he really was. Making him a true legend in the League.

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