The greatest baseball player of all time was Babe Ruth. No one—not Barry Bonds, Ted Williams, Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio or Stan Musial, and all those others you can name—can match the Sultan of Swat. Ruth was and still is the epitome of the baseball player.
I believe that in my previous article (http://frankscoblete.com/are-todays-baseball-players-better-than-those-of-the-past/) I laid to rest the concept that modern players are better than those of the past. Indeed, if anything, the past players may have been slightly better than today’s players.
Yes, baseball has gone through many changes since the Babe played the game. Stadiums are far smaller, allowing more home runs. Baseballs are livelier—some say they are now truly juiced; and many players have been juiced too. Pitchers are no longer expected to pitch nine innings. Relief pitchers have taken over much of the chores.
Experts maintain that today’s baseball players are bigger, faster, and stronger than ever before. Maybe they technically are—although in his best years the 6’2” Babe weighed only 222 pounds, the same height and weight as Barry Bonds. The image of the Babe as a blobby fat man wobbling around the bases is based more on his rounded face than his rounded body.
Additionally, the fact that today’s pitchers and many everyday players are injured so often might give pause to this idea that today’s players are supermen.
Baseball is a game of statistics. In fact, today there are so many statistics that one could spend almost a lifetime trying to figure what the hell the statisticians are encapsulating (ENCAP) in their formulas (FR). It could drive you insane (CRAZY).
But let me take just a few statistics that we (mostly) understand and I will show you just how good the Bambino was. Here is where he fits in with the all-time greats in terms of career averages.
SLG (Slugging): 690, number one all time
OPS (On Base Plus Slugging): 1.164, number one all time
WAR (Wins Against Replacement): 183.7, number one all time
RBI (Runs Batted In): 2214, number two all time
OBP (On Base Percentage): 474, number two all time
HR (Home Runs): 714, third all-time (There were seasons when the Babe hit more home runs than whole teams! No modern slugger has ever done that.)
BA (Batting Average): 342, ninth highest of all time
Now, keep this in mind. The other great players you can name rarely excel in so many categories. Many other homerun hitters did not have the lifetime batting average of the Babe. Those with higher averages did not whack very many home runs. And he was an excellent fielder too!
Are the above statistics the be-all and end-all of the Mighty Babe’s career? Hell, no. Babe was one of the greatest pitchers who ever played the game. Few of today’s baseball fans know this. Here are some of his lifetime pitching statistics:
ERA (earned run average) 17th all-time at 2.28 percent (Go online and compare his lifetime statistics with the best pitchers playing right now.)
W-L Record (Won-Lost Record): 94 wins-46 losses
WP (Winning Percentage): won 671 percent, 12th all time
And this: Consider how many great pitchers you can recall from the last 40 years. Now look up the statistics for them. Guess what you will find? They were probably not anywhere near as good as George Herman Ruth.
Yes, he could hit wonderfully and pitch spectacularly. Babe Ruth’s real nickname and the one he truly deserves is The Greatest of All Time.
Frank Scoblete’s latest books are I Am a Dice Controller: Inside the World of Advantage-Play Craps, Confessions of a Wayward Catholic and I Am a Card Counter: Inside the World of Advantage-Play Blackjack. Available from Amazon.com, Kindle, Barnes and Noble, and at bookstores.