Batter Up!

On this day in 1926, baseball great, Babe Ruth caught a fly ball tossed from an airplane.  The publicity stunt was conducted to drum up support for a civilian summer camp at Mitchel Field air base.  Dressed in an army uniform on a hot sunny day, Ruth chased baseballs dropping hither and thither from the sky.  He made the record breaking catch on the seventh try.

George Herman Ruth, Jr. (1895-1948) was born in Baltimore, Maryland to a working class family.  From an early age, Ruth had the reputation of being a feisty little bugger.  He wandered the docks and got into trouble while his parents were at work.  At age seven Ruth’s parents enrolled him in St. Mary’s Industrial School for Orphans, Delinquent, Incorrigible and Wayward Boys.  Ruth excelled at sports, particularly baseball.

babe ruth@st. mary's
Babe Ruth (back row, center with catcher’s mask) and teammates from St. Mary’s Industrial School for Orphans, Delinquent, Incorrigible and Wayward Boys (circa 1913)

At age 19, he captured the attention of Jack Dunn, owner of the minor league Baltimore Orioles.  Since Ruth was still a minor, Dunn became Ruth’s legal guardian in order to sign his baseball contract.  Ruth’s teammates referred to him as “Dunn’s new babe”.  The nickname stuck, and Babe Ruth went on to play 22 seasons (1914-1935) in the major leagues.

He started as a pitcher (a leftie) for the Boston Red Sox, but in December of 1919 Ruth was notoriously traded to the New York Yankees and switched to the outfield.  Over the course of his career, he hit 714 home runs, played in 10 World Series, and broke many of baseball’s records.  Babe Ruth played his final season with the Boston Braves in 1935.

Fun Cursing Facts:  It took the Red Sox 86 years to win a World Series after trading Babe Ruth to the Yankees.  The Curse of the Bambino was reversed on October 27, 2004, when the Red Sox defeated the St. Louis Cardinals.

Fun Baseball Facts: U.S. Army officer, Abner Doubleday (1819-1893) is often credited with the invention of baseball.  However Rounders and Cricket, two games similar to baseball, date back to the 1700s.  In 1845 the New York Knickerbocker Baseball Club was created.  Team member, Alexander Joy Cartwright developed a system of rules that are the precursor to modern baseball.  In particular, he created a diamond-shaped field, foul lines, and the three strike rule.  Cartwright also banned throwing balls at runners to tag them out.

Hungry for more baseball?  Test your knowledge of the game by taking this Baseball_Quiz created by the Public Broadcasting Service and based on Ken Burns’s aptly named documentary, Baseball.

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