When you hear the name Babe Ruth, certain things immediately spring to mind. Thanks to popular culture, we probably all envision the Bambino playing for the New York Yankees, eating hot dogs in between innings, and belting a record number of home runs out of the park. No one, however, is claiming that Ruth was an inspirational team leader in the clubhouse.
During his time with the Yankees, though, Babe Ruth did serve as the team’s captain. He lost the job, however, after only five days on the job.
Babe Ruth’s path to the New York Yankees
While Babe Ruth became one of America’s first celebrity athletes during his time with the Yankees, he didn’t always ply his trade in the Big Apple. The Bambino was actually born in Baltimore, Maryland, where he grew up speaking German.
While Ruth was never an orphan, he did spend part of his youth at St. Mary’s Industrial School for Boys. There, he first learned the game of baseball. Babe started out as a catcher but, before long, he began pitching; at the plate, he also proved to be a prolific hitter. In 1914, he signed a deal with the International League’s Baltimore Orioles, becoming a professional ballplayer.
The Orioles, however, struggled to compete with the Federal League’s Baltimore Terrapins and found themselves losing money. Faced with a bleak financial future, Owner Jack Dunn sold his promising pitcher to the Boston Red Sox.
After spending some time in the minors, Ruth joined the Red Sox and developed into a legitimate major leaguer. While he was a capable pitcher, everything changed in 1919. As more and more players found themselves heading off to war, Ruth began playing the field with increased frequency; while he kept pitching for a few more seasons, no manager could resist getting Babe in the lineup at every possible opportunity.
Becoming a living legend with the New York Yankees
In December 1919, the Boston Red Sox infamously sold Babe Ruth to the New York Yankees. From then on, Major League Baseball would never be the same.
While Ruth had shown plenty of talent in Boston, he truly blossomed into an offensive star in New York. During the 1920 campaign, Babe batted .376, piling up 172 hits, 54 home runs, and 135 RBIs; while those numbers are incredible by today’s standards, he was only getting started.
In all, Ruth spent 15 of his 22 Major League Baseball seasons with the New York Yankees; he hit .349 in the Bronx, adding 659 home runs, 1,978 RBIs, four World Series titles, one AL MVP, and one batting title to his resume. He also became an iconic American celebrity; whether you loved baseball or couldn’t stand sports, everyone knew the Babe.
After a brief stint with the Boston Braves, Ruth retired in 1935. Although he never got a chance to manage—that could be due to his personality or, as his daughter suggested, racism—he’s still remembered today as a baseball legend.
Babe Ruth lost the Yankees’ captaincy after five days in charge
During his time with the Yankees, Babe Ruth was the club’s star player. Despite that on-field talent, he failed miserably at acting as a leader.
As documented by the New York Times on May 15, 1922, Yankees’ manager Miller Huggins suspended Bobby Roth and named Babe Ruth the team’s captain. His reign only lasted five games, though. On May 25, the slugger threw dirt in the umpire’s face and climbed into the stands to confront a fan; as noted in another New York Times update, American League president Ban Johnson fined Ruth and stripped of the captaincy.
In the annals of baseball history, Babe Ruth’s offensive prowess will stand the test of time. His leadership ability, however, won’t be remembered as favorably.
Stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference